TANZANIA’S free economy, globalization, capitalism and laxity on policing have been blamed as the primary contributing factors fuelling the prevalence of fake goods on the market, and with the look of things, no solution is in sight for the problem as more counterfeit and substandard products continue to invade the local market.
The problem of fake goods in this country has been with us for a long time now. And, this year alone Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) had to deal with several cases in a bid to redress the situation. Early this year, the TFDA banned the anti-malaria drug Metakelfin and ordered all vendors and health centres to return the remaining stocks to their wholesale suppliers.
As if this problem was not enough, the media revealed the prevalence of fake S-26 breast milk substitute baby formula. This was condemned by a wide section of the society and revealed that thousands of babies’ lives were at risk in the country as the fake milk had negative effects on their health.
The Tanzania Solar Energy Association (TASEA) also revealed that substandard and counterfeit solar panels are being sold in various shops dealing with electrical appliances in Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam.
TASEA Executive Secretary, Eng. Mathew Matimbwi, was quoted recently as saying that, after receiving many complaints, they carried out investigations and realised the existence of counterfeits in some shops which were visited during the exercise. And last week the TFDA impounded 14,032 tins of counterfeit food items weighing 452,09kg.
The TFDA director general told a press conference in Dar last week that the items were discovered in 28 shops in Kinondoni, 25 in Ilala and 12 in Temeke. She said the tins of infant milk whose value was not immediately known were impounded in a crackdown conducted between late last month and early this month.
“We mainly focused on searching for infant milk items that have been dubiously increasing in the market in recent years but also discovered various items that were unfit for human consumption too,” she explained.
She mentioned the suspected infant milk as 4,113 tins of S-26, SMA, Nursory, Isomil, cowgate Infant Formula, Infantcare, Nutrien Optium and Ifasoy, among other food items. Many of these items were labelled in foreign languages which are neither Kiswahili nor English, thus making it difficult to identify their origin.
Though counterfeits continue invading the Tanzanian market, the country’s products watchdogs, Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) and TFDA have made inroads in curbing the social anomaly.
TFDA has been in the forefront throughout the year in the fight against counterfeits as a lot of drugs and food stuffs have been confiscated and destroyed throughout the year. On the other hand, TBS is introducing a certification mark for all genuine imported goods.
The import standardization mark was presented to stakeholders by TBS Director, Charles Ekelege, during a pre-implementation conference for stakeholders held at the watchdog’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam sometime this year.
The introduced mark is meant to ensure that genuine imported products are easily identified by consumers. This comes at a time when the war against fake commodities seemed to have been lost in this country because the rate at which counterfeits were invading Tanzania then, it wasn’t going to be surprising if we ended up having fake people.
To make sure that this will work, the director said violators of the rules governing the mark will face various penalties, including licence termination, orders to withdraw products from the market and destruction of the product or returning it to the country of origin at the investor’s expense.
Addressing the same gathering, Acting Head of Quality Management Department Eng. Joshua Katabwa said the import standardization mark shall be affixed on all approved items, and called upon importers to comply with this new requirement.
“Electronic verification of the authenticity of the mark on products shall be conducted during inspections and any mark not traceable to the data base shall be treated as illegal and the culprits shall be traced for legal action,” he added.
Though this is a turning point in the fight against fake products and will go a long way in curbing the cancer, more need to be done to educate wananchi on the mark so that they know and identify original goods from fake ones using the mark.
As long as wananchi are in the dark in as far as the existence of the mark is concerned then this will be tantamount to a man winking at a woman in the dark. In other words, it will be a wasted effort as the general public will continue being taken advantage of.
While the country is still battling to deal with counterfeits, the government last week lifted the ban on importation of Chinese milk, following assurance that the problem of melamine has been resolved.
“The decision to lift the ban on importation of Chinese milk has come after we got a written report from the Chinese embassy assuring that the problems of melamine chemical in China had been controlled,” said Margaret Ndomondo-Sigonda, Director-General of Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA).
“TFDA has lifted the ban on condition that inspection will be done for each consignment of milk imported into the country to ensure that there are no melamine chemicals,” she added.
Though this might seem good news to parents who will be exposed to a wider range of choice when it comes to products, the opened window needs a lot of monitoring to make sure that substandard products are not imported into the country. It is an open secret that Asian countries have for a long time now been blamed for flooding our market with fake or substandard goods.
There is need for concerted efforts to deal with the problem of counterfeits, failure to which our economy will live to suffer the consequences. It is important to involve wananchi in finding a permanent solution, as they are the most affected, before our country is turned into a land of counterfeits.