Illegal trade, fraud and counterfeit goods continue to thrive in local markets despite several checks by public administration.
The media was in the last few weeks awash with information on seizure of contraband and counterfeited goods in some major cities in the country. The phenomenon is as old as trade itself with perpetrators devising different methods as time goes on. The prevailing of the unfortunate situation is leaving severe wounds on the national economy. The proliferation of contraband goods and counterfeit products, such as hydrocarbons, cement, whiskeys, cigarettes, cosmetics, beer and other beverages is strangulating local production out of business. In 2017, Cameroon’s Employers Association (GICAM) put the estimate at FCFA 150 billion losses incurred by local enterprises and the economy. The question many are tempted to ask is how and why the smug
gling, illegal trade, counterfeiting of goods is thrive despite several control mechanisms. In a country where per capita income is low, many consumers are ever ready to purchase cheap goods even those of doubtful sources and qualities. The easy accessibility of such products, invading even walkways in the capital city unperturbed, makes consumers especially those with low purchasing power vulnerable. Moreover, dealers in such illicit business make brisk gains as no tax or custom duty is paid for such products smuggled into the market. It is thus difficult for them to abandon this “lucrative business” even though at the detriment of the State treasury as well as health risk for consumers. Cameroon has an extensive land and maritime border with Africa’s most populous nation, and the continent’s first economy; Nigeria. The over 1,600km long border is porous with several entry points that give easy access to contraband and counterfeits products. Sometimes the goods are smuggled into the country with the complicity of control officers. As to counterfeits products, some corrupt officials of the Fraud control brigade of the Ministry of Trade allow them in the market space unabated. Several public administrations notably the custom department, the Ministry of Trade, the Navy of the Cameroon military are combatting the unhealthy economic practice with varied results. The Customs Administration has put in place an operation to fight illicit trade dubbed “HALCOMI” (Halte au commerce illicit).
The operation has been active in many entry points across the country with encouraging seizures recorded. In a recent coordination meeting of the Customs Department, it was revealed over FCFA 900 million was collected as fines from dealers in contraband and counterfeits products in six months. In the past few weeks, the National fraud Control and repression brigade in the Ministry of Trade has been active in the field with seizures of contraband and counterfeits products made. Some 6000 substandard roofing sheets said to have originated from Equatorial Guinea were confiscated in Yaounde and about 350 cartons of illicit drinks from Nigeria also seized within the same period. The fight against illicit trade must be stepped up by various administrations concerned as the phenomenon is gaining grounds using different methods.