The first survey on counterfeit electrical products ever done in Africa has been conducted by Schneider Electric to determine the extent of the problem and highlight actions to mitigate its spread across the continent.
"We knew that counterfeiting in Africa had a huge impact on the market both in terms of safety and on the economy," said Schneider Electric Anti-Counterfeiting Global Manager Tracy Garner, via email. "But how much are we talking about exactly, what are we dealing with precisely? There was no clear information. And it is difficult for any stakeholders in the electrical market, including Schneider Electric, to set up concrete actions when you don't know what you are fighting against or how much you could gain from it."
The specialist in energy management says counterfeit electrical products are common in all African countries, representing 40 percent to 80 percent of their markets, with China the main source of the fake merchandise entering the continent, followed by other Asian countries.
The five most common counterfeit electrical products in Africa, according to the survey, are, in order: cables, breakers, sockets, switches and extension cords.
Beyond the market impact of counterfeit goods, such products also pose a safety risk.
The Schneider Electric survey was conducted in 11 African countries: Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, DR Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda with more than 500 "high level" officials and professionals contacted by 37 trained African investigators.
In response to the expectations of professionals who participated in the survey, Schneider Electric is developing online training for customs and other authorities to help them recognize counterfeit products, Garner said. "We will also reinforce, in some countries, the identification of our official resellers, the ones people can confidently buy from," she added.
Professionals who have been struggling against counterfeiting asked for two main actions, Garner said. The first is for authorities to introduce stiffer controls and repercussions against counterfeiters and distributors.
"The second shift is expected from all manufacturers," she said; "it is clearly up to us to help our customers better identify the right channels, the right products. This survey is also a call to all manufacturers of the market willing to get involved, to associate and coordinate in fighting counterfeiting."
Garner noted that Schneider Electric hopes that in forums and seminars about counterfeiting in Africa, people will be able to use the survey document as a reference when making decisions on how to act on the issue.