Starting Monday, all shipments coming into Uganda from outside the East African region will be inspected from their respective countries of origin as the Uganda Bureau of Standards implements its Pre-import Verification programme.
UNBS has contracted three international companies - SGS, Intertek and Bureau Veritas to carry out this exercise. "
We have given sufficient time. There must be a cut-off and the cut-off is Monday. We have been giving information. Now we are ready to start and we expect full compliance. Some shipments that are coming in on Monday are already inspected," said Ben Manyindo, UNBS' Executive Director.
Uganda has been hit by cheap substandard goods, putting the public at risk, and crowding out local enterprises. "We are largely concerned with goods that affect our public health, safety and performance. Those are the ones we call high-risk goods," he added. The exercise will not affect goods already in transit.
Many businessmen are not happy over the scheme; they feel this is an additional cost to their business. "Those who are raising this concern should give us figures," Manyindo said.
John Paul Musimami, UNBS' acting manager (Import Inspections), demonstrated this well by giving an example of importing a container of electric cables worth $40,000 (Shs100m). Under the current system where everything is shipped from the country of origin and inspected and sorted at the Uganda border, one will be required to pay a laboratory cost of $160 (Shs 400,000).
This is on top of demurrage and storage costs while waiting for test results (18 days on average). This brings the total cost to Shs 1,982,500 ($793). Yet under the new arrangement, where inspection is done at the point of origin of goods, one will only need to pay an inspection fee of Shs 587,500 ($235).
He said over the years, Uganda has lost goods worth Shs 8 trillion, much of which has been impounded and destroyed because they didn't meet standards.