It is only on a few occasions that business/economic stories make it to the front pages of Uganda’s national newspapers, unless it is scandal, the budget, electricity tariffs, oil and a strike by traders, et al. It is exciting – for me – when I get to see the largely ignored business stories making it to the front pages. So this week Ugandan traders went on strike – not for the first time – over the Pre-Export Verification Conformity to Standards Programme (PVoC).
Amelia Kyambadde, Uganda’s Trade Minister insists that ” it [PVoC] would curb the entry of counterfeit, fake and substandard goods from entering the country.” Uganda is no exception such goods making it past our secure but porous borders. Often, we’ve [journalists] written scathing headlines questioning what the Uganda National Bureau Of Standards (UNBS) is doing to deal with the influx. Well, the PVoC is part of the solution. Not so?
Interestingly, the Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) does agree,
“We are consumers too, stocking adulterated and substandard goods amounts to us losing market for our goods, so in principle we are concerned..” [Ephraim Kaddu, KACITA’s Secretary General in Today’s New Vision].
There is a but though,
“….However, the cost of PVoC very high and that affects the cost of doing business.”
But before that, let me first complain about how Daily Monitor reported this story – sadly by quoting a police press statement that “drummed up support for PVoC.” Surely, why quote the police, yet their job is just keep law and order? How relevant are they in this story apart from sitting on the highly over-priced, run-down pick-up trucks, waiting for chaos erupt? Meanwhile, an anchor on NTV Uganda called it “PVoC tax,” twice. Coverage in the dailies was pretty much the usual “she said, he said” – not exactly a bad thing – but perhaps, consumers were the missing link in all the stories.
Now, back to PVoC. The complaint by KACITA is about the charges – on inspection – that range from $235 to $2,375, fees they claim are too high and are advocating for flat rate. Explaining why – for the second day – their shops are under lock and key. The government is however not backing down, considering they’ve already procured services of three firms to carryout the inspection.
“We are saying, let the goods conform to national standards. If you buy products of higher quality you cannot pay the same inspection fees as for other products [guess he meant lower quality goods] so it is your choice…” Ben Manyindo the UNBS ED told the New Vision newspaper. [Wednesday, June 26th, 2013].
The traders, sometimes hold this country
by its balls at ransom, even when it is rather obvious that they are protecting their own interests. Traders – importers – are responsible for a huge influx of low quality goods that flood – a phrase liked by us [Journalists] – this country. Of course sometimes UNBS sleeps on the job due to – apparently – manpower issues. It is consumers usually pay the price when purchasing these fake, counterfeit and substandard goods. Consumers are also paying the price for using these “dumped” goods.
If KACITA claims that the cost is too high, then why not pass it on to the consumer who wants the quality product and is willing to pay for it? As explained, if the quality of a product is low, the higher the cost of inspection. So then why not import high quality goods that are up-to the UNBS standards? It is unusual that traders are fighting the implementation of PVoC, unless of course they have something to hide. So dear traders, you have never hesitated to increase prices for obscure reasons, now here is a genuine reason, PVoC charges.
Well, if what they want is a meeting with the President, they’ll probably get it but like the previous strike against high interest rates, it may yield no tangible result for them – apart from tea and biscuits at State House. However, I will also not be surprised if a political decision [BOLD] is taken to reverse the implementation of PVoC.
Some Ugandan companies have missed out on being suppliers [local content] to oil companies – Total E&P, Tullow, CNOOC – because they do not conform to national standards in general and international standards in particular. So these traders should stop serving Ugandan’s with hot air as they strike.
Uganda needs to stop being a dumping ground, but, it comes at price – PVoC