58% of goods on market are substandard, says UNBS

Traders in downtown Kampala. Uganda continues to suffer with an increase in substandard products. Photo / Michael kakumirizi 

What you need to know:

  • The percentage of substandard goods increased by 7 percent in the year ended June 2023, according to Uganda National Bureau of Standards

More than half of manufactured goods on the Ugandan market are substandard, according to the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS). 

In details contained in the Annual Report 2022/23, UNBS indicated that the percentage of substandard goods on the Ugandan market had increased by 7 percent, rising from 49 percent in the 2020/21 financial year to 58 percent. 

During the period, UNBS noted, it had carried out 4,537 inspections of businesses, supermarkets, warehouses, wholesale stores, and retail outlets nationwide, from which it seized 653 products, with an estimated weight of 5,707 metric tonnes, for failing minimum safety and quality standards.

However, this was below the targeted 9,000 inspections, which meant that only 50.4 percent of the routine inspections were achieved. 

The seizures, the report noted, were mostly done in the central, followed by the western, while northern and eastern registered the lowest seizures. 

The report indicates that in central 341 seizures were conducted, compared to 209 in western Uganda.  On the other hand eastern and northern saw only 59 and 54 seizures during the period.  

UNBS is mandated to conduct routine market surveillance to remove substandard products, protect consumers, and level the playing field for both domestic and imported goods.

Uganda continues to suffer from an increase in the volume of substandard products, which has not been helped by low funding of critical agencies such as UNBS. 

While addressing the Minister of State for Trade Wilson Mbasu Mbadi during his maiden visit to UNBS offices in the Bweyogerere, Wakiso District, acting executive director Daniel Richard Makayi Nangalama, said UNBS was currently grappling with inadequate budget and manpower, with the standards agency only able to operate at less than 50%. 

Therefore, he said, the low funding had made market surveillance difficult, yet such “activities are important in ensuring the socio-economic transformation and the development of local manufacturing industry in the long term”. 

“There is need for government to review the UNBS funding model and level to ensure that the money paid by the business community is immediately available to give timely services to enterprises and ease the cost of doing business in Uganda,” Mr Nangalama said.  

The seizures, the report indicated had during the period resulted in 30 criminal cases but UNBS noted that weak regulations continue to impede the fight against counterfeits and substandard goods. 

Currently, there is a proposed Anti-counterfeit Goods and Services Bill in Parliament that seeks stricter regulations on the sale, manufacture, and import of substandard and counterfeit goods and services.

It is designed to impose severe consequences for any infraction, such as 10 years in prison for offenders and a fine of Shs50m for disobeying the enforcers’ orders.

According to the Bill, anyone who engages in the sale, importation, or possession of any counterfeit goods or services, whether directly or indirectly, is considered an offender.

Proposed law 

The proposed Anti-counterfeit Goods and Services Bill suggests additional sanctions including the revocation of the offender’s trade license, destruction or seizure of all tools used in the manufacture of counterfeit goods, and a maximum of a 10-year ban from practicing or participating in any commercial activity.

Once enacted, the proposed law will be jointly enforced by several government ministries, departments, and agencies, such as the Uganda National Bureau of Standards,  Uganda Investment Authority, and  Uganda Revenue Authority.