FAO Regional Office for Africa

Kenya takes over FAO/WHO Codex Coordinating Committee for Africa

Development of Codex Food Standards fundamental to International Trade and Food Safety

Left: Moses Gichia, new Chair CC-Africa (Photo: ©Jeremiah Kinywa)

24-25 February 2016, Nairobi – Kenya has officially taken over Cameroon, as the FAO/WHO Codex Coordinating Committee for Africa (CC-AFRICA).  A symbolic handing over ceremony held in Nairobi was organised by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) which is the Codex Contact point, and consequently links with the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) Secretariat in Rome, in regards to any CAC activities on the continent.

The CAC currently has 187 member countries and the European Union, with a participation of 49 African countries.  Other African countries that have chaired the African chapter of the commission include Ghana, Senegal, Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Morocco and Cameroon.

The event took place in the presence of Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Trade, Mr. Adan Mohamed, the Codex Alimentarius Commission president Ms. Awilo Ochieng Pernet, the FAO representative Dr. David Phiri, Sub-Regional Coordinator for Southern region and WHO representatives as well as participants from the African region. It was followed by a one day workshop intended at taking stock of progress so far, and charting the way forward for Kenya’s role.

Promoting International Trade and Food Safety

The Government of Kenya representatives were cognisant of the importance of addressing problems of food safety in trade, food and agricultural industries, and expressed optimism at the upcoming opportunity to overcome some of the challenges through the Coordination of CCAFRICA.  Codex standards are key to African countries’ participation in the world market and contribute significantly towards action on regulatory issues.  Africa continues to greatly suffer from challenges resulting from recurrent food and water-borne diseases.

According to Kenya’s Ministry of Industry, Investment and Trade, the Codex Food Standards have been acknowledged as a reference in international food trade by WTO’s (World Trade Organization) Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement.  The government is optimistic that by adopting and creating standards, food, livestock and fisheries exports could be doubled.  They also expressed hope that codes of practice, guidelines and standards related to veterinary, agricultural and fisheries products could be developed during Kenya’s tenure at the helm of the CCAFRICA.

Speaking at the event, Dr. Phiri emphasised on the growing importance of CC-Africa saying, “More and more developing countries are taking an active part in the Codex process and in many cases were assisted by the Codex Trust Fund, which finance and train  participants to enable active participation.  Being an active member of Codex helps countries to compete in sophisticated world markets and to improve food safety for their population.  Additionally, exporters better understand importers demand while protecting consumers from substandard shipments”.

Since the country became a member of Codex in 1969, KEBS has adopted over 200 Codex Food Standards and several codes of practice to protect the health of consumers and to facilitate trade.

Role of the Coordinator

As Coordinator for Africa, Kenya will be tasked with facilitating solutions towards the region’s concerns on food standards and food control.  It will continue to promote mutual exchange of information on proposed regulatory initiatives and address problems arising from food control, as well as stimulate and strengthen food control infrastructures.  Concretely, these include the development of frameworks to guide market infrastructures, food processing and storage facilities among others. 

The Coordinator will also continue to make recommendation to CAC for the development of worldwide standards for products of interest to the region, including products considered by the Committee to have an international market potential in the future. Kenya is reported to have already commenced its work as the Coordinator by championing development of three Regional Standards on Shea butter, fermented cooked cassava and Gnetum. A regional Standard on Dried Meats is also being developed.

During its two-year tenure, Kenya could also be closely involved in coordinating the development of other regional standards for food products moving within the region in intra-regional trade, in line with Codex standards. FAO has been working very closely with CCAFRICA under a Technical Cooperation Program (TCP) aimed at  strengthening Codex Structures in three pilot countries: Swaziland, Lesotho and Zimbabwe and at the same time strengthening the role of CCAFRICA.      

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Contact: Ruth N. Lehmann, Communication, FAO, Nairobi

Email : [email protected]