Background

Schneider Electric, a global company that specializes in energy management has declared its involvement in the largest survey on electrical counterfeit products in Africa. The exceptionalsurvey involved 37 interviewers over a two-month period.Over 300 professionals were questioned including electricians, retailers of electrical goods, installers, police, firemen and doctors, each of whom responded to 35 questions pertaining to counterfeit products in Africa.

 The survey was to answer questions like where are electrical counterfeit goods coming from, who are the main customers for these counterfeit electrical products, consequences of electrical counterfeits on health, economy and engineering of African countries and the solutions to electrical counterfeits.

East Africa Cables

East African Cables was officially opened in 1966. It has managed to become a premier cable company with a base in Nairobi operating along Addis Ababa Road in Industrial area. From a single company in 2008 it has managed to start other branches in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. It currently aspires to acquire high capacity machines so as to produce better quality and efficient cables. The company is currently involved in fighting the encroachment of electrical counterfeiting in Kenya.

Kenya Engineer, the official journal of the institution of Kenya Engineers carried out an interview with Quality Management Representative at East African Cables, Mr. Godfrey Maele.  His mandate is to oversee the management system of the company follows documented procedures to effect businesses of the company.

Here is how the interview went;

Q. What are some of the products that you offer across the market?

There are a lot of products that East African Cables deals in, but the major ones include house wiring cables used for applications in and around the home in power and lighting to all areas of electrical applications, flexible cables used for general purpose indoors or outdoors in damp or dry situations, power and control cables or Armored cables used for supply of electricity and industrial wiring for remote control and telemetry circuits. Others include auto and battery cables used to manufacture batteries, ignition cables and overhead conductors for aerial transmissions.

Q. As a company that has been in existence in the region for some time, what are some your achievements and in what ways have they impacted the East African Region?

One of our biggest achievements is to be considered the strongest and most powerful brand across the region after opening our manufacturing plant in Kenya. This has led to many engineers considering us as a benchmark for quality since we can deliver quality and quantity alongside the best cable manufacturing facilities in the world. Being listed at the Nairobi Stock Exchange is also a great achievement as Kenyans can publicly own the company by buying shares and becoming a share holder. In addition, the company having received its certification in 2003 has continued to produce products that have been internationally accepted. It has been certified locally by Kenya Bureau of Standards and has attaining the mark of quality from KEBS. These achievements have also translated to higher profit margins.

With the digital era upon us, how has EA cables positioned itself to take advantage of the opportunities that are arising and those that will continue to come up?

There are a lot of opportunities in   Kenya for this company. We would like that other countries buy Kenyan goods and Build Kenya through exports. We would like that other countries benefit from East African Cables through the use of our products. We encourage the government and the people of Kenya to use our cable products to expand electricity coverage and promote locally manufactured goods.

What are some of the future plans and aspirations of EA cables?

We plan to post great returns in terms of business and continue connecting lives within the region and beyond by providing safe, reliable and economical cabling solutions. We also seek to enhance capacity in production of cables to meet the changing needs among customers.

What do you consider as electrical counterfeiting?

Electrical counterfeit is infringing into the Intellectual Property Rights of already manufactured goods by producing goods that are similar to the brand’s owner. It is a kind of virus that distorts the market off its original products.

In your observation what is the prevalence of these electrical counterfeit goods and where do they come from to flood the market and keep away quality goods?

Most electrical counterfeit goods come from China and they spread fast to various chains of distributors. The people who create counterfeit products are aware that the market is hungry for products that are cheaper thus people are easily swayed into counterfeits without knowing.

One could arguably say that most people like quality goods, who are the main people who fall prey to counterfeited electrical products and what drives them to it?

People who fall prey of electrical counterfeit products include electrical retailers, electricians and consumers because of the cheapness in price of the cables and the profits gained after selling them. The route taken by the electrical counterfeits start when electrical retailers import products, they store them in a warehouse and after sometime they are released into the market where electricians come in and buy the counterfeited products then later consumers are convinced that the product has been manufactured by East Africa Cables.

With reference to health, economy and engineering, what dangers would one say these counterfeit goods pose?

Electrical products largely affect the economy in many ways. For example a vendor who sells quality electrical cables is deprived off his or her revenue when competing with electrical counterfeits.

Industries lose large amounts of money to counterfeiters. The losses not only affect producers of genuine items but also consumers who receive poor-quality goods at an excessive price. The government also looses revenue in unpaid tax. The different government agencies also incur large costs in enforcing intellectual property rights.

There is also an increasing concern that counterfeiting is related to other criminal activities, such as trade in narcotics, money laundering and terrorism. It is estimated that trade in counterfeit goods is now worth more than 5 per cent of world trade.

Engineers are worst hit by electrical counterfeits and their reputation is devalued leading to loss of jobs and confidence towards them as they participate in creation of electrical products.

 

Electrical counterfeits can lead to death. People who unknowingly purchase electrical counterfeit products could die or have hearing impairment due to use of an inferior product.

 

Considering the harms brought about by counterfeiting, what are the solutions to this plight and what should be done about it?

Our company advocates for more internal anti-counterfeit campaigns once in a month that will create awareness among engineers, employer or employees on counterfeit products.

Engaging the media and the public on what electrical counterfeits are and the harm brought along from use of counterfeits and action taken on those who sell counterfeits.

We train engineers on how to produce our cable products according to customers taste and preferences which adhere to environmentally friendly standards.

Tell us more about the Zinduka Anti-counterfeit campaign that EA cables has launched, its importance in dealing with electrical counterfeits and any achievements it has had so far?

This campaign was launched in 2013.The campaign involves putting stickers on cables to avoid counterfeits. Consumers are supposed to scratch and reveal a 12 digit code which they will smsto a Toll Free short code number 38353. An immediate response will be received confirming the genuineness of the cable.

This campaign has enabled collection of data that has been used internally in curbing areas prone to counterfeit products and clumping down the counterfeiters. The company has been able to gain feedback on which products are doing well or badly in the market.

The campaign has made it possible for the company to produce a large quantity of cables across East Africa Region.

In dealing with electrical counterfeiting, is there any role for the government and policy makers and what could they be?

The government plays a major role in counterfeits through Anti-counterfeit agency in accordance to Act 2011 under the Ministry of Industrialization. This agency hires people to raid retailers of counterfeit products. These individuals are later prosecuted. The penalty given is three times the value of counterfeits impounded; this is in effort to stiffen the Act.

 

Policy makers should ensure that all innovations are protected through patenting, copyrighting and trademarks.

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