The new programme which will be implemented beginning February by the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) will ensure that all imports of regulated products comply with the approved Tanzanian technical regulations prior shipment.
Government confirmed recently that substandard goods have cost the country's economy dearly, the Ministry of Trade and Industries reports that Tanzania suffers about 4tr/- annually of the vice. According to the TBS Director General, Mr Charles Ekerege, the primary objective of applying the PVoC programme is to ensure quality of products, health and safety, and environmental protection for Tanzanians.
"Another objective is to minimise the risk of unsafe and sub-standard goods entering Tanzania through the execution of conformity assessment activities in the country of export," he says. Three foreign companies namely SGS from Switzerland, Intertec International from UK and Bureau Veritas of France are implementing partners.
PVoC system, he insists, will help ensure that consumers are protected from unsafe and sub-standard goods, and that Tanzanian manufacturers are not subjected to unfair competition. The guiding principle of the PVoC programme is based on Article 5 of Technical Barriers to Trade of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which requires that technical requirements applied to foreign products must also be applied to domestically manufactured products.
The Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Trade and Industries, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu, says PvOC is a sure and effective way to ensure Tanzania is protected from the influx of counterfeits and substandard goods imported from abroad. "All of us are aware of existence of substandard goods in the market despite efforts made by institutions such as TBS in monitoring the quality of imports at entry points," he reminds.
He admits however, that the destination inspection was not effective in protecting the country's local market against inferior goods, hence a serious need for introducing an alternative measure. The business community and consumers look forward to the official kick-off of the system implementation come February 1, this year.
"Domestic industries die resulting from large imports of cheap products," says the Deputy Minister. The importation of substandard products not only denies domestic industries from expanding production, but also scares off potential investors to establish their industries in areas dominated by cheap substandard goods.
According to economists, the inability of domestic manufacturers to expand their capital stock restricts the sector to increase output thus limiting additional employment. In addition to Tanzania, several other African countries have introduced the system and experience has shown they have managed to control the influx of substandard product and protect their local market.
According to Mr Nyalandu, TBS was requested to look into all possibilities of introducing PVoC so as to complement the existing efforts learnt by countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Zambia. Others are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan and Bangladesh where reports say they have benefited in implementing the programme and have managed to effectively protect consumer safety, health and environment.
It has been confirmed these countries are managing to block unfair competition from substandard imported products as well as prevent their countries from being dumping grounds for inferior products. According to TBS Senior Official Mr Joshua Katabwa, PVoC has played a significant role in ensuring Kenya reduces the burden of substandard goods by 75 per cent since it started the programme in 2005.
According to Mr Katabwa, it can not be expected that having immediately PVoC in place will totally eliminate the importation of substandard and counterfeit goods in Tanzania due to the fact that there have been notorious problem of poorly marked unofficial routes that are used to pass tonnes of substandard products.
"We have come to realise that in Kilimanjaro Region alone for example, there are more than 200 'panya routes' while current efforts don't seem to smash them. More measures are underway in collaboration with other government authorities to effectively mark there routes," he says.
According to Ms Mapunjo, it has been discovered that the problem is serious as local business people collude with foreigners to import counterfeit and substandard goods into the country. She cautions locals who offer sanctuary to foreigners who bring in counterfeit goods, saying that the culprits would immediately be uncovered and punished severely.
"Tanzania, like any other nation around the world is not immune but suffers enormously from the adverse effects of counterfeit and substandard products. So the government is serious about this", she says. It is expected that with the implementation of PVoC, local and foreign business persons will find it hard to process and import inferior goods from their supermarkets mainly found in China, India and Pakistan.
While counterfeit and substandard industrial products continue to flood the Tanzania's domestic market for the time being, studies show that fake and substandard products increased to about 30 to 40 per cent of all goods in the local market in recent years.
Equally repugnant is the heavy presence of fake television and radio sets; satellite dishes and signal receivers; computers, watches, mobile phones, domestic and industrial fans and an array of domestic appliances including substandard electrical cookers, refrigerators, washing machines, irons and shavers.
The study by the Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau (CIB) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) estimated that in 2009 counterfeit goods made up 5 to 7 per cent of the world trade, which is equivalent to goods worth 250 billion US dollars.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Investment Climate facility, Dr Omar Issa, was quoted in April, 2010 saying that East African Community (EAC) member states lose about 500 million dollars ( 800 bn/-) in tax revenues annually due to the rampant counterfeit trade in the region.