Uche Usim, Abuja
The quest by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to deepen its investments across the continent has received a boost as the Imo State government has given the regional bank its certificate of occupancy (CoO) for a five-hectare plot for the development of an internationally-accredited quality assurance centre in the state.
Afreximbank is supporting the establishment of such internationally accredited-African Quality Assurance Centres (AQACs) across Africa to support the continent’s industrialisation by ensuring that African products are manufactured to international standards and are able to trade in international market. The project seeks to raise the confidence of importers in African products and to enhance the competitiveness and attractiveness of “Made-In-Africa” products.
Imo State governor, Mr Emeka Ihedioha, who presented the certificate of occupancy to Afreximbank President Prof. Benedict Oramah on 6 January during a meeting at the Imo State Government House in Owerri, pledged the commitment of the government and people of the state to seeing to the successful execution of the project.
Gov. Ihedioha said that the state planned to take full advantage of the opportunities that would be created by the project, which, he noted was coming at a time when the state had resolutely embarked on a transformation programme through industrialisation.
He listed some of the other projects being executed by the government to include the completion of cargo facilities at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport in Owerri and the setting up of an industrial park.
In his response, Prof. Oramah thanked the government and people of Imo state for the parcel of land granted to the Bank and said that the AQAC would generate new employment opportunities in the state.
Prof. Oramah said that the AQAC project was aimed at addressing the key barriers affecting trade in Africa by strengthening compliance with international trade standards and with the technical requirements of export markets.
He pledged that Afreximbank would work with African governments and sub-sovereigns committed to making the lives of their people better and was ready to work with the Imo state government on the development of some of the projects it was pursuing, including the dry port, which would open the state.
Following the meeting, Gov. Ihedioha led the Afreximbank delegation to visit the land, which is located at Egbelu Obube along Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport Road in Ngor-Okpala Local Government Area. He used the opportunity to formally hand the land over to Prof. Oramah during a ceremony witnessed by Bede Eke, member of the House of Representatives representing the Aboh Mbaise/Ngor-Okpala Federal Constituency, chiefs and members of the community.
The AQAC in Imo State will become one of the three being developed by Afreximbank in Nigeria. The others are being developed in Ogun and Kaduna states. The Imo AQAC will offer conformity assessment services, including testing, inspection and certification and will include a training academy to transfer know-how in conformity assessment to the local market.
Afreximbank announced the AQAC initiative in October 2019 to tackle non-compliance with international standards and technical regulations. The emergence of AQACs across Africa is expected to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement by making it possible for local entities to obtain international accreditation.