Wednesday, April 24, 2024

CA mulls talks with BOBS to help protect consumers

There is a risk Botswana could become a ‘dumping ground’ as poverty has created demand for sub-standard goods imported ‘legally’ mainly from China.

A scan through houses of most low income earners in and around Gaborone tells of how cheap Chinese appliances have over the years replaced more quality ones in the living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens of many households.

A random check in BBS mall and African Mall in Gaborone by Sunday Standard has indicated that some consumers buy counterfeits and sub standard products known locally as ‘Fonkongs’ deliberately because they tend to be cheaper compared to genuine ones.

Director of Competition at the Competition Authority, Dr Mokubung Mokubung, said they are considering initiating talks with the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) in a bid to come up with a tool that will protect consumers’ interests within the country.

“If it means signing a Memorandum of Understanding with them that will see them enforcing a barrier to importation of such goods then we will just go that route,” Mokubung revealed.

Dr Mokubung joined other industrialists who have in the past expressed concern over the increase in importation of these goods which are said to be threatening viability of original operations.

Mokubung observed that it is evident that after China failed to export its substandard goods to the developed markets, all sorts of goods targeting various consumers are now dumped here. These goods include clothes, shoes, foodstuffs, medicine, electrical equipment, building materials, cosmetics and home appliances.

If successful, the MOU and possibly policy or law is expected to monitor and control the influx of cheap and sub-standard imported commodities flooding the local market which is said to be a threat to the survival of low income earners.

On the other hand, Dr Selinah Peters of the Botswana Consumer Center for Advocacy, Research, and Orientation (BCCARO) confirms that these goods, particularly clothes and electrical appliances that enter the country are either fake or substandard.

However, the University of Botswana academic said there are indications that importers, mostly low income earners demand for such goods because they are cheap.

Dr Peters is of the view that purchasing power of the poor has made patronage of sub-standard goods a norm adding that the low level of advocacy for standards has exposed consumers, particularly the poor to substandard products, which in some instances have led to sickness and even death.

Apart from clothes, electricity appliances and children toys which are some of the products that are legally traded by Chinese stores the country has recorded a sizeable number of mobile phones which are not lasting.

Over the years Botswana has recorded an upward trend in importation of Chinese manufactured cellular phones which continues to hit the market with names closer to those of genuine brands like Nokla instead of Nokia. These phones look fancier, have double line provisions and come cheaply compared to the genuine Nokia.

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