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African technicians express intention to move to European-style refrigeration certification

Workshop in Rwanda demonstrates both competence of expert technicians and their desire to move to a more structured competence system, in light of moves away from HCFCs and towards lower-GWP refrigerants

Refrigeration groups in a number of African countries have signalled their intention to move to certification of refrigeration technicians, along the lines of European schemes.

The move follows the involvement of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and European contractors’ body AREA.

AREA Vice-President Marco Buoni was invited to share his experiences and to be the assessor of a certification session during a UNEP workshop for African RAC technicians in Kigali, Rwanda recently.

On this occasion, AREA, the leading Refrigeration European Association for technicians, supported the certification of 11 African technicians on the basis of its European scheme.

Technicians from a variety of African countries were invited to attend in order to maximise the dissemination of information about the certification scheme, which has been functioning well in Europe since 2008.

The European scheme provides the successful technician with a card or badge, not only helping the engineer to prove competence, but also enabling the authorities to know how many and which personnel can buy and handle the refrigerants, which of course are controlled substances.

In the one-day session held in Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, 14 technicians participated in the theoretical test which evaluates the basic minimum requirements of competence about the fundamentals of refrigeration.

AREA said this part of the exam is often the most challenging, as technicians are used to working in the field and not in front of a desk.

The 12 technicians who passed the initial theory test then participated in the practical exam for which they are required to be able to correctly undertake typical operations, such as recovery of the refrigerant, vacuum, charge, leak detections, temperature and pressure evaluation. The technicians, who were selected from the most skilled technicians across the African continent, were very well trained and demonstrated a high level of knowledge to prevent emissions of refrigerants, the contractors body reported.

“In particular, these technicians are in the process of phasing out R22 in their countries and as such they are very careful about the recovery of these refrigerants which can damage the Ozone layer.”

The practical session was held in the University Polytechnic IPRC (Kigali) where a laboratory is completely dedicated to air conditioning and refrigeration. The equipment was to a high standard, with multiple examples of recovery machines, leak detectors, vacuum pumps and tools. The material was made available by the United Nations Environment Programme, under various projects involving capacity building and phasing down of dangerous ozone depleting substances (ODS) in developing countries. The practical side was failed by only one technician who was unable to demonstrate to the assessor his ability to carry out the essential operation of recovery and vacuum of the system.

Following the three-day workshop, Mr Buoni reports that the expert technicians and the 28 Ozone Officers who attended from Anglophone African countries, have all expressed the desire to implement the European Certification Scheme and adapt it to their national requirements, believing that training without certification is less effective.

AREA says it will continue to give support to those countries in order to ensure a uniform and adequate implementation in line with EU standards.

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