“In just a few years, we have managed to set up seven laboratories, each of which is the best in its field,” said Bakary Coulibaly, ENVAL’s Director General.”
HAVING a product tested through internationally-recognized accredited laboratories adds value as it ensures quality – a key ingredient for gaining consumers’ trust, increasing business competitiveness and integrating new markets. This is true for all businesses in all countries.
In West Africa, the development of a quality infrastructure has been identified as a key measure to strengthen regional trade and economic integration.
Since 2001, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have been supporting the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission in the promotion of a quality culture in the region. Launched in 2014 as the third phase of this endeavour, the West Africa Quality System Programme (WAQSP) helps develop suitable, relevant, efficient and effective quality infrastructure to facilitate intra-regional and international trade, protect consumers and the environment, and promote sustainable economic development.
“Enhancing the capacity of testing laboratories in countries of the region is an important component of the Programme as it ensures that the quality of products can be verified against international standards and thus makes local laboratories attractive and competitive,” said WAQSP Programme Manager, Bernard Bau.
In Côte d’Ivoire, UNIDO’s support for Environment and Agribusiness Laboratories (ENVAL) has allowed the private entity to flourish.
“In just a few years, we have managed to set up seven laboratories, each of which is the best in its field,” said Bakary Coulibaly, ENVAL’s Director General. The support of the West Africa Quality Programmes has been decisive in this success.”
From humble beginnings in 1999, when ENVAL consisted of a 50m2 hall with a capital of CFA francs 1,000,000 (around Euro 1,500), ENVAL now has some of the most important laboratories of physico-chemical and microbiological analyses – particularly for food and water – in West Africa, with a capital of CFA francs 350,000,000 (around Euro 500,000) and occupying two buildings.
UNIDO has, among other things, provided support to the laboratories in the ISO/IEC 17025 standard accreditation process by strengthening the capacities of technicians, including on metrology and audit, and by supporting the acquisition of new equipment.
Accreditation to the ISO/IEC 17025 standard confirms that laboratories are fully competent to carry out tests and calibrations, including sampling, competently and generate valid results. To date, two of ENVAL’s seven laboratories have received their accreditation. Côte d'Ivoire now has laboratories whose field of competence is broad and which can advise on quality-related problems and support the development of new products.
The benefits of the first accreditations have enabled ENVAL to expand its coverage at the national level. Through the support provided by UNIDO, ENVAL has also set up a textile analysis laboratory – the first of its kind in the sub-region – and has expended its activities to include soil, foliage and oil analysis, as well as noise and air quality measurement.
ENVAL has been able to establish partnerships with Société de Culture Bananière (SCB), Société Agricole Kablan Joubin (SAKJ), Office National de l’Eau Potable (ONEP), Carrefour Group, Société de Distribution d’Eau de Côte d’Ivoire (SODECI) and more.
“The impact of the programme is reflected in the improvement of our laboratory practices, the loyalty of our customers, and the conquest of new markets such as Carrefour,” Coulibaly said.
Matenin Cissé, Quality Manager at Carrefour, Côte d'Ivoire, said: “The reliability of the ENVAL laboratories' analyses, the competitiveness of their testing costs, their optimal delivery times and the good management of their relationship with Carrefour explains why we have chosen this group since 2015 for the testing of our products.”
“The results of their tests allow us to have very good control of our levels of hygiene, both for our employees and equipment, leading to the expressed satisfaction of our customers who know that Carrefour provides them with healthy products. That is why we, as Carrefour Abidjan, have decided not only to advocate to our suppliers that they work directly with ENVAL to anticipate their own quality issues, but also to expand testing at our new site located in Yopougon."
Efforts such as these can firmly anchor Africa on a path towards inclusive and sustainable industrial development and contribute to the achievement of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III) and of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
ENVAL’s case provides a prime example of successful reinforcement of quality standards for proof of conformity and for boosting of competitiveness. These programmes highlight a commitment to the Europe 2020 strategy as well as the Africa-EU Partnership.