‘Fake’ IT equipment frustrates Benin consumers

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Cotonou, Benin

The rush to catch up with the digital revolution has triggered a litany of mixed fortunes in Africa.

On one hand, some Africans seem to be happy with their continent being used as a ‘dumping ground’ by world economic powers for old, obsolete IT equipment as long as it helps them and their children get some IT knowledge, and therefore bridge the digital divide.

On the other hand, however, the continent is now faced with a more serious problem: brand new IT equipment imported bought at computer shops does not last and is quickly found to be ‘fake’.

One shop manager in Benin, Arsene Menessou, got the shock of his life when buyers brought back three computer desktops and two laptops within a week because they were not working properly, broken and just stopped working.

“I took the matter urgently with my Chinese supplier, but he denied any wrongdoing, saying that all the equipment comes in the unsealed boxes, which nobody has tampered with,” a visibly frustrated Menessou told Biztechafrica. 

Approached to give his side of the story, the Chinese man, who spoke very little French and no English at all, declined to comment, except to say that he was a legitimate businessman who only sold original IT equipment.

But if the equipment was indeed original, Henriette Ouehilla believes she would not have had to return the Dell laptop she bought for her kids to enable them to learn some computer skills.

“I suspect that this equipment is not original at all because of the problems I have experienced when I started using it. You only see something wrapped up nicely in a branded box Dell, but the device inside is found to be fake,” she told Biztechafrica.

“I want my money back,” she lamented.

“People dealing in fake goods are killing us and killing the education of our children by selling us counterfeit and pirated equipment,” said Emmanuel Sessegnon, who teaches computer skills to young children in his backyard in the city of Cotonou.

A 2007 report conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says that counterfeit and pirated products are being produced and consumed in virtually all economies, with Asia emerging as the single largest producing region.

OECD put the monetary value of international trade in counterfeit and pirated products at up to US$200-billion.

“This is a damn lucrative business. I have the feeling that people may have been bringing fake IT equipment into the country, sorting them out and packaging them in their backyards at night, and afterwards transporting them to various stores around the country,” Sessegnon, who bought a ‘fake’ Epson printer last month, said.

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