Midwifing the new China. – China, the second largest economy in the world, now has the most accredited laboratories in the world, an economic enabler many have not noticed. But the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, under the leadership of Dr Joseph Odumodu has taken a leap in this direction with the acquisition of two food accredited laboratories, creating a pathway for the future China in Nigeria. Nigeria, a country of 175 million people, not the most populous in the world but the most populous in Africa, is arguably recognised as the most popular African country in the continent. To an extent we can also say it is the most blessed in Africa in terms of its natural resources- with oil being the forerunner from a classy array of others- gold, tin, cocoa, coal, bitumen, to mention a few. But what else is new? Foreigners migrate from all corners of the world to undertake a variety of businesses in the Nigerian market and Nigerians in return are very much dispersed in various parts of the world seeking different versions of their Holy Grail. This basically sums up the Nigerian economy in two words: unfulfilled potential. With the recent drop in oil prices, analysts have predicted and refrained that the nation’s over-dependence on oil will be extremely detrimental to the Nigerian economy eventually, if not now.But there has been a shimmering light at the end of the tunnel. A light that many have not noticed! The SON have been brewing, developing and just executed a master plan in line with the goal of vision 20/20 that will change the Nigerian economy forever if adhered to and invent a new Nigeria in the process. The cat has been let out of the bag. Two transformative words: Accreditation labs!The brain boxFor most people, the laboratory depicts human beings in white lab coats experimenting, testing or researching on a subject; and rightly so, except this time around the subjects undergoing these tests are products and services carried out in internationally accredited laboratories solely for the purpose of ascertaining if these products or services are of international standards.This ensures that such products are tested just once and accepted sequentially, anywhere in the world. Recently, two of SON’s food technology laboratories were accredited by AALA(American association for laboratory accreditation) – ISO/IEC 17025 for chemical and biological testing respectively, and others are at various stages of accreditation.Estimates by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD and the US Department of Commerce both show that standards and related conformity assessment (checking that products and services measure up to standards) have an impact on 80 % of the world’s trade in commodities.The World Trade Organisation, WTO, requires its members to use international standards of the type developed by ISO, in order to avoid the technical barriers to trade that can be caused by differing national or regional standards. But what does this imply? Let me buttress further, it’s really simple. The more accredited labs a nation acquires the more products or services it is able to export (with the authorisation of the international standards organisation), thereby improving the economy on different fronts and developing the country also through standards. But a key factor also is the compliance of these standards because it’s one thing to have these labs and it is another thing to comply with them.The ISO 9001, which is called the quality management system certificate, is the most sought after ISO certificate in the world and presently China has amassed the most of these certificates, topping the 2013 chart with a whopping337,033 accumulation. As we speak Nigeria has amassed a meagre 84. According to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database,China top ten exports amounted to $2.2 trillion in 2013, while Nigeria non-oil exports in 2013 reached $2.97 billion. Data shows that there is a link between the number of acquired ISO certificates and China’s ever-blossoming economy.Yes, you are wondering, isn’t it the same China that produces fake products for the world. No it isn’t. Not all Chinese companies are of international standards but from the data majority of Chinese companies are of standards, meaning a smaller percentage engage in inferior product manufacturing. Hence, the general perception that China products are bad is not completely true.They might have some substandard products but then again these are requests made by their Nigerian importers. Whatever your stance may be, China is surely driving towards 100% international standardisation and at an alarming rate too. Nigeria can get there too, but we need to act fast. Again, let me reiterate that the 9001 certificates is not just a ticket to exporting tested manufactured products, but encapsulates anything that requires quality management. Education, health, the judiciary, cable networks, telecommunication, building infrastructure, company policies, aviation and so many other sectors. From a non-economic point of view, if all these areas comply with international standardisation, then imagine what life would be like in Nigeria.This is the scheme the crack team duo of Dr Odumodu (Director General of SON) and the Minister of Industry Trade and Investment,Dr. Olusegun Aganga,has been clamoring for and recently discussed. At the world press conference that marked the international standards day,Dr Odumodu informed a gathering of industry chieftains and senior chief executives: ”A country’s compliance to international standards can also be measured by the number of its companies that have obtained system certification relative to the population.The 2013 ISO report on the distribution of management system certification shows that China, USA and Germanyand India and Brazil each have thousands of certificates. South Africa and Egypt also have thousands of the certificate, while Tunisia and Morocco, Kenya and Algeria have hundreds of certificates each; but Nigeria has only 84. So even in the Africa context, Nigeria rates very low in the standardisation. No Nigerian university is also among the top 400 universities in the world, but South Africa has a university in that list.Yet, I am not sure the top 50 in Africa includes a Nigerian university. The foreign student in the Nigerian university is now the exception rather than the rule since Nigerians themselves are flocking to Ghanaian and Beninese universities. Away from education, if courts were like universities, will any foreigner bring their cases to Nigerian courts?”A damning assessment indeed of the country’s economic state, but with Dr Odumodu’s vision of made in Nigeria goods for the world through ISO certificates and accredited laboratories, Nigeria still has a chance of evolving into a world power. It might take a while but it is possible.On assumption of office, Dr. Odumodu met nothing on ground to show Nigeria was ready for international accreditation due to the despondent state of both its test and metrology labs. It was, therefore, impossible to approach international bodies for accreditation without a complete turn-around.But upgrading of the existing laboratories and building of new ones were what Dr. Odumodu identified as pivotal tracks to his six-point agenda, having realised that the first step was for our laboratories to attain international accreditation. Consequently, SON has begun taking decisive steps towards ensuring that accredited laboratories for both testing and metrology are established in the country.Nigeria is looking at alternatives for itsfuture economical stance and Dr Odumodu’s SON has provided the world class solution. If SON’s philosophy of international standardisation is adhered to, then Nigeria can become the new China.With the recent drop of over $20 per oil barrel in the three months between August and October, justifiable fear over Nigeria’s dependence on oil and gas exports for over 90 per cent of our country’s foreign exchange earnings has raised concerns on the direction the country is heading to.Oil will definitely not last forever; the time to act is now. The world is a global village and with the availability of the internet and emerging technological economy drivers every nation’s destiny is in their hands. Nigeria is looking at alternatives for itsfuture economical stance and DrOdumodu’s SON has provided the world class solution in line with SON’s philosophy of international standardization. If Dr Joseph Odumodu’s gospel of international standardization, through accreditation is adhered to then Nigeria can become the new China.

Mr Nnamdi Madueke, a development analyst, wrote from Lagos – 

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