Import of radioactive material, narcotics and psycho-pharmaceutic products is prohibited. Import of firearms, explosives and radioactive equipment meant for the petroleum industry requires the possession of a license.
The import of certain products, such as alcohol, tobacco, meat-based food products, etc. is limited by quotas or licenses for import.
The slowness and the corruption in the customs administration can also be a barrier at the time of import of products into Azerbaijan.
Customs procedures are defined by the new law on customs and the new Customs Code of 1997. All goods entering the territory have to be declared and all are subjected to taxes, except in the case of bilateral agreements. Certain products require a license for them to be imported, others are subjected to very high taxes.
Azerbaijan has gained its independence from the URSS in 1991 and its distribution sector has been in the ongoing process of development ever since. Local companies are often distributors for foreign brands. Chinese, Turkish, Iranian, and Russian products tend to dominate this price-sensitive market. In 2015, SPAR supermarkets opened the first store in the capital city of Baku. At the end of 2017, the company had 7 points of sales in the country. The old centralised state system is slowly disappearing, making way for small retailers and the few rare supermarkets. The distribution sector is dominated by the traditional bazaars. The two main distributors in the food sector are Catermar and Aramark.
SPAR has been the first foreign retailer to open several stores in the country since 2015. Today, they operate 7 stores and plan to expand the business. As of today, there are no other foreign supermarket chains in Azerbaijan: one can purchase goods mainly in bazaars, in small shops or in a few mini-markets (only in bigger cities which count a majority of expatriates).
As of December 2017, there were 9.9 million people in Azerbaijan, out of which almost 8 million were internet users, placing the penetration rate at 80.6%. Poor telecom infrastructure, along with low information and communication technology literacy, expensive consumer equipment, and high tariffs for satellite connections remain key obstacles to ensuring greater internet access across the country. Internet remains expensive for most of the population, with Azerbaijan lagging behind its neighbours on indicators such as Internet speed and affordability. In early 2017, the Ministry of Communications followed through with a plan to roll out more free wi-fi spots in public areas around central locations in Baku. Only two operators, AzerTelecom and Delta Telecom, are licensed to connect international IP traffic. Azercell is the leading mobile service provider. In the last few years, internet freedom has declined in the country after the Government introduced new laws empowering authorities to block content in a broad range of circumstances. Many digital journalists and social media users faced legal sanctions for their activities online. According to Freedom House, Internet in Azerbaijan is currently considered "Partly Free". As of September 2018, the most popular search engines in the country by market share were Google (92.3%), Yahoo! (2.51%), Bing (2.28%), Baidu (0.85%), YANDEX RU (0.61%), and DuckDuckGo (0.33%). As for browsers, the most popular ones were Chrome (68.69%), Opera (8.82%), Safari (7.39%), Samsung Internet (7.26%), Android (2.94%), and Yandex Browser (1.3%).
E-commerce has been rapidly developing during the last few years. According to the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technology, retail e-commerce turnover in 2017 amounted to USD 27 million, growing by 180% compared to 2016. The country ranks 68th in the B2C ecommerce index of the UNCTAD. The growing number of ATMs has increased the level of e-commerce to the market, and some B2B websites have also appeared. The number of credit and debit card transactions is rising, and many hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and mid-range shops increasingly accept credit and debit card payments. Many shippers, however, are reluctant to send goods without pre-payment, and e-commerce is limited by a lack of clear and effective legislation, as well as the prevalence of the shadow economy. One of the key issues the government is working on is the development of Internet-banking, mobile banking and popularization of non-cash payments, which should further boost e-commerce development. The Ministry of Taxes has pushed retail business to install Point of Sale (POS) devices, but given that the economy is still cash-based, many small retail business have not utilized them. Some of the most popular e-commerce websites in Azerbaijan include elan.az, konttakt.az and hepsiburada.com. Cross-border e-commerce is still developing. The vast majority of items bought from foreign websites consist of mobile phones and computer parts. According to The State Customs Committee, the government is currently working on ensuring effective legal e-commerce regulation, preparing new bills. The main focus of the e-commerce development plan are statistics, business-customs cooperation and capacity-building in developing new data collection technologies.
Organizing Goods Transport
Main Useful Means of Transport
The Baku airport is located 25 km from the capital and to get to the city center you can use a taxi (there is no bus or train). The public transport in general is crowded and in a bad state. The metro and bus network can be useful, but it is not advised to use it at night because of the strong occurrence of crime. It is preferable to take a taxi from a specialized company. Ask for help in the hotel where you are staying. Trains leaving from Baku are not safe and it is strongly advised not to travel in them.
The Azerbaijani industry is dominated by the production of petrol. The city of Baku is the regional centre in the production of petrol. Approximately 30% of the active population works in the industrial sector: mining, extraction and petrol refining, aluminum, gas, etc. The light industry occupies an equally important place, amongst which being the food and textile industries.
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