The Rwanda Bureau of Standard (RBS) has started a crackdown on dealers in sub-standards electrical wires in Kigali.
The standards watchdog, which swung into action on Monday, has so far seized 686 rolls of sub-standard electrical wires, according to Philbert Zimulinda, the RBS head of import section.
"The fake wires get onto the market from Burundi. That is the only way they can get them into the country. But we will not sit back and allow unscrupulous dealers to endanger people's lives for the sake of making profits. So, we will continue carrying out regular crackdowns to weed them out," Zimulinda said yesterday.
He noted that all the small cables (for home installation) that are made of any material other than copper were sub-standard. "Buyers should check them before paying," he advised.
Hardware traders said it is not easy to differentiate between the genuine and sub-standard cables.
"We can't differentiate between the genuine wires from the fake ones because we know that all electrical wires have the red-like colour of copper. Now that I know that wires that contain steel could be detected using a magnet, I will be careful next time," Abdulkarim Niyigena, who owns a hardware shop in Nyarugenge, said.
Niyigena appealed to RBS to train traders about product standards if the vice is to be stopped, adding that this would also save them from incurring losses.
He also asked the standards body to publish a list of questionable products so that traders can avoid them. The standards body confiscated 183 rolls of cables worth Rwf2m from Niyigena's shop. One sub-standard roll costs Rwf6,000, while the standard one is at Rwf18,000.
"So far, there are no sanctions against those found trading in fake wires. In future, we will arrest and prosecute them," warned Zimulinda.
Since July 2011, when the issue of sub-standard electrical cables came up, eight containers of fake cables have been shipped back to the places of origin. Zimulinda said those were detected at border posts, where RBS has agents.
Phillip Nzaire, the RBS quality assurance unit boss, urged the public and traders to avoid buying sub-standard materials.