Africa & Beyond

Africa: A Dumping Ground For Substandard Electrical Wares

He prefers to be called by his business name: Denchax Enterprises. But his
real name is Ugo Eke. He is a Port Harcourt-based petty electrical
materials dealer, which is known in Nigerian parlance, as roadside trader.
It is his first time to travel to Lagos. He used to buy his wares from the
roadside at Onitsha in Anambra state.

On return from one of his business trips to Lagos, he realised that
virtually all the wares he had purchased in Lagos were fake. He got to find
out when his customers started complaining and returning to him, some of
the wares they had bought. Denchax Enterprises said that his choice of
going to Alaba International Market, Lagos was born out of an advise of one
of his friends gave him to try Lagos. According to him, his friend told him
that Alaba International Market is the biggest market in Nigeria for
electrical appliances and that he would get a better bargain, thereby
guaranteeing him better profit.

What was supposed to turn in favour of Denchax Enterprises, turned out to
be his bitter ordeal in the hands of his furious customers. He, however,
does not say that the Alaba International Market is wholly a place for the
sales of fake electrical materials, but that he was unlucky to have bought
from unregistered importers.

“Registered importers tell a prospective buyer the differences in the items
and allow the buyer to make his or her choice,” said Denchax Enterprises,
who also said he noticed that 80 per cent of the fake wares he bought were
the ones that originate from China. Many of his customers who came to his
business stand to lay their complaints or bring back the damaged items like
switches, lighting, cable, fuses, kettles, irons, batteries and chargers,
they had bought said that the fake articles were blatant hazardous, and
nearly causing fire outbreak.

Findings are that these fake products are categorized as unfit products in
their countries of manufacture, but due to the economic situation of
Africa, which has made it a dumping ground for rejected goods; these
substandard wares find their way into various African market. These
substandard electrical appliances come in vessels and, most times, their
documents are forged to deceive law enforcement agents. In the North,
South, East and West African countries, China ship in counterfeited
electrical materials into Africa, through free-trade ports, such as Dubai.

The importers of substandard electrical wares do not want to give up on the
business given the high margin of profit accruable from there. It is
estimated that the value of counterfeited electrical products is in the
region of $250 billion per year while the World Customs Organization
identified counterfeit products destined for 140 countries. Worldwide,
counterfeiting alone, costs the electrical products industry $600 billion
each year. As the counterfietrs are perfecting ways of beating the
regulatory agencies, so the agencies are perfecting ways of stopping them
in their track.

Mr. Joseph Odumodu, the Director General of Standards Organisation of
Nigeria, SON, said last year that SON was promoting a new standard policy,
which when it comes on stream would help in curbing the preponderance of
fake products in the market. “We are currently promoting a new national
quality policy; Nigeria does not have one; the policy is to help to put
Nigeria on the same pedestal with the rest of the world. Every product that
is tested and certify by the body would be accepted in any part of the
world. The Minister of Trade has approved the setting up of a National
Accreditation Service to take off in March. It will be responsible for the
accreditation of all testing facilities in Nigeria, but the first thing to
do is to link up with other international accreditation bodies and meet the
minimum requirement for the endorsement of such bodies,” he said.

Odumodu added that all products in the Nigerian market will be projected to
have electronic registration code, to enhance easy identification of both
the manufacturer and the importer. He also said that improved
collaborations with relevant authorities in order to achieve this
objective, was in top gear.

Against the backdrop, a BBC report quoting Darren Olivier, head of brand
enforcement and a director at Bowman Gilfillan attorneys in Johannesburg,
said: “Africa has become a dumping ground for the world’s unwanted goods.
Indeed, with the rising number of direct trade routes between Africa and
China, together with porous border controls, outdated legislation and weak
enforcement mechanisms, the continent has become fair game for
counterfeiters – and the recession has made it worse.”

SON in April 2012, made a seizure of substandard electric cables worth over
N450 million at the Alaba International Market Lagos, which came after a
previous spasm made about two weeks earlier of nine truckloads of
substandard electric cables worth over N200 million, with fake SONCAP
certificates. Findings are that since the body started what analysts called
“intolerance to fake electrical materials”, some of the dealers of
counterfeit electrical materials have been relocating some of their
warehouses to more remote areas to avoid SON’s inspections.

In South Africa, the country has feared that counterfeit electric wares
that do not pass South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) tests, flood the
country. According to Dr Michael Grant, a South African electric equipment
manufacturer CBI-Electric senior electrical engineer, bemoaned that such
fake materials “burn when loaded below the rated current and fail breaking
capacity tests but also endanger South African lives.”

Dr. Grant decried how the “counterfeit circuit breakers and earth leakage
devices” that look almost indistinguishable to CBI-Electric’s low-voltage
equipment are fraudulently stamped with the company’s name. His fears were
that the devices were meant to protect lives, but 100% of all counterfeit
goods failed all rating tests. Grant, nonetheless, called on all the local
manufacturers such as individuals, electricians, contractors, electrical
installation companies and industry in the South African economy to stick
on to stringent international standards for electrical devices.

The story is the same in Tanzania. A Tanzanian public affairs commentator,
Simbarashe Msasanuri said that The Tanzania Solar Energy Association,
TASEA, revealed that substandard and counterfeit solar panels were being
sold in various shops dealing with electrical appliances in a place like
Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam. Eng. Mathew Matimbwi, TASEA Executive Secretary,
according to Msasanuri, was quoted as saying that, after receiving many
complaints, they carried out investigations and realised the existence of
counterfeits in some shops.

“Early before the raid, the TFDA impounded 14,032 tin of counterfeit food
items weighing 452,09kg. The TFDA director general told a press conference
in Dar that the items were discovered in 28 shops in Kinondoni, 25 in Ilala
and 12 in Temeke…” reported Msasanuri, who apparently blamed the
contributing factors fuelling the prevalence of fake goods on the market,
to Tanzania’s free economy, globalisation, capitalism and laxity on

African countries are warned against counterfeit electrical products.
Electrical wholesalers are advised by stakeholders to play a leading role
by being vigilant. Such organisations in the fight against counterfeit
electrical products like the Trading Standards Officers, SON, TASEA, South
African Bureau of Standards, SABS and many others, are constantly on the
lookout for fake products.

It was observed, according to an account, that the electrical sector all
over the continent is rarely considered as not immune from being
counterfeited and could have serious health and safety implications. A
UK-based organisation BEAMA – which is the independent expert knowledge
base forum for the electro-technical industry for the UK and across Europe,
said on its website that Africa should refuse to trade in
counterfeit/non-compliant products and fight together against the ‘trade’
in counterfeit electrical products and the proliferation of products not
complying with standards.

BEAMA further admonished that constantly raising awareness of counterfeit
electrical products is essential, with electrical contractors, petty
dealers and engineers avoiding buying from unauthorised distributors and
unauthorised websites.

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