Since August when the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) released the findings of the surveillance report for 2017 and 2018, which revealed that up to 54 per cent of the goods on the market are substandard, its officials have been carrying out raids on shopping centres in different parts of the country from where they have seized and destroyed huge volumes of counterfeit goods.
It is commendable that UNBS is trying to do something to rid the shelves in our shopping centres of substandard products, but the action is not sustainable.
UNBS is setting itself up against an iron wall if it assumes that the fire-fighting in the form of impromptu raids on consumer outlets is the silver bullet that will kill the animal called counterfeit products. How many outlets can it possibly raid and with which resources?
First of all, the images of wailing traders, a majority of whom are incapable of telling the difference between genuine and fake products, leaves one wondering whether UNBS is not going for the small fry as the big fish swim on.
During a recent raid on consumer outlets in Jinja, UNBS officials carted away an assortment of locally made goods whose manufacturers are known.
In Masaka, most shops that deal in imported electrical appliances were left half empty because many of their products were said to be dangerous to the end user.
Ordinarily, importers are required to comply with the pre-export verification of conformity to standards (PVOC) programme, which requires goods to be inspected at source before they are exported to Uganda. If fake goods are still finding their way onto the market, then it is because UNBS has failed to ensure compliance to PVOC.
Ms Sarah Nantongo, the UNBS surveillance officer in Masaka, claimed that many of the affected traders did not have Certificates of Conformance, a sign that goods had been inspected and found to be of the required standard, but the traders there insisted that the sources of the goods that were grabbed from their premises are stores in Kampala, which are known to whoever is interested enough to find them.
Why then is UNBS going for the traders and not those who supply those traders?
The war against counterfeits can only be won if UNBS takes the fight to the sources by targeting the importers and manufacturers. Local manufacturers must be compelled to take their products to UNBS for verification and be subjected to constant checks for quality control. That is where the fight will be won.