KAMPALA — Uganda has confirmed that a discussion on a switch-off of counterfeit mobile phones has resumed amid pressure from anti-counterfeit activists.
Speaking at a half-day dialogue held at Protea Hotel in Kampala by the Anti-Counterfeit Network Africa (ACN), in partnership with Uganda Communications Commission, UCC Acting Executive Director Irene Kaggwa-Sewankambo said that the campaign had been suspended to allow for further engagement but “now it has been resumed”.
“In the earlier campaign, stakeholders were concerned that as a country, we were not ready. On the technical side we may have been ready, but the stakeholders were not. We needed to ensure there’s a availability of the genuine phones, we needed to make sure that the consumer understands what is going on and also the different actors including the business community were then aware,” UCC ED told PML Daily.
She added: “So, it was agreed at time that we first suspended that process and have further engagements”.
Eng. Irene Kaggwa who called for an inter-agency cooperation to tackle counterfeit gadgets including fake phones said that UCC is addressing business communities in their respective areas so that “we understand what are their challenges are, proposals and how they think we need to address these national issues”.
The deactivation had originally been scheduled to take place in 2018 but was twice delayed to give subscribers a chance to replace their devices.
However, the UCC ED says this shouldn’t happen again.
UCC defines fake handsets as “copies of popular brands and models made from sub-standard materials” that have not been licensed by the organisation.
They are sourced from China and other parts of Asia.
They have proved popular since they are often sold at a heavy discounts to legitimate models, thanks in part to the fact that retailers avoid paying import taxes.
Mr Fred Muwema, the ACN Director Legal and Corporate Affairs, made a passionate presentation on the dangers of counterfeits, warning that cases of cancer are on the rise, in part fueled by counterfeit electronics.
“We, the people, are not serious. Our standards are so low. We think we can’t afford a genuine product, we think it is expensive, but life is expensive,” he said, emphasizing that the struggle is not for the Government or UCC alone but everyone.
He too called for stakeholder co-operation, saying a participatory approach is the most effective way forward, as he applauded UCC for agreeing to partner with his organization, and calling on other Government agencies to emulate the communications regulator.
He, however, asked UCC in the meantime, to ban the importation of counterfeit gadgets as consultations continue.
Law enforcement agencies and brands also complained that some of the devices used duplicated IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identifier) codes, making it difficult to track down users suspected of using their handsets to plan crimes.
Solomon Oyebode Wilson, the chief counterfeit investigator with Clapper House Ltd, made chilling revelations about fake products in Uganda, pointing out that many items in major supermarkets are counterfeit.
The URA Manager Customs, Geoffrey Balamaga, spoke of how difficult it is to tell which products are genuine or fake, as well as the complexity of obtaining a conviction in court for offenders.
Everest Kayondo, the KACITA chairman, acknowledged that traders are often blamed for counterfeits in the market, but noted that it takes two to tango. If consumers stopped buying substandard or fake items, importers would have no reason to bring them in, he said.