HARARE – The proliferation of imported counterfeit and sub-standard products will soon be under control in Zimbabwe following government’s promulgation of a raft of trade policies specifically aimed at protecting consumers and the local industry.
Abigail Shoniwa, Industry ministry secretary, said the proposed Metrology Act, which replaces the outdated Trade Measures Act, will be used as a tool to protect consumers’ interests within Zimbabwe in regards to accurate measurements and legal packaging.
This comes at a time when industrialists have expressed concern over the increase in importation of counterfeit and sub-standard goods that threaten viability of local operations with little effort being made to curb the problem.
Shoniwa said a Compulsory Specifications of Standards Act will also ensure all imported products conform to specific standards.
“…Metrology Act will, among other things, looks at best practices and harmonisation with countries within the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc),” said Shoniwa.
Currently the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (Saz) has no mandate to inspect and control the quality of imports or exports to and from Zimbabwe because it is not an arm of government, but works with it in advocating for quality standards.
“What government has done is to come up with a compulsory Specification of Standards Act, currently under drafting by the Attorney General. When promulgated, the Act will enforce the implementation of specified standards on each and every product entering Zimbabwe by an authority that will be put in place to carry out the mandate,” Shoniwa added.
The authority is expected to create an even competitive field between local industry’s products and imports and also monitor and control the influx of cheap and sub-standard imported commodities flooding the local market and threatening the survival of local industry.
Saz is not a regulator, but its role is to develop standards and certify products that meet the required standards on a voluntary basis as opposed to regulation-based enforcement of such standards.
For some time, the association has been lobbying government to set up a National Quality Regulatory Authority (NQRA) that will test the quality of all imported goods.
The promulgated legal instruments will come at a time when the country will be experiencing increased importation of various products ‘‘non-prescribed’’ package sizes as well as poor quality standards, creating an uneven competitive field for genuine local manufacturers.
It also comes on the back of local industry embracing global trends in packaging innovations, for example, the introduction of 400 millilitre beverages on the local market departing from the regular 500ml.
The past year also saw the launch of 660 millilitres bottles, a move from the regular measure of 750ml.
Some imported medical drugs, although their quality is endorsed by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ), are allowed in different measurements contrary to those required under Zimbabwean law due to inadequate local production which leaves little room for choice.
However, under the proposed Metrology Act and Compulsory Specification of Standards Act, new packaging sizes and measurements will be accommodated across the board and this will ensure that locally manufactured products are in compliance with international trends.
Shoniwa said at present Sadc countries were coming up with a harmonised Metrology Act to be implemented by all member states.
“This was done with the objective of harmonising packaging sizes to be used in tradable goods within our territories,” said Shoniwa, adding that “it should be noted some sizes that were up-to-now not allowable in Zimbabwe will, if ratified by all Sadc members, be allowed to be traded in Zimbabwe.”
The new Act will also empower the Industry ministry to be the custodian of measurement standards with regards to length, mass and volume that can be traceable to international standards.
Speaking on the current trade measures legislation, Schweppes Zimbabwe Limited marketing and public affairs executive Unaiswi Nleya said the existing legal statutes act as a barrier to new packaging innovations.
“It creates an approval process that can potentially be cumbersome if too many applications are filed,” said Nleya, adding that the increased importation of products had resulted in a proliferation of various “non-prescribed” package sizes
However, Nleya welcomed the move to introduce laws that cater for dynamics and technological advancements obtained in the industry as this would benefit all economic stakeholders.
“Consumers, industry and the administrators of the Trade Measures Act will benefit by having the needs of the consumers met through legislation that enables manufacturers to dynamically meet the needs of the consumer, industry and the regulatory authorities with appropriate packaging,” she said.
Zimbabwe’s market is currently flooded with highly subsidised and cheap imports mainly from Botswana, China, South Africa, Zambia, and other countries regionally and abroad.
More than a decade ago, Zimbabwean government adopted the so-called “Look East policy” in an effort to access new markets after a fall out with its traditional trading partners, mainly Europe and other western countries.
Local companies and economists have however, routinely accused Chinese traders of dumping cheap and inferior products on the local market. – Kudzai Chawafambira