Uganda: Digital Stamps Will Fight Fake Products, Says Unbs

26 November 2020

Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has said the increasing supply of substandard goods has warranted the need to review current regulation.

Speaking to Daily Monitor yesterday, Ms Sylvia Kirabo, the UNBS principle public relations officer, said they had been forced to come up with new regulations that will help consumers, manufacturers and UNBS to track and trace substandard products.

"We didn't have a way a consumers could verify a substandard product on the market that is why we are coming up with the digital tracking solution," she said, noting the new system will apply on sector-by-sector basis in a phased manner, which will start with high risk products.

Previously, UNBS had been using the e-tag system, whose contract, Ms Kirabo said, had been terminated because of nonperformance.

Speaking during a stakeholders' sensitisation meeting held with manufacturers, importers and distributors of cosmetics and beauty products in Kampala last week, Mr John Paul Musimami, the UNBS deputy executive director in charge of compliance, said the challenges had forced them to innovate new ways in which they will seek to fight the growing proliferation of substandard goods.

"We are set to introduce the digital tracking solution for all manufacturers and importers of products to enable tracking and traceability of all certified products placed on the Ugandan market as one of the measures to eliminate the sell and distribution of substandard goods on the market," he said, noting the system would be a phased approach that would start with cosmetics and beauty products, construction industry, electrical and electronic products.

At least 232 metric tonnes of substandard goods worth Shs2.5b were destroyed in the 2019/20 financial year, according to UNBS .

The products, which among others included foodstuffs, iron sheets, cosmetics, cement, mattresses, toilet paper, polythene bags, electronics and alcohol, according to UNBS, had been seized through on spot checks conducted across the country.

The amount had grown from Shs300m in the 2018/19 financial year, which indicated a marked growth of the entry of substandard and fake products in the 2019/20 financial year.

The growth, UNBS said, has presented Uganda with unique challenges which must be confronted head-on to protect consumers and manufacturers against proliferation of substandard goods.

Substandard goods continue to be a challenge for Uganda as illicit manufactures continue to innovate around mechanisms that are put in place to curb the sale of fake products.

For instance, after UNBS had stepped up efforts to curb the proliferation, entry of substandard had, in the 2018/19 financial year fallen to just Shs300m from Shs3.5b in the 2017/18 financial year.

However, entry of such goods has since grown to above Shs2.5b as indicated by the amount of goods that were destroyed in the 2019/20 financial year.

In 2019, UNBS said, sub-standard products continued to present a threat to public health and safety with the prevalence rate of substandard products on the market growing to 54 per cent.

Mr Henry Kimera, the Consent Uganda chief executive officer of, a consumer advocacy group, said there was need to innovate around initiatives that seek to fight substandard products on the market.

"We need to promote a quality culture among Ugandans. Substandard products affect all of us as consumers and any step geared towards ensuring that consumers are safe and protected should be supported," he said.

During the stakeholders meeting, UNBS said it lacked a robust mechanism to detect substandard products on the market, which had forced it to revise its regulations to intensify the fight against substandard products.

The process, UNBS said, would review the UNBS Distinctive Mark Regulation 2018 and replace it with the UNBS (Use of Distinctive Mark) Regulations 2020, which would require all products imported and locally manufactured to carry a digital tracking stamp (DTS).

The stamp, UNBS said, would cost Shs42 per product, which manufacturers have said is a high cost given Covid-19 disruptions .

The first phase of the implementation of the digital tracking solutions, according to UNBS, will cover more than 90 per cent of the products currently on the Uganda market.

Through the mandatory standards system, UNBS requires all products with a direct effect on the health and safety of consumers and the environment to be certified.

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