Afghanistan: NES and new metrology lab
Uniting behind the vision of ‘peace through prosperity, prosperity through trade,’ Afghanistan continues to make progress with reform and improving its ability to make, grow and sell goods and services to boost economic and social development. Afghanistan’s priority tradable sectors – dried fruits and nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, marble and precious stones, carpets and saffron – have the potential to generate significant export revenues. But the metrology laboratory of the Afghan National Standards Authority lacked modern equipment and skills to assess and measure goods against international quality standards to enable exports while obtaining certifications.
The science of measurement is critical for development: for Afghanistan to take full advantage of World Trade Organization membership obtained in 2016, it needed to update and activate its metrology-regulatory system so that food items or other products conform to standards in destination markets.
Afghanistan’s National Export Strategy (2018-2022) – part of the ITC’s Advancing Afghan Trade initiative – set priorities on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and Quality Management. During the lifetime of the strategy, ITC is providing advisory services and technical assistance to:
- strengthen the institutional infrastructure and core services such as standards development and promotion, certification, legal metrology and calibration
- develop a draft National Quality Policy enhance compliance with the World Trade Organization’s agreements on technical-barriers-to-trade and SPS measures
- write a roadmap for bolstering the food safety control system
Specifically, ITC provided support to build capacity in metrology, initially by supporting a study tour by Afghan National Standards Authority technicians to the National Physical Laboratory of India in New Delhi.
The mission provided the technicians with the opportunity to experience practices applied by other countries, improve skills and bring back home expertise in measuring equipment and reporting protocols.
In July 2019, officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, ITC representatives and the European Union Ambassador to Afghanistan Pierre Mayaudon inaugurated the Afghan National Standard Authority’s new metrology laboratory.
The improved lab is now able to provide accurate measurements that impact the economy, health and safety in Afghanistan. The lab will help Afghan companies to trade more products by ensuring compliance with international standards.
The Afghan National Standards Authority also improved its managerial performance by developing and adopting a 2019–2023 strategy and plan of action, service portfolio in the area of standardization, certification and, in particular, metrology and calibration.
The Afghan National Standards Authority achieved this improvement with ITC advisory support on the development of the law on legal metrology and related regulations, and the provision of capacity building, in-house training and the procurement of equipment.
The opening of the new lab was just one action in setting Afghanistan on a new course of trade-led growth.
The new National Export Strategy aims to revitalize Afghanistan’s trade sector, particularly the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises, so that it creates jobs and increases household incomes. The strategy provides a clear market-oriented vision and identifies concrete actions for the government and development partners to take, and investments to make, that will boost the international competitiveness of Afghan businesses.
The National Export Strategy was designed by analysing specific products and sectors to identify their potential fit at regional and international levels. The sectors were comprehensively examined by probing value chains and using ITC’s SME Competitiveness Outlook analytical framework.
In October 2019, the Minister of Industry and Commerce Ajmal Ahmady convened the first meeting of the Senior Board of the National Export Strategy after its endorsement by the government in April 2019. The meeting was attended by government officials, and representatives of the private sector and international development partners including ITC.
The National Export Strategy complements the more-widely focused Afghanistan National Trade Policy, also a plank of the Advancing Afghan Trade project, which was endorsed by the government in early 2020.
‘This national trade policy takes centre stage in transforming the direction of the economy’s productive sectors toward producing and exporting high value-added products so
that the country’s full export potential can be realized.’
Mr. Ahmady said. ‘The policy document outlines the key principles and strategies that will guide Afghanistan’s strategic integration into global markets.’
The policy includes, for the first time, plans to remove barriers to trade for women-owned businesses.
‘We are hoping that this document will help us to really improve the private sector’s access to markets outside, and within,’ Manizha Wafeq, president of the Afghanistan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.
‘And that women-owned businesses will benefit from it.’
With Phase II of the Advancing Afghan Trade project set to begin in 2020, the European Union and ITC will continue to collaborate and support Afghanistan to build further its capacity to trade through effective quality and food safety-related services such as metrology and certification.
The Afghan National Standards Authority plans one-day awareness workshops on the role and benefits of metrology and calibration services for the private sector in Kabul, Herat and Mazare Sharif. Meanwhile, temperature control equipment, mass calibration equipment, and length and dimensional calibration equipment are being commissioned and installed at the lab.