Uganda: Who'll Remind UNBS That They Are Sleeping On Job?

3 February 2021

The blatant failure to enforce standards of goods that are flowing in the country, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) is deliberately subjecting Ugandans to financial harassment and the economic loss we incur after buying fake goods which have been flooding the market since time immemorial.

The poor and low-quality products are innumerable in the market and all have the mighty UNBS seal. Either the makers of such jerry-built products use the seal fraudulently or bribe to get it since they know that a big percentage of Ugandans have got used to such cheap goods, and also that is why many are taking the repercussions that come with it with equanimity.

The UNBS mandate is to develop and promote standardization, quality assurance, laboratory testing and metrology to promote quality and safety as enshrined in the UNBS Act CAP 327 unfortunately the negligence is unconcealed.

Lately, you cannot buy a commodity from the market and it lasts a month or two. Even though Ugandans love cheap things because of the poverty we are encapsulated in, UNBS shouldn't use it as an extenuation to allow these substandard goods to flood the market.

Being poor should never be a justification for UNBS to disregard its mandate. We have a legitimate expectation from them to ensure quality and standard assurance. There are original goods that are good and have a long life span, but these cheap and caricatures of the original ones have flooded everywhere and they are easily tradable and accessible.

By the look of things, Uganda, just like the rest of African countries, has become a dumping ground for these fake products from China. The things we don't manufacture locally, especially those from China and India are very many which means the importers bribe UNBS in order to have such counterfeits smuggled in without minding about us the consumers.

I am very sure everyone may have a story to write or tell how they have felt after forking out hard-earned money or allocating a portion of a picayune salary to buy something and later it turns out to be fake! Fake phones, fake chargers, fake computers, fake television sets and radios, car spare parts, kitchenware, electric appliances, batteries and among others that are caricatures of the original stuff.

Just in November last year, my mechanic and I drove to Kiseka market to buy some spare parts for my vehicle. We bought shock absorbers, Zeds, bushes and mountings among others which cost me about four million.

"These things you have bought are very good and original, your vehicle will no longer be rickety," the shopkeeper said happily through broken teeth.

We loaded the spare parts into the trunk of the vehicle and the rickety car roared into life. The following day, he fixed the car and indeed returned it to me when it was robust and not lopsided as before. Little did I know that the comfort was short-lived; the vehicle broke down after one month because the spares we had bought were fake and were imported into the country and reached the market at the watch of UNBS which owe us a duty of care to ensure that we buy or consume quality goods.

Just last year, when UNBS was busy closing down substandard bakeries in Kampala, I reached out to them and complained of the bakery in my neighbourhood operating in a wooden shack that stands a skew amidst heaps of garbage. They only stopped at asking for directions and to date the bakery still stands, producing bread on sordid papyrus mats in a squalid environment.

It is very unfortunate!

The author is a novelist and human rights activist

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