The influx of counterfeit goods, mostly from China, is a worry for Zimbabwe and its people.
Counterfeits are bad for any economy in three ways.
Firstly, they harm human health because they are not professionally tested and approved for human consumption.
Secondly, they constitute an economic drain because people spend on sub-standard goods that hardly last and rob them of value for money.
Lastly, counterfeits tend to retard the growth of the local industry because they are often sold at dumping prices, which makes it difficult for conventional firms to compete on prize, especially if the economy is predominantly low-income.
In the past, the world’s most industrialised countries and some in the Third World have complained at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about the increase in cross-border shipments of counterfeit goods from China.
But the Chinese government has told the affected countries to use WTO safeguards and countervailing measures against counterfeits, as it has no capacity to police the offenders.
By implication, China’s message is that every country should use existing instruments to protect their people and industries.
It is bad for an economy to be run over by counterfeits; but it is even worse for local companies to play agency to known counterfeit goods.
It is difficult to understand why leading wholesalers and a unit of one of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange’s most capitalised companies have agreed to distribute counterfeit fizzy drinks that literally spoil their brand.
A unit of the group’s fast-foods division is issuing a wide range of counterfeit fizzy drinks for free to customers who buy a large or mega pizza.
Apparently, the fizzy drinks are imitations of soft drink products of the Coca-Cola Company locally produced, marketed and distributed by Delta Corporation.
The imitations actually copy leading brands of the Coca-Cola Company such as Coca-Cola, Ginger Beer and the like.
The counterfeit company’s key brand is a product known as Coca Coee Cola — a two-litre PET that imitates everything about the Coca-Cola brand, from colour and taste to brand name and packaging. It is also carbonated the same way so that it produces a fizzy sound on opening it.
The same applies to Ginger Beer.
There are four questions that immediately come to mind. Why are local distributors consciously distributing counterfeit products and exposing customers to products that are apparently untested and unapproved?
Why are they promoting products that potentially harm the business of fellow locally listed companies?
It is however not surprising that we are in this situation because our government’s Look East Policy has brought with it an uncontrolled influx of counterfeit goods that range from motor vehicle spare parts, electrical appliances, clothing to industrial chemicals.
The goods — especially car tyres — are a threat to lives as motorists are rushing to buy cheap brands which are not fit for our roads. The integrity of the tyres is questionable.
Our government has not come out to warn motorists about the cheap Chinese tyres because it would be politically incorrect to do so.
We do not expect the authorities to speak on the cool drink brands from the East but consumers should be advised against buying the fizzies.
We are importing huge health risks.