IEC-AFRC fully operational

IEC reinforces global presence with regional centre in Africa

By Claire Marchand

Africa is the world’s second-fastest-growing region, topped only by emerging Asia. Over the coming years the African economy is expected to grow by 7,7% annually – almost double the rate of advanced economies. Even though Africa is starting from a low point, corresponding roughly to where Southeast Asia was 30 years ago, the opportunities are huge. Already now Africa is third in terms of investment, right after the European Union and China. A more reliable infrastructure and consistent energy access could significantly accelerate this trend.

François Ahoti and Evah Oduor IEC-AFRC Directors, François Ahoti and Evah Oduor

Electricity access is a must

Today, according to World Bank statistics only about 24% of sub-Saharan Africa has access to electricity. 

Going forward, African countries will need to produce more electric power faster than ever before. Many different solutions will need to be considered for this. Africa has an abundance of natural resources; the whole continent is basically one big solar panel. It has also wind and lots of water. And yet, 93% of Africa’s hydropower potential remains underdeveloped. Over 80% of African electricity generation is still from fossil fuels. Long-term energy security would benefit from adding other energy sources to the mix. 

IEC-AFRC: focal point for the region

The IEC counts 48 countries in Africa. Eight are IEC Members and 40 are already involved with the IEC Affiliate Country Programme. And while some are really benefitting from the Programme, others may need assistance in finding out how to make better use of what it offers free of charge. 

As the regional focal point for Africa, the ultimate aim of IEC-AFRC, the Regional Centre for Africa, is to become a technical centre that helps coordinate IEC work as the other Regional Centres do. It will achieve this by offering training and technical assistance and raise the awareness of IEC International Standards and the IEC Conformity Assessment (CA) Systems, both among governments, regulators and local industries. 

Through visits and support to IEC Members and Affiliate Country Programme participants in the region, the Centre provides a link between the IEC and all African countries. It will also work closely with the African Electrotechnical Standardization Commission (AFSEC), the African Union and other regional bodies that are important for African development, and involve more African countries, at governmental level, in IEC work. 

IEC-AFRC official opening

On 2 November 2015, the IEC officially inaugurated its new Regional Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, in the presence of African dignitaries, many international experts and representatives from IEC Members and Affiliate countries. 

The day started by a workshop on how to bring safe and sustainable power access to everyone in Africa. Presentations gave a good overview of the situation in the region and local enterprises and organizations showed that solutions do exist (e.g. solar lamps and more extended use of renewable energies). IEC shared the experience of its conformity assessment activities within IECEE, the IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components and IECRE, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications. 

The second part of the event was the inauguration as such. Among the speakers were Yinbiao Shu, IEC Vice President, Claude Koutoua, AFSEC President, Abel Didier Tella, General Secretary of the Association of Power Utilities of Africa (APUA) and Charles O. Ongwae, Managing Director of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). H.E. Adan Mohamed, Minister of Industrialization and Enterprise development, officially declared the Regional Centre open. 

The IEC-AFRC team

Evah Oduor, IEC Coordinator for Africa since 2008, has represented the IEC at regional and international fora. Her long experience in standardization, conformity assessment and metrology is an important asset for the Centre. 

François Ahoti comes to the IEC from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) where he was Chief Technical Advisor for a European Union-funded project to improve quality infrastructure in Haiti. Ahoti acquired extensive experience in certification, conformity assessment, management systems and quality tools when working for the National Standards Body of Côte d’Ivoire (CODINORM). He also helped establish and structure IEC National Electrotechnical Committees in Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti. 

First steps for IEC-AFRC

In December 2015, Ahoti presented the newly launched IEC Africa Regional Centre at an event held by UNECE in conjunction with the WTO 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi. The workshop on the role of standards and regulatory frameworks was the occasion for IEC-AFRC to present its role and action plan and to show how IEC International Standards and Conformity Assessment Systems facilitate trade in Africa. 

IEC-AFRC participated in a bilateral Côte d’Ivoire-Morocco workshop on rural electrification in Abidjan in January 2016. The workshop aimed at speeding the development and emergence of local enterprises on the rural electrification market to support the energy policy of Côte d’Ivoire. IEC shared its expertise and informed the participants on its series of International Standards and Technical Specifications for decentralized electrification systems, as well as on IECRE. 

Region by region: West Africa…

The first trip made by IEC-AFRC in February 2016 was a visit to IEC Affiliates in West Africa – Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia – to develop contacts and evaluate the need for assistance to enhance their participation in IEC work. The visits included meeting with NEC members and key stakeholders. 

They undertook a second trip to the region in July 2016. In Mauritania, they were present at the inauguration of the Mauritanian National Electrotechnical Committee (NEC) and at a two-day workshop that brought together representatives from the electrotechnical sector. The IEC-AFRC team presented the benefits of participating in IEC standardization and CA work as well as the role of the new Regional Centre for Africa. 

In Mali, a seminar took place during the team’s visit to reinforce the country capacity to adopt and use IEC International Standards, build CA capacities and facilitate full participation in IEC work as an Affiliate Country. 

During this trip, they also visited Benin and Niger. 

…Southern and East Africa

They provided training sessions for the Affiliate NECs in Namibia and Botswana and, while in the latter, took the opportunity to visit the Southern African Development Community (SADC) headquarters in Gaborone. In South Africa they attended the annual Utility Week in Cape Town and went on to Pretoria to participate in a strategic workshop organized by the South African National Committee, a Full Member of the IEC. Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda were also on their agenda. 

The IEC-AFRC team is planning other tours later on this year: Central Africa in September and Southern Africa in November. 

Contacts with regional organizations

The IEC-AFRC team also made contact with regional organizations such as the African Organization for Standardization (ARSO), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), and the East African Community (EAC). They presented the objectives and purpose of IEC-AFRC and how one could develop synergy to enhance participation in IEC work to boost the development of the electrotechnical standardization sector in Africa. 

IEC-AFRC took part in the ECOWAS Technical Management Committee meeting (TMC) and its Industry Ministers meeting where 30 IEC International Standards have been recommended for national adoption within the 15 ECOWAS Member States. 

They also attended the ARSO General Assembly in Tanzania where they could meet with the newly-appointed NEC Secretary.

François Ahoti and Evah Oduor IEC-AFRC Directors, François Ahoti and Evah Oduor
IEC-AFRC building The IEC-AFRC offices are in Nairobi, Kenya
IEC-AFRC opening group photo Group photo taken on IEC-AFRC opening day
DRC river Africa has near endless natural energy resources - DRC river
Shompole solar plant in Kenya Up to 5 000 local people in the Shompole/Oloika area in Kenya can benefit from the solar plant operated and maintained by the local Cooperative (Photo: Energy for Development (e4D) Network)