With a population of over 200 million and the largest economy in Africa it’s easy to see why Nigeria is full of opportunity for Exporters. Whether revisiting an old market, or looking at new ones, exporting to Nigeria offers a wealth of opportunity for many exporters.
What is a SONCAP certificate and why do I need one?
If you are familiar with international export you will likely have come across Conformity Assessment Programs before and the Certificates of Conformity that go hand in hand with them. The Standards Organization of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Program (SONCAP) is a strict set of rules and guidelines that many exports to Nigeria need to comply to. Following assessment of your product against the country’s standards a Certified Body can then issue you with clearance certification. For Nigeria this comes in the form of both a Product Certificate, which acts as a license for the specific products, and a Shipment Certificate which is used by the importer to clear the goods at customs, also known as a SONCAP certificate. The certificates are uploaded to the government portal and are used to clear the shipments through customs. If you ship without SONCAP certification in place your goods will not pass customs checks and will not enter Nigeria.
Do I really need SONCAP certification?
This is a valid question. The answer completely depends on the product you are shipping and it’s commodity code. There are exemptions to SONCAP requirements such as Food products, Medicines, Chemicals for use in manufacturing, and Military equipment. As a general rule any items coming under the following categories require SONCAP; Arts and Crafts, Toys, Furniture, Plastic and Rubber Products, Electrical and Electronic products, Chemical Products, New Motor Vehicles and Spare Parts, Building and Construction Materials, Mechanical Devices, Paper and Stationery Items, Protective Safety Equipment, Medical Devices. This list is not exhaustive, and the advice is always that it is best to check if you need a certificate before shipping the goods.
What are “Routes” and why are there three different options?
The SONCAP program has 3 Routes. Route A, Route B, and not surprisingly Route C. All three of these Routes involve a Product Certificate and a Shipment certificate. The difference between the three is in the length that the product certificate is valid for and the amount of physical inspections required.
For Route A the product certificate is only valid for one shipment, and Route B and C are valid for one year. Route A needs a pre shipment inspection, Route B requires 40% of shipments in a calendar year to have a physical pre shipment inspection, and Route C involves a full factory Audit. Confused? It is actually a lot simpler than it sounds. The best Route to take is always the most cost effective and convenient one. If you are only shipping a one-off shipment to a specific importer than Route A will be best. If you are the manufacturer of the goods, and the client is going to be receiving 10+ shipments over the next year then it is likely Route C may be the best. Any good certified body or advisor should be looking at the options, weighing up the associated costs, alongside the convenience of the physical inspection frequency dictated by that Route. It is also worth noting there are also high-risk lists of life endangering products, for which Routes are dictated, and also for some Routes you must have ISO 9001. Costs for SONCAP are set by the Standards Organization of Nigeria themselves so all global suppliers will charge the same.
What does the process for SONCAP look like?
There are various stages but they will involve documentary review by a certified body, application for a Form M by the importer of the goods, and a physical pre shipment inspection. All issued certificates, both Product and Shipment certificate, are uploaded onto the SON online portal electronically.
How do I ensure the certification process does not delay my shipment?
Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence that certificates of conformity are a last minute thought at the end of a very long drawn out process. Tendering for orders, negotiating prices, closing deals, manufacturing product, and then, oh, wait. Do I need a certificate of conformity? At this stage if your product does not comply to the requirements of SON the whole process has been wasted.
Take home message
As with many things in life fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Seek advice from experts. Nigerian markets can offer great opportunity for exporters. However, no one wants everything to fall apart at the last minute. The take home advice would be to ask for help early on in the process and avoid anyone wanting to charge you up front before processing certification. Nigeria can be a great market full of opportunity, but be sure to consider compliance early in your process or you may fall at the last hurdle.
Why XDS Solutions?
January 2022 marks the 8 year Anniversary of XDS Solutions arranging it’s first SONCAP certificate. With a vast amount of experience, fast turnaround times, and expert advice XDS solutions are your go to provider for SONCAP worldwide.