The war against counterfeits and fake goods has recently been intensified in a bid to reverse their negative effects on the people’s health and economic well being.
For research conducted in the country some time back indicated that counterfeits constitute about 38 per cent of all the products imported into the country, adversely affecting both consumers and the economy as a whole.
The Fair Competition Commission was at it again this week, announcing that it had seized counterfeit razor blades worth 6m/- in an operation mounted together with the police in Dar es Salaam.
This is as it should be. The heat must be felt by those who engage in bringing counterfeit goods into the country, creating uneven playing field in business and endangering consumer lives and welfare.
But there are questions as to how long the campaign against the counterfeits can be sustained, going by the current approach of pouncing on the products already on sale.
The Commission is following the law which clearly states that businessmen found in possession of counterfeits are subject to “offence-compounding procedure” which entails paying applicable fines and the destruction costs.
The FCC is also calling on all brand owners to step up awareness programmes for the business community, which is responsible for selling the goods to end-consumers. We know that many are already doing something in this area, but we believe they could do more in self interest, especially knowing that counterfeits are more than a third of the goods coming into the market.
The retailers on whom the full wrath of the FCC seems to fall most of the time are arguing that they purchase their goods from agents in various areas, making it difficult for them to identify easily whether such products are counterfeits.
They are questioning the government’s capacity to check the importation of counterfeit goods, especially now when the market has been liberalized and advising instead that the government should have a strong mechanism in place especially at entry points to make sure that counterfeits do not enter the Tanzanian market.
But apparently, the importers of counterfeit goods constitute an elaborate network that seems difficult to pin down, according to observers.
Nikubuka Shimwela who is a respected business consultant and FCC Board Chairman recently said it is not an easy task to control the importation of counterfeit goods “because most importers are Tanzanians who deliberately order cheap products from outside so as to reap a windfall profits upon selling them in the local market.
We think that the government and the business community are duty bound to seriously address the matter and ensure that only people engaged in clean business are given licences.
Besides tightening the licensing procedure, the government should take up the offer of cooperation by the Chinese government in controlling counterfeit goods from entering the Tanzanian market.
But the campaign against counterfeit products is in the main frustrated by corruption as observed by experts who have accused some public officials of accepting bribes from a few unscrupulous and greedy elements to allow them to bring in the products.
We also believe that a sensitised public and alertness by officials against letting in counterfeit goods, will be a big help in ending the problem.