Effective September 27, 2018, importers of solar energy appliances are no longer subject to quality assessment processes and invoice guarantee payments. The Ministry of Trade exempted importers from payments made to obtain import authorisation certifications. For sample during inspection processes, importers were expected to pay 19,000 Br and deposit 0.5pc of the total import value as an invoice guaranty.
Solar panels, batteries, battery chargers, controllers and power inverters had previously been mandated to pass through conformity assessment procedures at custom clearance points that inspect the quality of the products. As of the end of September, the companies will avoid this inspection process. However, they will still be required to bring products on par with international conformity certificate standards. Currently, a total of 386 solar equipment importers are operating in the country.
Importers are supposed to bring a certificate that meets Lighting Global Solar Home System Kit Quality Assurance Protocols. The products should also pass through a pre-shipment inspection done by internationally accredited companies.
“Normally the process of inspecting the quality of these products takes a long time,” said Eyasu Simon, director of import-export quality inspection at the Ministry. “This is coupled with the capacity limitation of the laboratories.”
The inspection process of such products was started in 2015. Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Enterprise, a federal agency established in 2011 and operating under the Ministry of Science & Technology, has been undertaking the assessment. The Enterprise is mandated to test, inspect and certify products and services for exporters, importers, producers, service providers and regulatory bodies.
“Since then the results of not a single product was announced,” said Eyasu, “and the 0.5pc guarantee the companies paid was not returned.”
This was the major source of frustration for the importers, according to Eyasu.
Gashaw Tesfaye, deputy director-general of the Enterprise, argues that all of the solar testing laboratories globally are not operating at full capacities.
“The solar products’ nature of being difficult to be stated is the cause for the delay,” he said.
From the beginning, the inspection process was not legitimate, according to Dereje Waleligne, managing director of Lydtco Plc and president of the Solar Energy Development Association.
“As long as the importers bring the products that have an international standard certification,” Dereje told Fortune, “the local inspection process is not necessary.”
The Ministry is mandated to inspect the quality of products coming into and out of the country. It conducts an inspection on 140 products under its mandate at 14 branch locations and checkpoints. The Ministry ensures that products meet mandatory Ethiopian standards.
Beyond easing the frustration of the importers, the move is expected to make solar products more affordable to customers, said Tesfaye Tadesse, communications officer at the ministry.
Ethiopia has about five megawatts of off-grid solar. Ethio telecom is the major user of solar cells for its remote rural telecom installations. Rural residents, healthcare services and schools also use solar materials.
The government plans to provide solar power to 150,000 households. The target for the duration of the second edition of the Growth & Transformation Plan is to import 3.5 million solar lanterns and half a million solar home systems.