By Olusegun Oruame
Fake and counterfeit ICT products remain a menace globally and in Nigeria, it is a virus whose defeat demands the collaborative actions of all stakeholders.
There are many reasons why Nigeria stakeholders must come together and adopt a proactive approach to addressing the problem: fake products undermine the integrity of a market; erode consumers’ confidence and ultimately, destroy brand value of original products. Once this happens, manufacturers and suppliers of original products will ultimately exit the market leaving the market open to fake products to reign supreme.
There are no definite figures on the size of counterfeit ICT products in the market. But it is generally believed that Nigeria is the largest market for fake products on the continent and that despite security measures, the market remains porous.
Stakeholders must contend with the poser: How do we make the market unrewarding for those who import and sell counterfeit ICT products?
How do we make low quality, cheap and technically dangerous phones, tablets and the likes unattractive to consumers in the market?
It is the duty of government to use legislations and enforcements to tame fake products. But all stakeholders have a role including consumers who are the end users, and ultimate targets of fake products.
Fake ICT products hold strong appeal for many ignorant consumers because they are offered at very attractive low prices. But all fake products may seem to be a good deal at first, but eventually, they leave consumers frustrated, angry and with a feeling that they have been cheated.
That is why consumers’ awareness campaigns as carried out persistently by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) must remain a permanent feature of fighting merchants of fake products.
NCC needs to be joined by all stakeholders. Everyone needs to get involved. Government has to lead with the concomitant legislative deterrence and enforcement that must be both aggressive and unceasing.
Test labs for original ICT products
However, from the technical perspective, more needs to be done beyond the current NCC’s Type Approval of mobile handsets/devices or any other telecommunications equipment. The sector needs a collaborative market approach that will see the NCC, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) maintaining a product test lab that ascertains the technical claims on products by their makers, determines their health safety, and determines their compatibility with the unique dynamics of the Nigerian market.
For now, manufacturers and suppliers, even of original products, hold consumers to ransom. Products have unchecked entry into the market leaving consumers vulnerable to exploitation and market abuses.
It is within the purview of government to act within the mandates of its agencies to defend consumers and promote the eternal interest of the market.
There are models in India and Malaysia that the Nigerian market can take a cue from. Product test labs need to be licensed and supervised by government agencies to act on behalf of the government; test all ICT products, certify them regularly before they make market entry.
Until this is done, there is only a thin line between fake and original products in Nigeria – for the consumers.