Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | After making various attempts to switch off substandard cell phones in vain, Uganda Communications Commission-UCC has shifted focus on empowering Ugandans to enable them to make informed decisions when buying mobile phones.
UCC has for more than ten years made various attempts to get rid of substandard cell phones following the installation of the Central Equipment Identity-Registry system with all mobile telecom operators in 2020.
According to the 2020 report prepared by UCC, there are 29.1 million cell phones connected to the mobile network. However, a fair percentage of mobile phones are counterfeits or substandard, a thing experts attribute to increased demand for mobile phone usage despite the huge risks involved.
Engineer Rebecca Mukite, the UCC spokesperson says that the telecom regulator has decided to shift focus to consumer empowerment. Mukite says switching off phones has a ripple effect but is not solely dependent on UCC.
She says that unlike in the past when they tried to switch off the counterfeit mobile handsets, this time around they are focusing on creating awareness about the disadvantages and vulnerabilities resulting from the use of fake phones.
According to Mukite, this is a very huge initiative that is aimed at causing behavioural change among Ugandans. She says that until the knowledge of counterfeit mobile handsets becomes common to the majority of Ugandans, they won’t give up.
“Consumer ignorance is the main reason why fake phones have persisted on the Ugandan market since many associate prices to quality, which is not true and by making them aware, they will be saved,” she explained.
Mukite also revealed that the differences between traders on one hand and regulators and representatives of manufacturers have also contributed to the delayed switching off of the fake phones.
Yasin Bulunda, the chairperson of the Uganda Phone Trader’s Association, says that the move by UCC is welcome because all the goods they import go through tests by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards and Uganda Revenue Authority-URA.
He explains that after the sensitisation, UCC will be right to switch off or impound any fake phones on the market since they will be able to tell the difference.