“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go together.” – African Proverb
Comprised of over fifty countries, Africa represents a largely untapped market, as more countries are seeking to modernize and expand their economies. China has been leading the way for international trading partners that are joining forces with African countries to build large-scale infrastructure projects such as dams, clean water supplies, power supply generating plants, and upgraded telecommunications systems, which will help to raise the standard of living and access to modern communications and information technology equipment (ITE) technologies that will drive the growth of local businesses.
International companies wanting to enter these markets will want to perform formal risk analysis, to make sure the potential benefits are greater than the possible risks for each country in this continent. There are still countries in Africa with active civil conflict or border disputes with their regional neighbors, and a few have U.S. trade embargoes in place that prevent the importation of products from U.S. companies. Some countries are further along the path to becoming politically stable and ensuring financial stability for their citizens than others, so it would be wise to be selective in choosing the markets that make the most sense for each company, based on their products and size of the potential customer base.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook website, referenced at the end of this article, is a useful tool for examining the various economic, political, societal, and infrastructure attributes that can be very valuable in assessing potential markets. In fact, this public domain site is the source for data in this article concerning the economies and infrastructure of these African countries, as well as the maps and flag images. A lot of companies also find it very useful to hire a consultant that has current knowledge of the laws, requirements, and restraints on the importation and sales of electronic products in this region, as well as finding compliance lab partners to assist with the formal product submittal test reports and submittal process.
There are a few countries that have well-developed programs at government agencies to handle the approval and certification of products, such as South Africa and Egypt. But most are less developed, and carry a higher level of uncertainty, as political unrest and civil disturbances can cause interruptions and delays in the process when governments are turned over or agencies abolished and reformed. The majority of less developed countries only have requirements for wireless and telecom approvals, so that helps to lessen the complexity of obtaining product approvals for most of the smaller market countries.
In this article, we will look at the telecommunications regulatory agencies for the ten largest African nations, in terms of population. Information about the telecom requirements in additional African countries is presented in Part 2 of this article, available on line.
Please note that you should not rely exclusively on the information presented here. This article is only intended to identify the major regulatory agencies for electronic and electrical product regulatory product approvals for the countries covered here, and to provide an overview of the specific compliance requirements for each country. Also, changes to the specific certification criteria and programs are common, as are updates to the international test standards utilized by most agencies. Only the official standards and laws for each country should be referenced when preparing product submittals.
If you don’t have expertise on the laws and trade requirements for these countries within your own company, then you should procure the services of experienced regulatory compliance and legal consultants to prepare and submit these applications for product approvals, to protect the company from possible legal problems or the confiscation of your imported products.
With over 177 million inhabitants, Nigeria is by far the most populated country in Africa, and has the highest global GDP-PPP ranking of an African country (21st in the world). Their economy is still heavily dependent on petroleum, which makes up 95 percent of their exports. A civilian government has been in place since 1999, but it has been marked by mismanagement, corruption, and occasional voting irregularities, and the country still has internal issues with ethnic and religious disputes among different groups. Nigeria is ranked tenth globally for the number of cell phones, and ninth globally for the number of Internet users.
Nigeria has two agencies for which product approvals must be obtained. Certifications from both agencies are required to import and sell products in this country.
The first is the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which holds the authority for certification requirements for telecom and wireless products. EU R&TTE Directive compliance reports and CE Declarations of Conformity (DoCs) are accepted as proof of compliance. Product test samples are not required, but NCC does require a local company representatives and regulatory marking of the certified products. The NCC website is available in English (www.ncc.gov.ng), and it provides information on the categorized telecom and wireless technologies that include common wireless radio products and telecom
terminal equipment (TTE). Certificates have no expiration date, but must be updated if the approved product is modified.
The second Nigerian agency is the Standards Organization of Nigeria-Conformity Assessment Program (SONCAP). This agency is concerned with the actual test standards that are utilized in the compliance testing of the product. Their English-language website (www.son.gov.ng) has more information on the required standards and application requirements.
Ethiopia is the second most populous African country with almost 100 million residents. Since 2007, the country has experienced a period of relative peace and stability. Agriculture products and gold make up the bulk of Ethiopia’s economy, which has a worldwide GDP-PPP country ranking of 73. They are ranked 47th globally in the number of cell phones, and 116nd globally in the number of Internet users.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) has authority over the certification requirements for telecom and wireless products. FCC grants and test reports, or EU R&TTE Directive compliance reports and CE DoCs are accepted as proof of compliance. Product test samples, local representatives, and regulatory marking of the product are not required for this country. The MCIT website is available in English (www.mcit.gov.et), and it provides information on the categorized telecom and wireless technologies that include common wireless radio and TTE. Certificates have no expiration date, but must be updated if the product is changed.
Following the lead of Tunisian opposition groups, Egypt’s citizens had their own “Arab Spring” demonstrations and labor strikes, which led to the departure of their president, and the forming of a new parliament and presidential elections in 2012. However, by the next year there were periodic outbreaks of violence, resulting in a military takeover and the appointment of an interim president. 2014 saw the approval of a new constitution, and new elections that selected a new president, with new legislative elections expected by the end of 2015. These moves are expected to help stabilize the Egyptian economy.
