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Zambia halts pre-export plan to block counterfeit Chinese phones

The system would have been costly, industry players argue

While several African countries are battling to block the entry of counterfeit mobile phones and other electronic products from China, Zambia has abandoned the implementation of a pre-export verification system that was aimed at blocking the products from entering Zambia.

Zambia is among several other African countries including Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana whose telecom markets have been flooded by counterfeit mobile phones and other electronic products from China.

The pre-export verification of conformity-to-standards plan was designed to ensure that imported products are first checked, before being exported, through physical inspection and laboratory testing by the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) with the help of two international companies.

The Bureau Veritas of France and Societe General de Surveillance of Switzerland were contracted by ZABS to conduct pre-export verification of all electronic products coming to Zambia.

The plan has now been abandoned by ZABS, however.

ZABS Acting Director Nathan Sing'ambwa said this week that the pre-export verification of conformity system would not be implemented because of some of the flaws that were brought by stakeholders during the consultation process.

"We have abandoned the system and we will not be going back to it in the near future. For now, we are working at strengthening the existing Import Quality Management Scheme," Sing'ambwa told the media in Lusaka, Zambia.

The pre-export plan drew criticism from various stakeholders including the Zambia Association of Manufacturers (ZAM) and the Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ZACCI). They argued that the system would hurt the Zambian businesses.

The system, they said, would be time-consuming and costly for Zambian businessmen who travel to China, who would have to wait until verification is done before the products are shipped. In addition, they argued that the verification must be done at the manufacturing stage to avoid Zambian businessmen losing their money, as they would if products are rejected at the ports.

However, counterfeit handsets from China are being sold cheaply, flooding the Zambian market and coming close to putting genuine handset manufacturers off the business, say some industry players.

Mohamed Seedat, chairman of M-mobile Telecommunication, a local Zambian mobile-phone assembling company, said, "the influx [of] imported cheaper mobile phones have impacted negatively on the firm's growth."

Some studies have shown that counterfeit phones emit radio-frequency radiation higher than what is internationally stipulated as safe for human exposure and therefore may be harmful to those who use them.

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