During the holidays, Kampala’s central business center is very busy as traders try to boost profits from increased sales. But there's also a reported growth in counterfeit products on display that is affecting the sales genuine and designer products. Machrine Birungi walked around several streets in Kampala where some of the counterfeit products such as shoes, clothes, cutlery and are being sold.
Most of the counterfeit products are displayed by street vendors, who usually work for traders for a commission. They always look towards this Christmas season because that’s when their sales pick up. Some are willing to pay about 30 dollars in bribes to Kampala City Council law enforcement officers to get temporary shelters where they could display their merchandise.
But shopkeepers in the sprawling shopping malls and arcades consider street vendors as business rivals. They say they draw customers away from their shops and toward the attractively displayed and relatively cheaper counterfeit goods on the streets.
Paul Ddumba sells new women’s clothing at the Mukwano shopping arcade. But he is unhappy that profits from Christmas sales are being chocked by the cheaper and fake fashions being sold by street vendors.
"We have the street vendors," he says, "who have displayed their goods all around the roads. People are not entering the arcades, some of us may wind up this season without putting maybe point two or three (about 100 dollars) on our accounts."
Similar complaints have been raised by businesswomen around Luwum Street, where they sell the local traditional wear-the Busutii materials. They say their market has been flooded with fake silk materials, which are being sold at a fraction of the true cost. While the price of original silk is about 90 dollars per meter, some duplicates go for as low as six US dollars per meter.
But several shoppers chase cheaper deals that are readily available through the street vendors. Some shoppers say that it is easier to negotiate a price reduction with a street vendor than a shopkeeper.
He said, " have bought the second hand lets say Italian or British shoes which are good quality, and you find that these qualities go for an affordable amount of money for an average Ugandan."
The Uganda National Bureau of Standards has issued a consumer alert about the circulation of fake products on the market.
Deus Mubangizi, the head of quality control for the bureau, says the standards body is tracking so-called “risk products,” such as food, clothing and electrical gadgets, to ensure that buyers are not duped into buying counterfeits.
"If one has examined a particular dress, shirt or trouser that they want to buy," he says, they should take the one they have examined. Or, if the provided alternative is packed then that needs to be unpacked and checked before one leaves the shop. Otherwise, you may end up having a completely different product from the one you have examined."
Currently, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards cannot prosecute a manufacturer whose products are not standardized.
Mubangizi says the bureau plans to strengthen its quality control measures to control the circulation of counterfeit products on the Ugandan market. Some of the control measures include border surveys for imported goods, factory inspection, product certification and market surveillance.
"We have a problem of products which do not have standards," he says. "Our basis for taking action on those products is standards. There must be a Uganda standard, which standard is compulsory, if it is compulsory it is like law, but then you will come across a product which doesn’t have a standard which means it is not within the law, so taking action becomes difficult."