Last updated: 13 July 2017
Solar Cookers International (SCI) thanks Dr. Akihiko Kumagai and Dr. Bob Metcalf for sharing their experiences shipping devices from the USA to partners overseas. Data points: 4 packages shipped over a 3-year period from USA to East Africa.
- USPS international flat rate medium size box (11" x 8-1/2" x 5-1/2" Maximum weight 20 pounds). The shipping cost is about $72 for each package. This is significantly cheaper than many other carriers. FedEx, DHL, and others can charge more than $350 for sending the same kind of package.
- Dr. Metcalf advises including a letter and documentation inside the package explaining about the contents in addition to a regular customs form attached to the outside of the package. This kind of letter with supplemental documents may help customs to understand that the package was sent for a positive reason (it's nothing like weapon, drugs, and other malicious things). See this sample customs letter.
- High cost of custom duty in East African countries. For items identified as a ‘gift’, a value of the content is required. The customs duty is approximately 50% of the value of the package (e.g., for a $150 value, customs duty will be $70 – 80.) This can be a large financial burden for local partners, so please consider these fees in your project design. Some countries, such as Tanzania, may have a form to request a waiver of the customs charge for such a gift. If your country has such a form, email SCI.
Dr. Kumagai adds, “Although we would like to find ways to make activities sustainable in those developing countries using resources available in their places as much as possible, it is good to know that we can also depend on some materials shipped from overseas only if those things are absolutely necessary.”