New Frameworks to Harmonize Tariffs and Standards for Energy Products in the Region

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa – COMESA has developed regional policy frameworks that will assist Member States to improve the quality of solar products that are allowed into the region and achieve the ease the doing of business across borders due to predictable duty regimes.

This is intended to address the proliferation of low quality of solar energy products which have eroded the confidence in the reliability of solar energy as a viable solution to electrification challenges in the COMESA region. Studies have also revealed that the high level of variances in customs duties across the region has been a hindrance to trade and adoption of off grid renewable technologies.

The frameworks so far developed are the COMESA Model Solar Standards, the COMESA Model Common Customs Tariff Framework for Solar Products and COMESA Model Energy Policy. These were presented to experts in energy, customs and standards from Member States for validation in a workshop conducted in Lusaka, Zambia, on 5 – 7 December 2022.

The model solar standards and customs tariffs are intended to promote common standards across the region to spur trade among the Member States. This will enable manufacturing of products in any country for sale anywhere without fear of standards incompatibility.

The model standards have been vetted by the International Electrochemical Commission (IEC) and the African Electrotechnical Standardization Commission (AFSEC).

The COMESA Model Energy Policy is meant to provide a framework with key issues that should be included in energy policies at Member States’ level. COMESA developed the Policy in 2008 and has become imperative to review it to cover emerging issues including climate change, e-mobility and renewable energy.

COMESA Director of Infrastructure Mr Jean-Baptiste Mutabazi observed that most COMESA Member States are lagging with regards to the development of energy infrastructure even though commendable progress has been made over the years.

The validation workshop was supported under the Regional Infrastructure Finance Facility (RIFF), which is a World Bank supported project for facilitating an enabling environment and providing credit financing for infrastructure investment in the COMESA and the Trade and Development Bank.

RIFF is a $425 million project co-implemented by TDB and COMESA. The Project aims to promote economic transformation and regional integration in Eastern and Southern Africa by extending long-term development capital to catalyze private sector investment into infrastructure. TDBs share is a credit component of $415 million.

Under the RIFF project, COMESA is providing technical assistance to Member States through the development of various policy and regulatory frameworks, assisting Member States in domesticating these frameworks, facilitating peer to peer learning, and organising  capacity building initiatives.

“We therefore stand ready to support our Member States towards the achievement of their goals and aspirations,” said Mr Mutabazi. “I therefore urge Member States with needs that fall within the objectives of the RIFF project to notify the Secretariat of their needs.”

Addressing the workshop, the Director of Energy in the Ministry of Energy in Zambia, Mr Arnold Simwaba, noted that with advancements in solar technology and the reduction in price, solar technology will form part of the energy mix for electricity generation and offgrid solar will also be viable alternative for electrification.

“In order to ensure that our people are protected from poor quality products we need to have standards that the region can use as a benchmark,” he added.