By Ibrahim Olukotun
Lagos. December 17, 2012: Phone dealers in Lagos have decried the rising influx of substandard China phones into Nigeria citing that the growing trend may undermine the user experience in the local telecoms market.
Baring their minds on the issue in Lagos in separate interviews with
Technology Times, Iyke Nwosu, President of Phone and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria (PAPDAN) and Kelvin Orjiani, his counterpart in the Saka Tinubu Phones market in Victoria Island, Lagos say that they are worried about the phones from China which they allege erode consumer confidence and also poses great economic and health hazards.
They complained that some Chinese handset makers are capitalizing on the high rate of poverty in the country to flood the market with substandard products that are outlawed in China and other countries.
“The quality of goods is not the way it used to be when they (China phones) were not here. A basic Nokia phone sells for N4, 000. A Chinese phone which is of the same standard, sells for N1, 500. Because of high level of poverty, Nigerians like cheap things. We are not often bothered about quality. An average Nigerian will opt for the N1, 500 phones even if it spoils tomorrow. He would not consider durability. The Chinese have taken advantage of that and they are extorting us. It is very bad,” Orjiani tells Technology Times.
On his part, Nwosu, Chairman of PAPDAN, observes that the unrestrained influx of Chinese traders into the phone market will wreck the economy because the local players will be forced out of the market.
He cites the near-collapse of certain sectors of the local economy where Chinese companies have been allowed to play directly like textile garments and leather industries.
“Anyone who is familiar with Chinese traders knows, anywhere they go, they take everything from the locals. Every business has stages, like manufacturers, middlemen and distributors. But the Chinese do everything together and keep everyone out. And if you look around, other industries where they have been allowed to participate directly, Nigerian traders there are no more doing anything. For example, leather, garments and textiles sectors,” Nwosu says.
He further explains that his association, in conjunction with relevant government agencies like Standard Organization of Nigeria, Consumer Protection Council has put measures in place to protect the business interest of local phone dealers and ensure that substandard products are checked.
“We don’t manufacture ICT products. So, if we allow all manufacturers to come and play in a market directly where an average shop owner is employing about five people, then it would not be long before we will all go and find something else to do. We try to stop them from flooding this market with cheap imports”, he adds citing that PAPDAN today has membership counting in excess of 3000 businesses in the Ikeja Computer Village, the nation’s market hub for technology products and services.
The PAPDAN boss wonders why things are done differently in Nigeria, when in other climes; governments make efforts at developing local investors and economy by reserving certain jobs for their citizens.
“Nigeria is a receptive country. You don’t get this anywhere in the world. I have lived abroad for 12 years. I have been arrested in my office for selling. I was told I have a work permit to work as a managing director and not as a salesperson. The sales duties are reserved for my staff members who are citizens of the country. They have to create jobs for their people. I don’t know why things are done differently here,” Nwosu says.
PAPDAN urges the government to put in place and enforce policies that will protect local players against the onslaught from foreigners, which he says is the norm everywhere in the world.
“The practice globally is that when going to play in a foreign market, you synergize with the locals to ensure things work. Not just people leaving their country, come in with Tourist visa to operate in a market where they don’t have a warehouse and are not ready to employ local people, without banking with our banks and we don’t even know how they transfer their money out of the economy.”
According to Nwosu, “we lose a lot of money. And when they sell these products without an address, it creates a problem because customers cannot complain to anybody. But if they (the Chinese) are dealing directly with Nigerians with traceable addresses, customers can return to complain if the product malfunction.”
PAPDAN appeals to local standards watchdog, SON and Nigerian Customs Service to be a step ahead of unscrupulous elements that have turned the country into the dumping ground for substandard handsets and mobile devices.
In a similar vein, Orjiani says that, “they should make sure that these products are stopped at the seaports and airports if they are not up to the required standards. Aside the economic and environmental negative effects, it takes tolls on health because when these products become toxic waste because of the materials they are made from, they become very harmful to health.”