The massive barrier to selling a Raspberry Pi in South Africa

Remember when the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ was launched?

We won’t fault you if you don’t – it was in March 2018, five months ago.

Unfortunately for local retailers, it took five months for them to get approval to sell the device in South Africa, courtesy of ICASA.

Christopher Zinn, the cofounder of PiShop, told MyBroadband that while sales of Raspberry Pi boards are going well in South Africa, certification from ICASA is a different story.

“The industrial sector’s interest in the Raspberry Pi is growing steadily as the boards are more than capable of roughing it in the hard environments of industry,” said Zinn.

“The education sector is slowly realising the huge benefit the Raspberry Pi can play in educating children, and adults,” he added.

Getting approval

Before the latest Raspberry board, the Pi 3 Model B+, could be sold in South Africa, however, ICASA needed to provide its stamp of approval for use in the country.

“The new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ introduced a new Wi-Fi chip that allows both the previously-supported 2.4GHz and new 5GHz IEEE 802.11.b/g/n/ac wireless LAN technology standards,” said Zinn.

“As this is a different chip from the existing unit on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, the board had to receive its ICASA certification before being legally released into the South Africa market.”

Zinn said ICASA does this with the public’s interest in mind, to ensure that new gadgets do not interfere with existing technology available in the country.

“ICASA’s certification guarantees that the Raspberry Pi will work alongside your existing equipment without any negative effect,” he said.

Unfortunately, this process is a long one.

Zinn said that while ICASA quotes 4-6 weeks for approval, the Pi 3 Model B+ process lasted from March 2018 until 8 August.

Zinn said the same issue was experienced when the Raspberry Pi Zero W launched in February 2017, and was only approved locally in June 2017.

“During this period, without approval, unofficial resellers were illegally selling the boards in South Africa,” he said.

“While we truly believe that it’s awesome for the maker market to get their hands on new tech in South Africa so we can keep up with global trends, this behaviour ultimately hurts the market, as these board’s prices were completely unreasonable. It hurts us too, as a small business we’ve worked hard to achieve our Approved Reseller status.”

Zinn said from international trends, it appears ICASA’s approval process is much longer than in other countries – which were able to offer the Pi 3 Model B+ soon after it launched.

ICASA was asked for comment on the matter, but it did not reply to questions.

Now read: Internet Solutions to implement more open peering policy

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The massive barrier to selling a Raspberry Pi in South Africa