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New laws may loosen grip of fake, China-made handsets in Africa

Michael Malakata | Feb. 28, 2013
The dominance of China-made fake handsets on the African mobile market may be set to wane, following the formulation of policies by several countries in the region to block the phones.

The dominance of China-made fake handsets on the African mobile market may be set to wane, following the formulation of policies by several countries in the region to block the phones.

Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia are some of the countries in the region that have followed the footsteps of Kenya and Nigeria in enforcing regulations covering all handsets entering their markets.

Most of the phones coming from China are not recognized or licensed by governments and they reportedly use smuggled chips, carry no verification from the China's Ministry of Industries and Information and have fake international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) codes.

Kenya and Nigeria were among the first countries to block such phones and now several African countries including Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda are also implementing laws banning the use of the phones. Botswana is also in the process of implementing similar regulation.

Millions of the Chinese phones in Nigeria and Kenya have already been switched off and Nigeria is already claiming it has scored success in arresting criminals, following implementation of regulations.

The Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) said the introduction of IMEI regulations means the end of the counterfeit handsets in the country. ZICTA said the elimination of the counterfeit handsets on the Zambian market will soon be done by blocking such phones from accessing mobile phone networks in Zambia. Only phones with officially registered IMEI numbers and SIM cards will be able to access networks, under the regulations.

ZICTA's actions come in the wake of a failed attempt to introduce a pre-export, verification-of-conformity-to-standard regime that was designed to ensure that electronic products, before being imported into the country, were first verified through physical inspection and laboratory testing by the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) inspectors.

Zambia has not yet announced the switch-off date for fake phones. But Minister of Communications and Transport Christopher Yaluma said this week, "I want to remind the public to have their SIM cards registered as the deadline is approaching."

In Uganda, SIM card registration started early last year and is coming to an end Thursday, with the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) warning that phones that are not registered will be switched off on March 1.

UCC executive director Godfrey Mutambazi told reporters this week that "eight out of every 10 SIM card holders had been registered." There are an estimated 18 million SIM cards on the Ugandan telecom market.

Counterfeit handsets from China are being sold cheaply, flooding markets in Africa and coming close to putting genuine handsets manufacturers out of business. Nokia and Samsung have been hardest hit by counterfeit products in Africa. Most of the fake-phone manufacturers have targeted them because their band popularity in the region.

 

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