On May 9, 2022, the Standards Alliance: Phase 2 — a public-private partnership program between the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) —held the sixth session of its Cosmetics Standardization Web-series in coordination with the African Organization for Standardization (ARSO) and Personal Care Products Council (PCPC).
The webinar is part of a ten-session virtual training series launched in March 2021 to provide members of ARSO Technical Committee 40 with information on existing international standards and regulations for cosmetics and personal care products. The sixth session of the webinar series centered on good manufacturing practices for the cosmetics sector and served as an opportunity for leaders in the cosmetics industry to meet and discuss the potential next steps for policy, regulatory frameworks, and regional harmonization of cosmetic standards in Africa.
Regulatory frameworks for cosmetics and personal care products in Sub Saharan Africa are not harmonized. Most countries that regulate these products in West, North, and South Africa do so based on regulations that are horizontal. In East Africa, standards are prescriptive and specific to product types (e.g., shampoo). These standards must be constantly updated and, as a result, can sometimes fall behind technological innovation. Accordingly, many innovative products cannot be marketed in East Africa while local industry cannot innovate outside the limits of the standard. Moreover, the incompatibility of the different frameworks creates significant issues in intra-African trade of cosmetics and personal care products.
The Cosmetics Standardization Web-series seeks to sensitize stakeholders to the advantages of a horizontal, performance-based standard whose performance criterion is product safety. Such a horizontal standard would allow for uninhibited intra-African trade; promote exports to the major global markets including the US and EU whose regulations are founded on this regulatory principle; and importantly lead to safer markets in the region. However, a standard based on safety sets a higher level of regulatory burden. Therefore, to ensure a smooth transition for local industry, current vertical standards should remain an option and be updated as is the current practice.
PCPC, in collaboration with its members and international partners, regularly supports authorities and industry around the world as they transition to regulatory frameworks that are based on these global best practices.
More than 70 participants representing national standards bodies, testing labs, universities, and other government agencies from various parts of Africa and the U.S. attended the event. Industry leaders including Joanne Nikitakis, senior director of cosmetics chemistry at Products Personal Care Council; Cathleen Owen, director of pharmaceutical and personal care services laboratories at PCPC; and Paul Walakira, head of chemicals and consumer products division at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) presented and shared their perspectives on cosmetics standards.
Key areas of discussion included:
The webinar concluded with a Q&A session and in-depth panel discussion that explored the various ways cosmetics standardization and regulatory frameworks could be harmonized. As part of the Q&A session, participants had the opportunity to engage with the speakers on how SMEs in African could benefit from harmonized frameworks that incorporate two paths – horizontal and vertical approaches – for companies that are not yet able meet the more stringent requirements.
Among other outcomes, UNBS experts identified certain U.S. regulatory frameworks to implement on the African continent. In addition, PCPC reaffirmed its intent to provide more capacity building support to African industries as they continue to take up regulatory frameworks that are based on global best practices.
Ruben Gisore, technical director of ARSO, provided closing remarks that encouraged further collaboration on the topic.