After failed attempts to rid the market of sub-standard and counterfeit phones for more than a decade, the government, through the Uganda Communications Commission, UCC, opted for mobilization of the public and sensitization of consumers and traders on the effects of this trade.
government has partnered with the private sector and civil society to
prepare the public ahead of the planned blocking of counterfeit mobile phones
and other communication gadgets from the market.
attempts to rid the market of sub-standard and counterfeit phones for more than
a decade, the government, through the Uganda Communications Commission, UCC,
opted for mobilization of the public and sensitization of consumers and traders
on the effects of this trade.
they have acquired equipment and personnel capacity to block counterfeit
phones, but that for now, they are focused on sensitizing importers, traders,
civil society, and the general public, on what a fake or counterfeit phone
UCC says for
now it is important to discourage the demand for such gadgets which will
involve a mindset change, but that when it is clear that the market is aware of
the dangers, another step will have to be taken.
Kizito, the Head of Consumer Affairs at UCC says otherwise, that at that time,
the system will reject the connection of a phone when it is deemed
“We are not…
described as “goods that infringe trademarks,” counterfeits in most cases are
made of more hazardous substances like lead and cadmium than genuine ones,
while fake phone chargers pose a risk of fire and electric shocks.
hazardous substances also increase the dangers from electric waste and call for
more investments to manage.
In 2018 the
government withdrew the Anti-Counterfeit Goods Bill 2010 from parliament saying
it did not adequately cater to the objectives it otherwise targeted.
laws or policies will be used this time around, the Kizito says that those
previous attempts have not worked because they were only using laws that were
Now, he says collaborating with other agencies gives them more options to use
for enforcement, but says that sensitization of the masses is vital.
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counterfeits persist because of several factors like price differences, easy
availability, and failure to differentiate genuine from fake ones, among others.
Minister for ICT, Godfrey Kabbyanga Baluku says many people now know what it
means to buy a counterfeit or substandard product, but that the majority
cannot identify them, nor do they even know the dangers associated with buying
goods that are not genuine.
He says that
while the laws providing for enforcement are there, there is a need to help the
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reports that there are about 30 million mobile phones in Uganda, with an
estimated half of them being counterfeit, though there are no clear
counterfeit phones and commuters are imported and currently, the responsible
government agencies have no system in place to block them. They, therefore,
end up being imported through legal channels including payment of customs
of ICT and National Guidance says the government has a duty to protect the
economy, the environment, and human health which can be affected by
Kabbyanga also says with the government rolling out the next phase of the
national fibre broadband backbone project, there is a need to ensure good-quality
gadgets in circulation.
This will also lead to an increased use of data and enable the services providers
and government to lower the cost of the internet, according to him.
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have also resisted the previous attempts by the government to crack down on
counterfeit electronic gadgets, calling for time to prepare themselves.
claimed that they did not know how to tell a fake gadget from a genuine
However, this time around, Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) leadership
has pledged its support towards that fight.
Musoke Naggenda, the Association Chairman, himself a dealer in mobile phones
and other electronics, confesses how he joined the counterfeit traders to
compete with the others.
He says he
started as a mobile phone technician before becoming an agent for MTN Uganda
and Safaricom Kenya, supplying them with genuine phones. He maintained genuine
trade even when he because an independent importer and trader.
influx of dealers in counterfeits was threatening to throw him out of business
through competitive pricing of their products. However, after some time, he realized how
risky counterfeits were and switched back to genuine products.
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Fred Muwema, the Head Legal and Corporate Affairs at Anti-Counterfeit Network
has been involved in pushing for an end to the trade in Uganda, and also
advised for the withdrawal of the 2010 Bill saying it was defective.
says it is an uphill task educating Ugandans what counterfeits are but says it
is the best approach before using force. He says, for example, Ugandans do
not know that a stolen phone is also counterfeit, adding that the UCC system
will reject stolen phones when implementation begins.