When Kenya’s Communications Commission (CCK) announced plans to switch off all counterfeits mobile phones and embarked on a three month campaign to ‘sensitize’ the public on the subject, Kenyans didn’t pay attention and treated it as another ‘public noise’ from the government. However, the 30th September deadline nears and the anti counterfeit campaign has intensified but will it work?
WELL INTENTIONED BUT TARGETING THE WRONG PEOPLE
Some feel that it’s a good move that will protect consumers and strike a blow against counterfeit manufacturers, while others feel that CCK’S intentions are well intentioned but targeted at the wrong people and thus a waste of time.
According to Gerald, an employee in a telecommunications company, the move to cut off counterfeits is the right one. “The distributors of original phones are going on major losses because of counterfeit phones”, he said, “as phones lay in their stores because they are not moving fast enough or not at all as people opt to get the cheap Chinese phones.”, adding that there are cheap original phones out there now!
STOP THE FAKE PHONES ENTERING KENYA
Another Mwananchi, Francis, is of the opinion that CCK should delve deeper into the problem and curtail the importation of the fake phones in the first place; “Otherwise the poor, illiterate consumers will always be misled into buying fake products believing they are original”, he said.
Francis’s sentiments were echoed by George; “CCK is a department under the Government’s ministry of communication: right? These fake phones are not manufactured in Kiambu or Kisumu, they come from China and other countries. The question is how do they get into the country in such huge numbers, unless someone is sleeping on his job? Let’s deal with the root of the problem, not the branches”.
Well, “sleeping on the job” could explain it George, says the Forum. Some Kenyans being involved in the racket at the point of entry might also explain it!
THE ESCALATING GROWTH OF COUNTERFEIT PHONES IN THE KENYAN MARKET
Currently, 89.10 per cent of the Kenyan population has access to mobile telephony with the number of mobile subscribers in the country believed to have increased to 29.2 million between January and March 2012 from 28.08 million in December last year.
According to the CCK, close to 3 million mobile phones in the Kenyan market are counterfeits, translating to about 10 per cent of all the active mobile devices in the country.
Counterfeits phones not only infringe the manufacturer’s intellectual property rights, they also deny the government revenue in the form of tax and are hazardous to the consumers’ health as well, the Commission alleges. “It has become necessary for the government to ensure that all mobile phones are genuine to safeguard the health of consumers and also to promote confidence in our globally acclaimed mobile innovations”, said Dr. Bitange Ndemo, PS in the Ministry of Information and Communications.
CHINESE GOVERNMENT WORKING TO COUNTER THE PROBLEM
Most mobile phones sold in Kenya are made in China so it is little surprise that most counterfeit mobile phones on the Kenyan market also come from China, something that has created a misconception among Kenyans that all phones made from China are fake.
In the recent past, counterfeits have flooded most mobile shops in Nairobi especially in Moi Avenue and Mfangano streets, but the current influx of Chinese into the country has seen a few Chinese men engage in direct sales of the fake phones. Early this week, two men of Chinese origin were arrested in Meru as they engaged in the illicit trade.
Chinese embassies in the region have embarked on a crack-down on companies and people importing counterfeit electronic products from China. Chinese officials said in February this year that the Chinese government will start inspecting all ports in China and monitor goods from the production end to prevent counterfeit electronic products from being exported to Africa, claiming China’s reputation was being damaged. Chinese company officials or nationals caught exporting counterfeit electronic products to Africa face a jail sentence of up to 20 years.
WHERE DOES THE SOLUTION LIE?
As the countdown to CCK‘s September deadline keeps on ticking, this Forum correspondent wonders if Commission has put up all the necessary measures to ensure that the procedure will be effective and sustainable, or it will just be another flop like the initial 2010 sim card registration initiative. It also appears that we have counterfeit spare parts for mobile phones especially the batteries, so how safe will a Kenyan be, with an original phone fitted with a fake battery?
Perhaps what CCK should do, prior to working with mobile telephony companies to switch off fake mobile phones, is to work with other key players in the industry, especially The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) which is the standardization body responsible for maintaining and enforcing quality standards in all goods in Kenya, to ensure that counterfeits do not find their way on to the Kenyan market in the first place. This way, the problem will be tackled at the roots, which Is more effective.
THE ZAMBIA-SAMSUNG EXPERIENCE
In Zambia, for instance, Samsung Southern Africa has set up an anti-counterfeit squad which conducts random inspections of outlets that sell electronic products to ensure that Samsung products in stock are genuine. The squad consists of Samsung officials, police, an Intellectual Property Unit, partners and authorized dealers and if it proves successful, the initiative is expected to expand to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Mali.
That sounds workable, don’t you think? Perhaps CCK should learn from the Zambia/Samsung experience.