Most electronics sold in Cameroon said to be Chinese counterfeits
Vendors say that most of the consumer electronics sold in the African nation of Cameroon are counterfeits from China, including mobile phones, television sets, earphones and more. Many of the counterfeits are near-exact replicas. "You would have to look for special signs in order to tell the difference," one person quoted in the story says. "Some vendors sell counterfeits cheaper, others at the same costs as authentic ones."
China and Africa have close business ties. Earlier this year, China became the single largest investor in Africa, according to a recent Ernst & Young report. China's US$66.4 billion in investments in Africa have created 130,750 jobs, the report said.
Meanwhile, China maintains a healthy trade surplus with Africa: Last year, its exports to the continent totaled US$82.9 billion while imports were valued at $54.3 billion.
As economic ties have burgeoned between China and Africa, Chinese-made counterfeit goods have become common in many African countries. Counterfeiters find willing buyers there for the same reasons as anywhere else: fakes are cheaper than the real thing, and some people can't tell the difference anyway.
Counterfeiting hurts African businesses - especially electronics makers. Cameroon's first domestic mobile phone brand, the X-Net phone, has struggled in part because it can't compete with dirt-cheap knock-offs of foreign brands, observers say.
Battery makers have suffered too. The Pilcam company produces the well-known (in Cameroon) Hellessens battery. That product has been undermined by counterfeits from China. In May 2015, Cameroon authorities discovered a sizable shipment of fake Hellessens batteries from China at the Doula port.
The problem of Chinese counterfeiting is prevalent throughout the African continent, especially in its largest economies. TIPG has previously reported on the wide variety of fake goods from China sold in Nigeria.
In South Africa, counterfeits - many originating in China - have destroyed the textile industry on the Western Cape, forcing many factories to shut down, according to the IOL news site. South African authorities estimate the country loses about R4bn in from illegal clothing and footwear imports.
There is no easy solution to the problem, but stricter oversight of ports of entry across the African continent would be a good start. South Africa expects to pass a Border Management Agency Bill this year that will focus on reducing the import of counterfeit goods. African customs authorities should also step up cooperation with their Chinese counterparts.