Should small and medium enterprises have their way, the government will reduce the amount of money paid in inspection fees imposed on goods under the recently introduced pre-shipment verification of compliance with specified standards.
The SMEs argue that the fees currently charged are way too high for their comfort and ought to be slashed, or consumers will have to pay for most basic needs through the nose.
The scaling down of the fees constitutes one of the major recommendations people and institutions running SMEs made to the Tanzania Bureau of Standards, and therefore to the government, at a recent seminar held in Dar es Salaam.
One particularly interesting angle to the deliberations at the seminar was that it was meant to benefit importers, exporters and all other SME operators.
It was also noteworthy that, while most such forums are characterised by complaints, reservations and even protests, this time around the participants commended the government for seeing the need to ensure pre-shipment conformity to nationally sanctioned standards in respect of particular commodities.
This in itself is cause for some celebration as having regard for the quality for Tanzanian-made goods lined up for the domestic and export markets as well as foreign-made items entering the Tanzanian market counts for much, including safeguarding our people’s health and the environment.
We are told that, in this particular respect, among the items covered under the regulations are sports gear and allied equipment, electronics, as well as electrical and mechanical goods.
The list also includes paper and stationery, toys, automotives, chemicals, gas-powered appliances, wood and metal furniture personal safety and protective equipment, textiles and foodstuffs.
The media have in recent years been awash wish reports pointing to an alarmingly high prevalence of all sorts of fake and otherwise substandard or hazardous products in the Tanzanian market.
What has left consumers and the larger public especially baffled and scared is that sub-sectors of the manufacturing industry most easily penetrated by pirates and other people out to make a quick buck by distributing and selling fake goods relate to the production of foods and drinks, medical drugs, cosmetics, electronic and electrical items such as computers, music system and cellular telephones and their accessories.
This is particularly worrisome in that it spells disaster for all segments of the population, given that foods and drinks are virtually much of basic necessities these days as are items in the electronics and related brackets. Any foul play with any of these items can mean serious danger to public health, the environment and indeed humankind’s very existence.
We know that agencies like the Fair Competition Commission are supposed to promote and protect effective competition in trade and commerce and to protect consumers from unfair and misleading market conduct, their ultimate goal being to enhance efficiency in the production, distribution and supply of goods and services in Tanzania.
But neither are there enough of them nor indeed are the few there are adequately equipped to win the war on fake or substandard products without public support.
This is why we find the positive attitude shown by SMEs towards the pre-shipment inspection of goods most inspiring – and worth building on.