There is no country which has made further development without protecting the health of its citizens and industries against importation of substandard goods which pose a threat to the welfare of the people.
Many countries, including Tanzania have been taking various measures to protect its people and industries from the so-called ‘hazardous’ products.
One of the notable means taken is to ensure that they meet required standards or certify those products before being consumed or entered into the market.
Despite the moves taken by the government in protecting health of consumers and industries, some local stakeholders have been recommending further measures to address the problems.
Benard Kihiyo, executive director of Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society (TCAS) says there is need for the government to criminalise importation of counterfeit goods which have adverse effects on people and the economy of the country.
He says the move would help halt the dirty business which has hurt the health of people and retard development of local industries.
“Substandard goods would stop flowing into the country and the other East African Community member states only after the governments destroys the well-knit syndicate behind the importation, distribution and the sale of sub-standard goods,” he states.
Authoritative research shows that counterfeits constitute about 38 percent of all products imported into the country, adversely affecting both consumers and the government.
According to Kihiyo, controlling the importation of counterfeit goods is not an easy task, "because most importers are Tanzanians who deliberately order cheap products from outside the country so as to reap windfall profits upon selling them."
He warns that the business of importing fake products was further complicated by the fact that it was supported and perpetrated by a sophisticated network of people who know how to evade law-enforcement organs.
“It is a strong network that only the combined force of all relevant government organs can beat," he noted, adding that some members of Tanzania business community had made it a culture to import counterfeits.
The TCAS boss notes that domestic markets were flooded with low quality products including edible oil and spare parts. Apart from foodstuffs, there are several imported products that are below standard, thereby threatening the lives and health of consumers, he said.
He alerts that if unchecked, counterfeits will negatively impact on the region’s economy and concerted efforts in development. He said that apart from costing government in terms of revenues, the counterfeits will kill local and emerging regional industries, which are crucial to the regional economic competitiveness and job creation.
He urges the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) and Fair Competition Commission (FCC) to play their role in the fight against the vice.
In a move to fight importation substandard goods, the TBS has already contracted three multinational companies to inspect goods before they are shipped to Tanzania.
The exercise to start in February this year would help to reduce or alleviate the problem of substandard goods which have been affecting the country for a number of years.
Speaking during one of the pre-implementation awareness conferences on the exercise recently in Dar es Salaam, Industries and Trade Deputy Minister Lazaro Nyalandu was quoted as saying the government saw it as opportune to introduce the programme to curb the influx of substandard goods in the country.
According to him substandard goods affect the economy in different ways including ruining domestic industries due to unfair competition from the cheap substandard products.
Importation of substandard goods denies domestic industries an opportunity to increase production and scares potential investors from establishing their industries where cheap substandard goods are flooding the market.
However wholesaler businessman dealing with clothes at Kariakoo, identified as Jafari Hussein, says the government move towards inspecting goods before shipped to Tanzania would help increase quality of products and competition.
He says most of the substandard products are cheap and low quality hence posing a threat to the competition against them.
“You could find that we have ordered a first quality products and my competitor did the same, but because his goods are of substandards which people prefer them most hence I have to wait until he finish his products or lower prices which is a loss to me”, said Husein who is also a member of Tanzania Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA).
He urges TBS to educate more people on the move established to curb importation of substandards into the country.
However, the bureau has already started awareness campaign to sensitize importers and dealers in imported products countrywide on procedures for the long awaited pre-shipment verification of conformity to standards for products to be imported into the country.
TBS has organised a half day conferences to sensitise all importers and dealers in imported products in Southern Highlands Zone on the pre shipment procedures.
According to TBS Director General Charles Ekelege, the conference to be held in Mbeya City on Friday is aimed at informing local importers and dealers in importation of various products into Tanzania about the commencement and procedure for pre-shipment inspection.
He says preparations for the conference has already completed, invited participants are expected from Njombe, Iringa, Rukwa and Mbeya. Already the bureau has conducted similar awareness seminars in Mwanza and Arusha regions, plans for more in other regions are in pipelines.
Pre-inspection is a conformity assessment process used to verify that imported products are in conformity with requirements of applicable standards before shipment to a destination country.
As the awareness seminar goes on, already the government has contracted three international companies which would inspect all products at the country of origin before entering in Tanzanian market. The inspection exercise is scheduled to start on 1st February this year.
Ekelege said the companies were selected after meeting all conditions set by the organization.
Successful companies are SGS based in Geneva, Bureau Veritax based in France and Intertek of the United Kingdom.
He said all the companies have operations in various countries worldwide hence would ease inspection exercise.
He noted that if things go well the pre-shipment verification of conformity to standards (PVoC) project to screen quality of products imported into the country which was earlier scheduled to start on 1st January this year would start next month (February)
He adds that once implemented (after six months of operations) there would be no sub-standard goods which would be imported into the country because contracted companies would be liable for any imported poor quality products.
According to him the project is intended to prohibit the number of disqualified products shipped into the country and protect the local market against using non standards products.
Speaking an official of the steel factory located at Chang’ombe in Dar es Salaam says Tanzania is competing for the East Africa and international markets, adding that in the circumstances, its products need to be of the required standards.
“We are facing high competition that needs quality products to compete. Our task is to ensure that the products that reach the market are of high standards,” he says.
He commended the government move in assessing products to see whether they meet relevant standards further helped manufacturers to avoid costs of product failures in the market.
According to Ekelege, the internationally-accepted programme was already being implemented by other African countries including Kenya, Uganda and Botswana.