Inefficient R22 air conditioners dumped in Africa

According to a recent report, 35% of room air conditioners (RAC) sold in ten African countries are low efficiency RACs. RACs containing R22 account for 47% of the market, while 49% contain R410A.Setting minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) and prohibiting RACs using high-GWP refrigerants could prevent such environmental dumping.

The African air-conditioning market has been steadily growing from 2005 to 2019. In 2018, the market size for room air conditioners (RAC) in Africa was estimated to approximatively 2.8 million units. [1] In 2019, the air-conditioning market in Africa had grown by 8.8% year-on-year, led by Algeria (679,000 units), Nigeria (628,000 units), and Egypt (620,000 units). Split-type RACs take 80% to 90% of the AC market and generally, units containing R22 predominate. [2]

The Collaborative Labelling and Appliance Standards Programme (CLASP) recently published a report examining the split RAC market in 2018 in 10 countries accounting for 96% of Africa’s RAC market: Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Tunisia. In this report, “low efficiency RACs” were defined as air conditioners that do not meet the minimum threshold of Energy efficiency ratio (EER) 3.0 W/W.  Given that EER 3.0 W/W is the minimum energy performance standard for most countries that exports RACs into African countries, such products could not be sold in the countries where they are manufactured.

In 2018, China had supplied about 80% of the RACs imported by the 10 focus countries.

Approximatively 650,000 low efficiency units were imported to these 10 countries, accounting for 35% of the overall RAC sales. Based on data from BSRIA, it appears that RACs containing R22 account for 47% of the market, while 49% contain R410A. So far, only 1% of RACs sold have been reported to use lower GWP R32, exclusively sold in South Africa. South Africa is the only one of the 10 countries studied which appears to have no new R22 RACs on the market.

China is the main source of imported R22 RACs (57%), followed by Egypt (11%), the US (3%), Nigeria (1.6%), and South Korea (0.6%). The largest markets for low efficiency RACs are Nigeria and Egypt. Through partnerships and joint ventures with non-African RAC manufactures, Egypt and Nigeria have the ability to mass-produce, assemble and export RACs to the rest of the African market. The majority of R22 units (82%) sold in the nine focus countries (excluding South Africa) are assembled locally by Egyptian or Nigerian assemblers using imported parts.


Sources of low efficiency RACs


The four main sources for the low efficiency RAC market in the focus countries are:

  • 26%: Non-African companies exporting low efficiency RACs containing obsolete refrigerant technologies.
  • 23%: Joint ventures between smaller African assemblers and large, non-African RAC manufacturers assembling RACs that are less efficient than those produced by the non-African manufacturing companies for their own domestic markets.
  • 18%: Independent African RAC assemblers, importing components for and assembling low efficiency RACs.
  • 6%: Local   subsidiaries   of   non-African   companies   assembling   RACs   in   Africa, using   imported components for products that are too inefficient to be sold in the domestic market of the non-African companies. These products are sold under the branding of the non-African company.


African countries with significant local assembly of cooling products often have national policies providing incentives for national assembly such as lower import duties for components, domestic content requirements or even bans on import of assembled units. However, independent African RAC assemblers (i.e. not part of a joint venture) are hampered in supplying superior products because they compete against low prices of products that are indistinguishable in appearance.


Impact of environmental dumping of inefficient, high-GWP RACs


Low efficiency RACs are more demanding in energy and more costly for consumers and for governments. Consumers pay higher electricity bills and countries pay more for electricity generation facilities, imported fuel, electricity transmission, and distribution infrastructure. Transitioning to high efficiency RACs can reduce the burden on consumers and governments. For example, a World Bank study on northern Africa’s RAC market estimated the per AC unit avoided capacity investment cost could reach an average of $234 in 2030. This money could be saved by setting and strengthening minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) and by prohibiting RACs with HCFC and high-GWP refrigerants.

Some African countries have implemented energy performance standards and bans on second-hand equipment. However, many countries have not implemented any form of anti-environmental dumping policy for new products. In September 2019, United for Efficiency (U4E) published model energy performance standards and labelling guidance to assist governments in developing and emerging economies in establishing or strengthening their regulations. Adopting U4E Model MEPS in 2022 could reduce cumulative 2022-2030 greenhouse gas emissions in the focus countries by 40 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Tools for African policymakers to prevent environmental dumping

The CLASP report suggests that African policymakers take action to stop environmental dumping of low efficiency and obsolete RACs. Actions could include:


  • Ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and adopt implementing policies.
  • Design and implement MEPS & labelling policies consistent with major AC-exporting countries.
  • Strengthen institutional arrangements.
  • Revise tariffs on RACs to ensure compatibility with energy efficiency goals.
  • Ban the import of second-hand, including refurbished, and inefficient RACs and widely publicize and enforce the ban.
  • Organize bulk purchase and buyers’ clubs to aggregate demand and purchase high efficiency and low GWP RACs at affordable prices.
  • Properly recycle and dispose of obsolete room ACs.
  • Elevate solutions to regional level.
  • Engage local groups profiting under current system by trading in obsolete equipment to be part of the solution.



[1] Environmentally Harmful Dumping of Inefficient and Obsolete Air Conditioners in Africa. Link.

[2] JARN, January 25, 2020