By Eamonn Ryan

Hennie Basson, past president of SARACCA, has been nominated to represent SARACCA’s involvement in the establishment of an SADC RAC Association (Southern African Development Community Refrigeration & Air-conditioning Association) project to establish a viable regional grouping of each of the national committees. He is currently the Secretary General of SADC RAC Association, and provided RACA Journal the following background and progress to date.

SARACCA’s SADC RAC Association involvement project is an initiative that aims to address the lack of a cold chain infrastructure in Southern African countries. On a continent-wide basis, U-3ARC, a union of associations of African actors in refrigeration and air-conditioning, has been established. Basson, together with current director Barney Richardson, attended a 2022 conference in Morocco. What they found was that while this Association claimed to represent all 54 African countries, in fact only a handful had paid membership fees while the predominance of French and Arabic languages meant the organisation would be too cumbersome if it ever truly got off the ground.

“The SADC RAC Association was created due to the huge language barrier and the large structure of the Union of Associations of African Actors in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (U3-Arc) based in West Africa, which made it difficult for the Southern African region to participate in its activities,” says Basson.

Hennie Basson recieves a certificate from the Minister Hon Lucia Iipumbu for presenting at the conference in Windhoek.

Hennie Basson recieves a certificate from the Minister Hon Lucia Iipumbu for presenting at the conference in Windhoek. All photos by SADC RAC Association

SARACCA in cooperation with other countries seeks to establish a cold chain in Southern African countries to prevent the loss of fresh produce, which is estimated to be about 70% of produce due to the lack of that cold chain. The establishment of a cold chain infrastructure will create jobs and stimulate economic growth. This will be achieved by setting up the infrastructure and refrigeration businesses, as well as training people to operate and maintain the refrigeration systems. The project will cover the whole cold chain process, from farm level to distribution centres and exports at harbours.

“SARACCA in cooporation with SADC RAC Association aims to get local associations to get organised to carry out the project. The local associations will train people and provide investment in setting up the infrastructure. The project is not only focused on refrigeration but also on energy production, particularly on how to utilise solar power for refrigeration.

“To establish credibility and garner support, SADC RAC Association embarked on an initiative with A-Gas to collect redundant refrigerants, particularly the oldest CFCs that have been recovered, which will be sent for destruction. A pilot project in Kenya is in process to ensure that if a successful model is developed it can be implemented in other countries and Namibia and Swaziland are next in line. The initiative involves recovering cylinders and establishing recovery plants for companies to be responsible for their own refrigeration waste.

The primary milestone to date has been the hosting of an SADC conference on 15 March in Windhoek, Namibia. “The Minister of Industrialisation and Trade, Ho Lucia Iipumbu  was there, so it was at a ministerial level. Customs was also there to discuss seizures and related matters. Namibia is quite organised compared to other countries, and in some cases, they are stricter on reducing CO2 emissions than South Africa. They aim to phase out R22 by 2030, long before other developing countries.

“We have regular meetings to plan and suggest strategies to achieve our objectives. We want to train the trainers, and we are currently collecting information about trainers in specific countries. We will train them first, and then they will be able to train others. Zambia has already asked me for data and information, and we will definitely train them. If it is worthwhile, then I can also go there. The local associations will work with the government to regulate the use of refrigerants. They will distribute recovery cylinders among contractors, who will use them and return them. Once they are full, the refrigerants will be removed from the country.”

SADC RAC Association Leadership at the Conference in Windhoek, from left to  right: Pious Chinyama, Caign Manyukwa (president), Parastus Nepolo (vice president), Phill Masendeke, Mopati Maseko, Hennie Basson (secretary general).

SADC RAC Association Leadership at the Conference in Windhoek, from left to right: Pious Chinyama, Caign Manyukwa (president), Parastus Nepolo (vice president), Phill Masendeke, Mopati Maseko, Hennie Basson (secretary general).

Basson adds: “We had a meeting with the Department of Environmental Affairs on 31 March, where we addressed the issue of legislation and regulations. We don’t want to import CFCs into the country, and we just want to collect them and send them out for destruction since there is no destruction plant in Africa. This latter point is because it is not cost-effective – there is not constant round-the-year work for one, and it would be costly to set one up. There are some destruction plants in other countries that can be used. The main drive behind this initiative is that the industry can reclaim and clean the refrigerants and sell them back into the market, so that there is no need to manufacture virgin refrigerant.

“We discussed the importance of contractors being responsible in what they do to prevent injuries caused by the mishandling of refrigerants. We need to be responsible and proactive to prevent accidents and environmental damage caused by CFCs. We must recover them and ensure they are disposed of properly. There have been serious injuries and deaths caused by the mishandling of Hydro Carbon and other flammable refrigerants, so it’s essential that we act urgently to prevent this from happening.

“During the conference in Namibia, one contractor mentioned having a chiller with five tons of R12 (CFC) that needed to be recovered and saved from destruction. Without such action, someone could accidentally release the refrigerant into the atmosphere. The urgency of training people to handle refrigerants safely is highlighted by the deaths of five people in Nigeria last year due to mishandling refrigerants,” says Basson.

The Department of Environment Forestry and Fisheries in South Africa aims to train technicians and informal workers on safe refrigerant handling, with a goal of training 2 000 people, 402 were already trained in 2022. “The training material and practical resources are available, but the governments in the SADC Region need to take a proactive role in enforcing safe refrigerant handling. The initiative also aims to promote entrepreneurship among technicians by teaching them how to run a Rerigeration & Air-conditioning business. This will help grow the refrigeration industry, which is crucial to the economy of many countries in the region.”

He describes the next milestone as being to get all countries to handle refrigerants safely and to buy into the initiative. Thereafter the objective is to train technicians, with a focus on entrepreneurship. It’s important for governments to understand the significance of the refrigeration industry in their countries and work together to regulate it. While there are associations representing the industry, government involvement is necessary to ensure that regulation is effective,” concludes Basson.

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