Crude oil and petroleum products are still Egypt’s leading export product, helping the country to rank 24th globally in terms of GDP-PPP. With 86 million residents, Egypt is third most populated African country and the 16th most populated country in the world, making it an attractive market for consumer electronics products. Egypt ranks 16th globally in the number of cellular phones, and 20th globally in the number of Internet users.
The National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NRTA) of Egypt is the wireless, telecom, and ITE certification agency, setting the compliance criteria for EMC, health and safety, wireless, and telecom attributes. The NRTA accepts EU R&TTE Directive compliance reports as proof of compliance.
The NRTA does not require a local representative, and test samples are required only for telecom products. Certificates do not expire, but remember that if any critical components in product are ever changed, the modified product must be submitted for evaluation and approval by the agency. The NRTA has an English-language website (www.tra.gov.eg/english) with more information on their allocated frequency spectrum and type approvals.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has experienced internal strife and violence for many decades, with elections marred by irregularities. This country of 77 million, the fourth largest in Africa, has a GDP-PPP ranking of 105 worldwide, with exports that include diamonds, copper, gold, cobalt, wood products, crude oil, and coffee. The DRC is ranked 52nd globally for the number of cell phones, and 129th globally for Internet users.
There are U.S. Government prohibitions in place targeted at specified individuals and organizations associated with former regimes and violent groups, or others that pose a substantial risk of violence, which could disrupt stability of the DRC government and people. A thorough review of the listing of these targeted individuals and organizations is highly recommended before engaging in any commercial or business transactions. That list can be found on the U.S. OFAC Specially Designated Nationals List webpage. 
Sanctions include restrictions on certain “dual-use” technologies, that is, devices that have both military and non-military applications. Information to determine if a particular product will necessitate an export license from the U.S. Department of Commerce can be found by verifying the Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) for the product against the Commerce Control List (CCL) found in the Bureau of Industry and Security section of the Department of Commerce website.
The Société Congolaise des Postes et Télécommunications (SCPT), or the Congolese Post and Telecommunications Agency, is the telecom authority for the DRC for both wireless and telecom devices. They accept either FCC test reports and grants, or EU R&TTE Directive compliance reports, as proof of compliance. Test samples and product regulatory marks are not required, but an authorized local representative for the manufacturer or importer of the product located in-country is required. Certificates issued by the MPC are valid for ten years, assuming the product remains unchanged. They have a French-language website (www.scpt.cd) with a limited amount of information.
Tanzania held its first democratic elections in 1995, albeit with some irregularities observed in voting. By 2010 two leading political parties had succeeded in reducing electoral issues, leading to a more stable society and economy. With Africa’s fifth largest population of over 51 million, Tanzania has a GDP-PPP worldwide rank of 84, with exports of gold, agriculture products, and some manufacturing. Tanzania is ranked 39th globally in the number of cell phones, and 109th globally in the number of Internet users.
The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) is the telecom authority for this country. Either an EU R&TTE Directive compliance reports and CE DoCs, or an FCC grant and test report, are accepted as proof of compliance for the importation and sale of products. The TCRA does not ask for product samples, nor do they require a local representative. The TCRA website is in English (www.tcra.go.tz), and allows access to the agency policies, legislation, regulations, and licensing information for telecom and wireless products requiring certification and approvals. Certificates do not have an expiration date, assuming that there are no modifications to an approved product.
In 1994, over four decades of apartheid came to an end in South Africa with the first multi-racial elections. South Africa has struggled to make progress in eliminating disparities in housing, education, and health care, but they are making steady progress. This country is a growing market, and it is often included as one of the BRICS market countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China South Korea, and South Africa). South Africa is also the first country that companies will seek to enter as part of expansion into Africa. It is the 6th most populated African country, with almost 54 million residents, and is currently ranked 31st worldwide for GDP-PPP, the second-highest ranking among all African nations. Major export commodities are gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment. Africa is ranked 19th globally in the number of cell phones, and 52nd globally in the number of Internet users.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is the regulator for communications, broadcasting and postal services, and responsible for TTE and wireless product certification programs. ICASA requires a local representative and regulatory product markings, but they do not require product samples. Either FCC grants and test reports or EU R&TTE test reports and CE DoCs are accepted by the ICASA as proof of compliance. ICASA certificates have no expiration date, and only requires updating if the product is modified. The agency website is in English (www.icasa.org.za), which provides more information on their publications, regulations, and certification programs.
Having a history of strong-man rule and periodic violence in the past several decades, Kenya instituted a new constitution by referendum in 2010 that put in place additional checks and balances, reducing the power of the president, and creating counties within the country to decentralize the power formerly held by the central government. The 7th most populated African country, with over 45 million residents, Kenya is currently ranked at 75th worldwide for GDP-PPP, with major export commodities of agricultural products, petroleum, seafood and cement. Kenya is ranked 33rd globally in the number of cell phones, and 57th globally in the number of Internet users.
The Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) is the government agency for TTE and wireless product certifications. CAK requires a local representative and product samples, but they do not require regulatory product markings. Either FCC grants and test reports or EU R&TTE test reports and CE DoCs are accepted as proof of compliance by this agency. CAK certificates have no expiration date, and certification is granted in two stages. First a provisional “Type 1” approval is issued, followed by the final approval certification. The agency website is in English (http://ca.go.ke), which provides more information on their publications, statutes and regulations.
Algeria is Morocco’s neighbor to the East and, along with the other northern coastal African countries, was involved in the “Arab Spring” populist movement. Since 2011, Algeria has experienced some moderate political reforms, including more open parliamentary elections, and the removal of some of the “state of emergency” restrictions that had been in place for over twenty years. There is still occasional internal violence from marginalized groups, but there is hope that the constitution will be revised to allow for more inclusion and representation for all of the country’s citizens.
Algeria is the 8th most populated African country, with over 38 million people, and is ranked 34th in the world in terms of GDP-PPP, due largely to the country’s oil reserves, which make up 97 percent of their exports. Algeria ranks 48th globally in the number of Internet users, and 32nd globally in the number of cell phones.
The telecom government agency in Algeria is the L’Autorité de Régulation de la Poste et des Télécommunications (ARPT), or Authority for the Regulation of Posts & Telecommunications. FCC grants and test reports, or EU R&TTE Directive compliance reports and CE DoCs are accepted as proof of compliance. Keep in mind that ARPT can bar devices that could conflict with emergency or official-use frequencies, or TTE products that could harm their telephone network infrastructure. Product test samples and regulatory marking of the product are required, as well as a requirement to have an in-country local representative.
The ARPT website is available in either French or Arabic (www.arpt.dz). Google Translate (translate.google.com) is handy for unofficial translations of the information provided on this website, which provides information on the categorized telecom and wireless technologies that include common wireless radio and TTE products. Certificates are valid for two years, and these must be updated if the product is changed during this period. If the product will continue to be sold after this time, it should be re-submitted for a new certificate for an additional two years, and this process should be repeated for as long as the product is imported and sold in this country.
Uganda is the ninth most populated African country, with over 37 million residents, and has enjoyed relative stability since 1986. The constitution was reformed in 2005, which eliminated a ban on multi-party politics and elections. This country has a GDP-PPP rank of 96 worldwide, exporting mainly seafood and agricultural products. Uganda has a global ranking of 58th in the number of cell phones, and ranks 64th globally in the number of Internet users.
Uganda’s telecom agency is the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), which defines the certification requirements for wired TTE and wireless technology products. The UCC accepts both EU R&TTE Directive compliance reports and FCC test reports and grants as proof of compliance. This agency does not require a local representative, test samples, or UCC product marks. Certificates do not expire, but must be updated if any critical components in product are changed. The UCC has an English-language website (www.ucc.co.ug) with more information on their programs and publications.
The 10th most populous country in Africa, Sudan has experienced years of civil unrest and war, with violent armed groups in virtual control of large parts of the country. Because of ongoing activities by groups deemed terrorist by the U.S. Government, there have been trade restrictions in place since 1997. The Sudan sanctions program imposed by the U.S. is one of the most comprehensive currently in place, and deals with a multitude of issues that pose a potential threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the U.S. The full text of the current sanctions can be obtained at the U.S. OFAC website. Except for humanitarian aid, U.S. companies and citizens are legally barred from most trading or business activities involving Sudan.
We have now traversed through the ten largest market countries in Africa, from Nigeria to Sudan. While some countries are just beginning their path towards developing their economies and markets, others will provide special opportunities for the companies that do their research and find their own groups of customers. These citizens have seen the benefits that come from access to modern communications and ITE technologies that their Western neighbors enjoy, and for those businesses that can see the prospects for long term growth, many new markets are ready to present themselves.
It is important to keep in mind that the information contained in this article can become stale at a fast rate, so make sure to utilize your professional contacts and network to stay current on the latest requirements and compliance developments. One professional organization that can be a very reliable source is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which has over thirty different sub-groups, including the EMC Society, the Product Safety Engineering Society, and the Consumer Electronics Society.
- U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, (2015) The World Factbook index webpage. [Online]. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/index.html
- U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, (2015) Democratic Republic of the Congo Sanctions webpage. [Online]. http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/drc.aspx
- U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, (2015) Specially Designated Nationals List webpage. [Online]. http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/SDN-List/Pages/default.aspx
- U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, (2015) Commerce Control List webpage. [Online]. http://www.bis.doc.gov/index.php/regulations/commerce-control-list-ccl
- U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, (2015) Sudan Sanctions webpage. [Online].
Mark Maynard is a Director at SIEMIC, a global compliance testing and certification services firm. He also serves as the President-Elect for the IEEE Product Safety Engineering Society Board of Directors. He can be reached at mark.maynard @siemic.com.
Editor’s Note: Part 2 of this article, which includes information on wireless and telecom compliance requirements for an additional 20 countries in Africa, is available at our website. https://incompliancemag.com/article/africa-wireless-and-telecom-compliance-part-2