By Prosper Ndlovu
THE era of dumping sub-standard and counterfeit goods onto the Zimbabwean market is over as Government’s measures to protect the domestic market under the Consignment Based Conformity Assessment (CBCA) programme have started bearing positive results.
Since adoption of the multiple-currency system in 2009, Zimbabwe has fallen victim to numerous imports, including smuggled goods, as foreign businesses and individuals sought cheap access to the United States dollar. Some of the imported goods were sub-standard and came cheap, a move that provoked authorities, backed by local firms, to seek urgent interventions to protect the local market.
The progressive implementation since March 2015, of the CBCA programme by Government through Bureau Veritas, a French international firm with vast experience in global pre-shipment assessments, has yielded a significant change.
The anti-dumping programme adopted a learning curve approach starting March 16, 2015 through a Government notice to importers, which was followed by a series of awareness campaigns across the country and beyond. July 27 of the same year marked date of shipment certification requirement for importers, with phase 1 (seven months) covering mainly educational and enforcement programmes.
Full implementation of the programme was to begin in January 1, 2017. Dumping refers to a process where a company exports a product at a price lower than the price it normally charges on its own home market. This prompts governments to adopt anti-dumping measures, which are protectionist in nature.
“Zimbabwe is no longer seen as a dumping country as conformity is now associated to any export to Zimbabwe,” reads part of a latest comprehensive report by Bureau Veritas.
According to the report, Bureau Veritas has rejected more than 200 million units of sub-standard goods that were destined for Zimbabwe since 2016. In 2017 alone more than 1800 importers had their imports, covering up to 305 million product units, verified through the CBCA programme before being imported into Zimbabwe. In the same year about 20 million product units were rejected seven days from the opening to certificate issuance.
The report notes that there is “significant improvement in conformity” as quantity of problematic products detected have dropped nine times since implementation, with very limited level of complaints. Earlier on in 2016, the report shows that 1800 importers had their products verified after comprehensive stakeholder training and awareness programmes reached out to many concerned businesses. These included customs officials, clearing agents, importers and regulatory bodies. The initiative has also assisted customs valuation in view of optimizing duty and taxes collection.
Through the CBCA programme Zimra, for instance, has managed to identify fake invoices used to under-declare the value of import declarations.
According to the report, the CBCA initiative has greatly contributed to the ease of doing business through enhanced export capacity building for local manufacturers who now have better chances of producing globally compliant products. In 2016, Zimbabwe’s import bill dropped by $1.8 billion from $8 billion in 2015 to $6.2 billion. Economic experts have attributed the drop to a combination of CBCA and Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, which also removed up to 40 products from the open general import licensing.
The CBCA programme has also been credited for being well aligned with existing local technical regulations such as the GMO regulation, packaging material ban by EMA and a ban on inefficient lighting appliances. These have ensured that there are no last minute surprises at borders. The growth in industry capacity utilisation has also been linked to CBCA and S.I.64/2016.
In 2016 alone, industry capacity utilisation increased from 34.3% to 47, 4%, according to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI). During that year, Bureau Veritas rejected more than 182,000,000 products earmarked for Zimbabwe. What has made the CBCA programme a resounding success is the close partnership between Bureau Veritas and local partners that include the Standards Association of Zimbabwe, Zimra, Zimtrade, Construction Industry Federation of Zimbabwe, CZI and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce.
Bureau Veritas is recognised as a benchmark through a comprehensive portfolio of accreditations, authorisations and official recognitions issued by national governments, public or private authorities, and national and international organisations. The firm holds more than 1500 accreditations, authorisations and recognitions. Government has, however, indicated that plans are underway to set up a local regulatory body that will take over Bureau Veritas, once requisite domestic capacity has been built.
Stakeholders have, however, complained that importers in Zimbabwe are still finding ways to beat the system and bring in the goods. Consumer Council of Zimbabwe Matabeleland regional manager Comfort Muchekeza has said although the country has made significant progress in dealing with these goods they are still finding their way into the local market. Last week Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development Minister, Dr Mike Bimha, who was in Bulawayo, said more measures were being put in place to curb the influx of sub-standard goods, which he said were still affecting Zimbabwe despite the measures that were put in place.
Prior to implementation of the CBCA programme, conformity requirements were ignored by exporters. As a result, the report indicates that counterfeit products were rampant as more than 50 percent of imported products could not be confirmed to be in conformity with standards. The main objectives of the CBCA programme is protection of consumer health and environmental safety, promotion of fair competition, facilitating smooth trading operations, protecting national economic development and facilitating increased transparency in trading. These are being done without stopping trade and with minimised impact on cost of products.
Products covered under CBCA programme cover food and agriculture category, building products, petroleum and fuel, packaging material, electrical and electronic products, body care and health, automotive and transportation, clothing and textile and toys. The list is specified in the S.I. 132 of 2015. However, there are certain products that are exempted from the CBCA programme. The threshold limit for such products is $1000 and they cover charitable shipments and donations by organisations for humanitarian purposes. This category covers imports by diplomatic entities and United Nations bodies and goods destined for duty-free shop. Several studies have shown that the globalised world has become a fertile ground for fraudulent practises and sub-standard products, which has mainly affected developing economies. The trend has been exacerbated by quick profit orientation, market evolution and the financial crises. Without conformity control, experts say safety cannot be guaranteed.
The World Health Organisation, for instance, estimates that 10% of medicines in the world market are counterfeit. There are fears the figure could be above 30% in developing countries. Similarly, the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau, estimates that counterfeit goods consist of 5-7% of world trade. The World Trade Organisation (WTO), while acknowledging the need for adoption of anti-dumping policies, warns that regulators should not be more trade restrictive than necessary to fulfil a legitimate objective. Countries, however, have the right to refer to international standards when appropriate. Established in 1828, Bureau Veritas is a global firm with reputable expertise in CBCA programmes and is supported by a wide network of relevant facilities and solid knowledge on the field.