HomeLocal NewsZim market haven of counterfeit products

Zim market haven of counterfeit products


A man is walking down the streets of Harare clad in a Giorgio Armani suit with a matching shirt and tie.

In his hand is a dual sim card “Nokia” mobile phone. As if this is not enough, he is wearing a Giovanni Rossi shoe.

At the end of the day he drives home in his just imported Toyota Mark II. When he arrives home he turns on his “Philips” television and “Sony” DVD player, sits back and enjoys the pirated movie he had bought in the street. All these renowned labels are just counterfeits.

Counterfeiting is the unauthorised representation of a registered trademark carried on goods identical or similar for which the trademark is registered.

The sole purpose is to deceive the purchaser into believing that he or she is buying an original product.

Many Zimbabweans are duped to believe that their goods, including technological gadgets, clothing items and detergents – are genuine labels only to find out that in the long run, the goods were either counterfeits or just copycats.

In Harare, places such as the Gulf Complex are awash with these products. They are usually imported from the Asian markets.

Juan Xiang, a stall holder at the complex, said some of the goods are rejects and others are cheaper quality material coated with established labels.

“Where on earth can you find a Giorgio Armani suit costing less than $100? We are talking about a celebrated brand with its origins in Italy. The suits that are sold here are imported from Dubai and they cost about $25 there only, while the original label costs around $500,” he explained.

The local market is now awash with counterfeit products as the local manufacturing industry is still reeling from a decade-long economic downturn that saw many manufacturing concerns closing shop or scaling down operations.

Most products that find their way into the developing countries are counterfeits and some like televisions and DVD players have labels of their original maker only to be removed once they get into the country. They are then replaced with labels of reputable brands.

“Zimbabweans are obsessed with labels, so usually the importers remove existing labels and replace them with renowned labels such as Philips and LG,” said Xiang.

“Companies that manufacture these products do so with the African markets in mind. They know that most of the consumers cannot afford original products.”

African countries are fast becoming dumping sites for unwanted products from developed nations.

Countries such as Japan have policies that prohibit cars and other technological gadgets to surpass a certain duration and they find their way into Africa.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimated that in 2005, the global trade in fake or pirated goods was around $200 billion.

In 2007, the International Chamber of Trade estimation of total global value of fake goods was valued at more than $600 billion and this represented 7% in global trade.

Local economist Tawanda Zinyama said counterfeit products were however not as cheap as people thought.

He said developed countries were the chief culprits in dumping their sub-standard products in Zimbabwe and Africa at large.

“The influx of counterfeit products was a result of the local industry failing to supply products on the market. Developed countries have an emerging economy and they are always on the lookout for new markets to exploit, especially in Africa where the people are poor and cannot afford original products,” said Zinyama.

Observers often accuse Western economies for exploiting indigenous industries with whom they cannot compete, with locally produced goods becoming expensive since they are manufactured with genuine resources compared those manufactured with by-products.

“No one has ever wanted to explain why a blanket made in China is so cheap compared with a locally manufactured blanket. We have cotton and ginnery in the country but our products remain high whilst something that is shipped all the way from Dubai is very cheap. This is because in the long run these products do not last and it is just sheer waste of money,” noted an observer who preferred anonymity.

He added that the manufacturing and agricultural industries have failed to rise because of unfair competition and called on government to shift its policy on imports.

“The country will continue to have people employed in these ‘zhing zhong’ shops rather than in industries,” he said.

The government waived customs duty paid on technological gadgets and this has aided the influx of counterfeit products in computers, cellphones and other electrical gadgets.

Other local companies have purportedly lied that they manufacture or produce these technological gadgets only to find out that they simply assemble or import these products without labels and put their own labels.

Recently a local company reportedly misrepresented to its client that it indeed manufactured laptops only to find out that it just imported the counterfeit products and sold them at inflated prices after sticking their own labels.

Players in the industry have been pushing the government to revise its import policy so that consumers do not get raw deals.

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