Emphasizing consumer protection in West Africa

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has taken the issue of consumer protection in West Africa seriously by capacity building under the West African Quality Systems Programme (WAQSP). Consumer protection in the region is mixed, with national associations and mechanisms varying greatly from country to country. Of those that exist, the associations span agricultural foodstuffs, petroleum, mobile telephones, the media, health, energy, environment, commerce and administrative services.

 

Consumer protection is a vital link in the chain of ensuring quality services and robust products. Unfortunately, consumer protection associations often face lack of information and visibility at both national and regional levels. To this end, UNIDO successfully organized a number of regional training workshops in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Togo to facilitate knowledge sharing and underline the importance of consumer protection for the ECOWAS region.

 

Jointly with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UNIDO conducted the first consumer protection workshop between the 11th and 12th of April 2018. 40 participants partook, from 15 West African countries. The workshop brought together national consumer protection associations and governmental bodies. It was opened by the Togolese Minister of Industry and Tourism, together with the ECOWAS Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion and the UNIDO Focal Point in Togo.

Prior to the workshop only 4 associations (29%) considered themselves sufficiently informed about the activities of consumer protection organizations in the region and only 2 (14%) about ECOWAS activities related to consumer protection. Only 5 associations (36%) considered themselves sufficiently visible at the regional level. The workshop sought to address this gap and allowed the associations a platform to suggest initiatives to increase visibility of consumer protection issues and promote regulatory quality frameworks at the country and ECOWAS level.

On June 12th 2018 at the Directorate for the Promotion of Quality and Standardization (DPQN) in Abidjan-Plateau, Côte d'Ivoire, UNIDO facilitated a second knowledge transfer workshop for consumer protection associations on the recommendations of the United Nations guidelines for consumer protection. UNIDO representative, Mr. Issouf Ouattara, said the workshop supported the establishment and consolidation of the national regulatory framework to ensure consumer protection.

The third regional workshop was held from the 19th to 21st of November 2018, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Participants were given presentations on WAQSP objectives and results, the provisions of the community regulatory framework for consumer protection, the mechanism for appointing representatives of consumer associations, and the platform of exchange for consumer associations. The platform, established under the WAQSP, enables interaction between consumer associations in the region.

As a result of UNIDO’s capacity building exercises, the community regulatory framework for consumer protection was validated and a mechanism for the representation of consumers in ECOWAS quality Infrastructure bodies was also created. 15 ECOWAS member states and Mauritania adopted legal provisions which harmonize activities of consumer protection associations in the region. Countries that did not have an office or directorate responsible for consumer protection were advised to appoint a focal point. Ultimately, the outcomes of all three workshops ensured that ECOWAS has an efficient consumer protection exchange platform.

"Now we know what role we have to play with the ministry so that a consumer protection law, acceptable to all, could be adopted," Mr. Maguette Fall, President of the Association for the Defense of the Environment and Consumers of Senegal

 

 

 

 

This program is funded by the European Union with the technical support of UNIDO

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Commision of the European Union

Copyright - 2019 - ECOWAS AGENCY FOR QUALITY