Is China genuine on fake products fight?

NAMIBIA, just like most sub Saharan countries, has for so long been a dumping site for fake Chinese products.

Expensive international brands such as Nike, Puma, Levis and the label with the three stripes, Adidas have all been imported into the country with false prefix attached to them.

Now Namibia’s ongoing fight to free the country from these counterfeit Chinese products has received assistance from an unexpected quarter - the Chinese Government itself.

The eastern nation’s government is now adding its weight to the effort and through its Namibian embassy has approached the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) to assist with information gathering to determine the scope of counterfeit Chinese goods available on the Namibian market.

The NCCI through its network of branches countrywide made a request to the business communities to provide information and advice, in order for the Chinese Government to make an informed decision on how to approach this growing phenomenon.

Frequent clampdowns by the Namibian Police on shops owned by Chinese nationals are common and large quantities of counterfeit products have been confiscated and destroyed so far.

To add grit to the mist, there was an overwhelming public response to the request by the NCCI for the public to submit any information regarding the selling of fake or counterfeit products by Chinese businesses.

Counterfeiting is also often infringing on intellectual property rights and trademarks.

The Chinese Government is going to great lengths to protect the image and quality of Chinese manufactured goods, but counterfeiting and exporting these products worldwide, among others in great quantities to African countries gave rise to this latest appeal to the Namibian business community to provide information and input.

The Chinese Embassy made the request earlier this year, through the NCCI, asking local business people and the public to forward information of counterfeit products by Chinese businesses in Namibia to any NCCI branches countrywide.

According to an update from the NCCI, the business community and public responded with “numerous responses and calls received”. The gesture is said to come directly from China in order to “guarantee the quality of China’s bulk exports to Namibia”.

But is this move a matter of protecting Namibian consumers or it is just an interest by Beijing to protect its image, which the international business community has described as the fastest growing economy juggernaut?

Namibians have complained about Chinese counterfeit products in the local market. Late last year, a group of seamstresses marched to the Hong Kong Market in the northern industrial area to confront a shop owner who sold them substandard textile. It was, perhaps, the first time that Namibian customers took action against substandard products from China.

At the centre of the fake materials row was the pink, black and white fabric that is popular in Oshiwambo culture. The fabric is mainly used for sewing ceremonial Oshiwambo traditional attires such as ‘odelela.’

The unhappy customers had bought the material in bulk to sew various traditional dresses. As is the norm, they first washed the textile before sewing. To their surprise, the fabric instantly faded when it was washed and some pieces frayed in the process, becoming an insult to the Oshiwambo tradition.

Recent complaints have moved to counterfeit carbonated soft drinks and alcohol brands. A recent raid by the Ministry of Finance’s Customs and Excise Department agents in China Town uncovered disturbing facts. The products were very cheap at a cost of $20 for 4.5 litres at 56% alcohol per volume.

The NCCI, which has vowed to step up advocacy this year, says it has been assured by the Chinese Embassy in Namibia that it would conduct “serious investigations of each clue provided by the business community, public and media”.

“Counterfeit products are among some pressing advocacy issues of concerns to our members. China is putting up a range of actions to crack down on counterfeit products and eliminate violations of intellectual property rights,” says a recent NCCI media statement.

This is all in efforts to guarantee the quality of China’s bulk exports to Namibia. Business people continue to bemoan the presence of Chinese businesses in the country, accusing them of failing to pay taxes, and their non-adherence to relevant laws and regulations.

NCCI has also asked that foreign direct investment be directed into sectors with high barriers to enter, areas that would make meaningful impact on the country’s economy.

The chamber says it does not want investments that replace existing Namibian investments in sectors with lower entry barriers such as retailing, transport and brick making.

As the Chinese Government intensifies its image sprucing initiative, the general public now waits to see what actions the relevant authorities are going to take after receiving the critical information they diligently sought.

A nationwide sweep on fake labels such as Adibas, Nikke and Pumo remains imminent. PF