Liberia’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, through Minister Axel Addy – a few days ago, announced the urgent need for the development of the National Standards Laboratory of Liberia.
The need to develop the existing dysfunctional National Standards Laboratory of Liberia under the auspices of the Commercial Ministry is against the backdrop of the uncontrollable proliferation of substandard goods on the Liberian market.
It comes in the wake of Liberia’s initiation into the World Trade Organization or WTO. According to the Ministry of Commercial and Industry, National Standards Laboratory (NSL) of Liberia as a testing and calibration facility is linked to Liberia’s initiative and processes to meeting WTO regulations especially aiming at strengthening the SPS system in Liberia (enabling the country to prevent importation of sub-standard products that may threaten public, plant or animal health, and assuring food and agriculture exports from Liberia meet international standards).
The initial support for the NSL, whose facility was formally dedicated by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf September 9, 2011, was received through the West Africa Quality Program (which received funding from the EU) implemented by UNIDO, in collaboration with the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry as its lead ministry.
But since its establishment, very little has been known about the functions of the laboratory as it relates to ensuring quality control of goods imported into the country. Up to present, Liberia’s market is flooded with substandard and expired goods to the conspicuous silence of the regulating authority.
These substandard and expired goods to include frozen meat, chicken, fish, rice, as well as other food items and drinks sold by importers, supermarkets, shops and market places in Monrovia and other parts of the country, are suspected to be responsible for a number of ailments and deaths among Liberians.
Moreover, many continue to be concerned about the long duration of importation and storage of these goods before consumption by Liberians. Granted the initial NSLL effort by the government was weakened by incapacitation, its public advocacy role, with the collaborative efforts of Civil Society Organizations, would have since discourage any or all attempts to import substandard goods into Liberia, but to no avail.
While the announcement by the Commerce Ministry for the urgent need to develop the NSLL may be welcomed, the will-power of our national authorities and regulators to make the institution effectively and efficiently functional devoid of manipulations and personal interests may also be of serious concern.
Even though many Liberians may be disappointed with the ministry since 2006, regarding the regulation of trade and commerce in Liberia, there must still be an opportunity for redemption.
It is equally possible for the control of the importation of substandard and expired goods into Liberia, if the National Standards Laboratory of Liberia is developed to full capacity without un-necessary interventions due to personal interests.