In Summary
  • The issue: Fake goods
  • Our view: We need to put in place a mechanism that makes registration with UNBS mandatory. Manufacturing plants should also be open to inspection and their products to unsystematic tests to ensure that they meet specific standards.

A Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) surveillance report for the period 2017 and 2018 has revealed that 54 per cent of consumer goods on the market had failed to meet the required standards.

The report indicates that most of the “fake” goods are locally manufactured and that the list of fakes is dominated by foods and beverages, cosmetics and electronics. All this is very worrying because this is stuff we make use of in our everyday life.

The report comes at a time when people in and around Kampala are still recovering from the scare that gripped the city amid reports that butchers were using formalin, a chemical used in the preservation of dead bodies, to keep the beef looking fresh. Whereas the price did not plummet, the volumes of trade in beef did, as many shunned it.

Mr David Ediru, the deputy director for finance and management at UNBS, said most of the locally made products had fallen short on account of poor hygiene and the presence of chemicals! That was very shocking. It is hard to tell how consumers will react to these revelations and what effect it will have on the local manufacturing sector, but it certainly doesn’t augur well.

A couple of years ago, the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda, launched the Proudly Ugandan campaign, which was aimed at promoting the consumption of locally manufactured goods, create jobs and grow the local manufacturing sector.

Last year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, came up with the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) campaign, which had similar objectives. However, those initiatives cannot amount to much when consumers have reservations about the quality of the goods on offer. In the circumstances, goods from Europe, South Africa and Egypt will continue being more attractive here.

The executive director of UNBS, Mr Ben Manyindo, says they continue to engage local producers to register with the standards body as well as take their commodities for verification. This will not help improve the quality of goods coming out of our industries. We need a new legal regime and mechanism for enforcement.

All the relevant laws such as The Food and Drug Act of 1964, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) Act (1983), the Adulteration of Produce Act, the Public Health Act and the Dairy Industry Act should be reviewed.
We need to put in place a mechanism that makes registration with UNBS mandatory. Manufacturing plants should also be open to inspection and their products to unsystematic tests to ensure that they meet specific standards.