I had the opportunity to take part in the CCAFRICA Codex colloquium co-organised by the US Department of Agriculture, the US Codex office, the Coordination for CCAFRICA, the African Union and the Government of South Africa from March 18-20th, 2014. Delegates from over 15 countries of the region participated in the colloquium which aimed to enhance communication amongst member countries of the region to discuss key Codex files, challenges and agenda items for selected upcoming Codex committees. I had the opportunity to contribute to the colloquium program through a keynote introduction outlining my views on key Codex strengths and accomplishments, as well as what I consider being our organisation’s upcoming challenges. I also contributed to a panel discussion, engaging the colloquium participants on these same topics with an emphasis on specific challenges relevant to the African region. Some of the points discussed included:
– the duality of focus on food safety and food security in the African region and the contribution that Codex standards may bring to support food security in the continent ;
– the level of development of Codex structures in CCAFRICA countries and its impacts on the effective participation in Codex standard development; – the availability of data from the region, in response to calls for data from Codex scientific advisory bodies;
– the impacts of private standards versus Codex standards
– countries’ ability to adopt Codex standards and challenges related to dissemination of information related to Codex standards, guidelines and codes of practice to all food stakeholders in the region. Some of the recommendations brought forward by participants included the need:
– to strengthen Codex national structures in countries of the region,
– to enhance engagement of academic organisations from the region to support opportunities for data collection that reflect the regional/African countries’ context in response to calls for data that support Codex standard development and,
– to continue enhancing awareness of the importance of Codex and Codex standards among the leadership of countries of the region
Participants had also the opportunity to engage in facilitated discussions on agenda items currently identified for some of the upcoming Codex committees: Codex Committee on General Principles (CCGP), Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food (CCCF) and Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR). Delegates were able to exchange their views on these items with the purpose to help them prepare national positions
The colloquium provided me with an excellent opportunity to listen directly and learn from colleagues and peers from CCAFRICA countries about their concerns, challenges and areas of focus related to food safety and quality in general and specifically in the context Codex standard development. It was also an opportunity to engage on a bilateral level with delegates from Cameroon and the regional Coordinator for Africa, Senegal, Guinea, Morocco, Gabon, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa.
I reiterate my thanks and appreciation to the Colloquium organizers and in particular to our gracious South-African hosts for a remarkable organisation.