MEDIA practitioners can play a decisive role to fight escalating presence and effects of counterfeits in the country. They can do so, for example,by providing accurate information to the general public, identifying entry points and eve to suggest practical ways to contain the problem.
That was a cogent appeal made early this week by the Mwanza Regional Commissioner, Engineer Evarist Ndikilo when opening a one-day seminar for journalist that was organized by the Tanzania Food and drugs Authority (TFDA). It was also aimed at enlightening the journalists across the Lake and Western zones on matters related to counterfeits, rules and regulations stipulated in the country.
Engineer Ndikilo says that food, drugs, cosmetic and treatment facilities are receptive commodities because their consequences are huge, if they are not to be regulated fully. Recent study has shown that counterfeit and substandard industrial products continued to flood the Tanzania's domestic market, causing a revenue collection stink. The year 2008 for example witnessed illegally manufactured, fake and substandard products increase from about 35 to 40 per cent of all goods in the local market.
A report prepared by the Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) revealed that Tanzania, like any other nation around the world, suffers enormously from the adverse effects of the flooding of counterfeit and substandard products. Part of the report reads: "Invariably, the impact of counterfeit and substandard goods hurts the economy occasioning dwindling government revenues.
The government, for example, loses between 540 and 900 billion shillings per year due to tax evasions that are related to counterfeit and substandard goods". Experts say within the said period of time the government may have lost an estimated 4trn/- due to the prevalence of counterfeit goods in the domestic market. Fake industrial equipment and raw materials generated a loss of 1,000bn/-; vehicle spare parts (800bn/-); agriculture inputs (600bn/-) and chemicals 400bn/-.
The Mwanza RC therefore thinks that the TFDA needs to continue its surveillance by making a close inspection, examination of the products in the market, to make sure they are genuine, of better quality and safe to consumers or users. "But another role of TFDA is to regulate food, drugs, cosmetic and treatment facilities advertisements in order to stop adverts which indiscriminately misinform the general public the objective of such businesses," says Engineer Ndikilo.
Engineer Ndikilo is confident that if journalists are to know the specific laws regarding the regulation and control of various products and items such as food, drugs, cosmetic and treatment facilities, then they will help disseminate reliable information to the public on the illegal counterfeit business being undertaken by unscrupulous business community in the country.
Officials say that the issue of regulating advertisement is a legal issue in making sure its implementation is done as there is a principle of regulating food, drugs, cosmetic and treatment facilities advertisements that was prepared under law, Article no. 1 of 2003 that was put in practice in 2010. Engineer Ndikilo underscores that one of the major challenges that TFDA faces since its inception more that 9 years is to witness the adverts that it regulates through Radio, TVs stations and Newspapers against to the laws of the land, and its principles that contributed to mislead the public.
TFDA Managing Director, Mr Hiiti Sillo says the main objective of the seminar, that brought together journalists from Mwanza, Kagera, Shinyanga, Simiyu, Geita, Tabora, Mara and Kigoma regions was to educate them on the existing laws of regulating security, quality and efficiency of food, drugs, cosmetic and treatment facilities. The Director says this was an opportunity to the journalists to identify the role of TFDA occupation that would have facilitate media contributing in protecting public health as well as to remind each other' role to supervise the public fitness following laws and principles set.
Mr Sillo notes that through the journalists after the seminar the authority is positive that the knowledge acquired would be exclusively disseminate messages over counterfeit and misinform TFDA law to regulate counterfeit to the public. This will help the community to have wide knowledge, to prepare itself before starting to use food, drug, cosmetic and treatment facilities registered with TFDA.
Some journalists who attended the press conference that was held one day before the seminar were informed that Lake and Western zones have began a special operation aimed at compounding counterfeit drugs. The operation is implemented in collaboration with TFDA, police and the Local government Authority.
Mr Sillo says the journalists will write the presence of these counterfeit products and provide information from TFDA, police stations, regional and district commissioners offices, to protect the use of counterfeit products. Some papers were presented during the seminar that were related to topics that dealt with better use of food, drugs, cosmetic and treatment facilities that are registered according to the law and principles set with concern authorities in the assurance of effective implementation.
TFDA legal and investigative officer, Meshack Wakil says that the main purpose of TFDA counterfeit law and its principles was to situate apparent the eminence of regulating system towards security and competence of food, drug, cosmetic and treatment Facility. Owing to this circumstances, TFDA is mandated to supervise the law, in order to regulate quality and security and useful of food, drugs, cosmetic and treatment Facility so that to make public healthy.
The legal officer says that since 2003 to June this year, a total of 222 cases have been reported at police stations in the country, where 21 cases are being investigated, 25 cases pending in court and 176 cases have already been settled. Mr Wakil says that cases pending in court constitute 10 types of drugs that are not registered, 5 cases related to unauthorized chemicals , and 4 different types of counterfeit drug to mention a few.
This also contributes to the media to participate in regulating advertisements on counterfeit products that leads to mass education on the counterfeits. The TFDA Lake Zone Senior superintendent, Julius Panga says that food, drug, cosmetic and treatment facility Article no. 1 of 2003 (s) 20 impedes to fabricate, store and sale food, drug, cosmetic and treatment Facility which are not cataloged by TFDA.
Officials say the TFDA has vision to protect the public Health by impending effects that could happen owing to the use of food, drug, cosmetic and treatment facilities, where as its mission statement requires the institution to be the best Institution in regulating food, drug, cosmetic and treatment facilities in Africa in 2015. Participants suggested different ways that would make the fight on counterfeit to become more effectiveore powers, for example, should be given to the TFDA inspectors to track the counterfeits through the whole supply chain.
Journalists suggested an urgent need to open offices at border points to certify products in their original countries, just to make sure that all products abide by respective local and international specifications before they enter the local market.