Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Consumers’ society hails EAC for criminalizing counterfeit imports

The Guardian; Tuesday; 25th.Aug.2009
By Correspondent; Felix Andrew

Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society (TCAS) has hailed the recent decision by the East African Community to criminalizing the importation of counterfeits saying the move would bring the dirt business to a halt.

Speaking in Dar es Salaam at the weekend, the society’s executive director, Bernard Kihiyo, said the decision taken by EAC would help to reduce the ever increasing importation of fake products to the region.

He said counterfeit goods would stop flowing into any of the member states only after the EAC governments destroyed the well-knit syndicate behind the importation, distribution and the sale of sub-standard goods. Authoritative research shows that counterfeit constitutes about 38 percent of all products imported into the country, adding that fake products adversely affect both consumers and the government.

He urged the EAC to take stem measures against culprits importing counterfeits into the region. According to Kihiyo, controlling the importation of counterfeit goods was not an easy task ‘’because most importers are Tanzanians who deliberately order cheap products from outside the country so as to reap a windfall upon selling them.

He warned 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 of import counterfeits to their country.

Kihiyo said 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 standards, thereby threatening the lives and health of consumers, he said.

Speaking to members of the press last week, the EAC General Secretary Ambassador Juma Mwapachu said the community is in the final stage of enacting a legislation to criminalize importation of counterfeit goods in all the five partner states.
The legislation is expected to be ready before November’s East African legislative assembly (EALA) whereby it will be discussed before being passed into law and ratified by respective national parliaments.

He said the counterfeit are targeting East African markets where law enforcement on imports is not strict and resources to do so are scarce. The counterfeit legislation will help harmonize laws in the EAC partner states and impose much stricter penalties including confiscation of the goods and imprisonment for their importers. The legislation is being drafted with the assistance of Investment Climate for Africa (ICA).

He warned that if unchecked, counterfeit will negatively impact on the region’s economy and concerted efforts for economic growth will roll backwards. He further said that apart from costing government in terms of revenue loss, the counterfeits will kill local and emerging regional industries, which are crucial to the regional economic sustainability competitiveness and job creation.

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