A Quarterly EnewsLetter Vol.6, Issue No. 1, 2010

Editorial Comments

The issues concerning competition and consumerism in Zambia have gained prominence and their importance can no longer be overemphasised. The public is able to engage in the debates, and most importantly, they are able to articulate their consumer rights. This has been part of CUTS International’s agenda for some time, and it is encouraging that through CUTS initiative on consumer protection, a number of Zambian citizens have been sensitised on their rights as well as obligations as consumers. CUTS, Lusaka has continued to extensively engage with both the state as well as and non-state actors in raising awareness and sensitising the people on competition and consumer issues in Zambia. It is gratifying that these issues have now been and continues to be inculcated in the minds of school going children so that debates on competition and consumerism are understood at an earlier age. CUTS will continue to endeavour in its work so that a well informed consumer citizenry is realised.
ZCC Seeks More Powers
The Zambia Competition Commission (ZCC) is seeking stronger administration powers such as imposition of a maximum 10 percent fine on a company’s turnover for failing to comply with the proposed Competition and Fair Trading Act and Consumer Protection Policy.

Currently, the ZCC has the powers to prosecute offenders through the High Court. Brian Lingela, Director for Consumer Welfare and Public Relations, ZCC during a sensitisation workshop on consumer awareness and competition policy in Kitwe, said that consumer protection is a big challenge because of its diversity in nature. He said that the government is in the process of reviewing the Act that was enacted in 1994 and also formulating a policy on consumer protection, to enhance it.

(Source: The Post Zambia, 24.02.10)

Consumers to Enjoy Lower Telephone Costs
The Zambian government has finally awarded private mobile-phone operators licenses to operate international gateways in a bid to bring down the high cost of communications. Two service providers have been given licenses to access the international gateway facility – Zain and MTN.

A gateway fee had been paid to the government-run Zambia Telecommunication Co.(Zamtel) by private service providers through the Zambian government. This resulted in unfair competition, with private service providers charging their customers exorbitantly in a bid to make profit and sustain their operations. The move to award licenses to Zain and MTN would enable the two mobile service providers to lower their high international tariffs.

(Source: Lusaka Times, 08.03.10)

ZACA Calls for Njanji’s Return
With the growing economy Zambia Consumer Rights Association (ZACA) finds it important that the government re-introduces the Njanji Commuter Service (NCS) railway in Lusaka. The re-introduction will help the growing economy as it will be more affordable than bus fares which were hiked after the fuel increment.

Muhabi Lungu, Director of Investment Promotion and Privatisation, Zambia Development Agency said the agency is evaluating the only bid from the consortium that expressed an interest in undertaking the NCS railway line concession.

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 17.02.10)

Reduce Connectivity Charges
Cell phones have become the most important mode of communication in African countries; the same applies to Zambian citizens. MTN, as a service provider, considers reducing the interconnectivity fees that different networks charge for cross network calls. It is believed that the current cross network call charges are exorbitant, thus reducing efficiency in services delivery.

Since there are a lot of network providers, MTN Zambia is dedicated to ensure that everyone has access to cheap mobile communication but that vision is being hindered by the high cost of interconnectivity charges. Seeing that the market is now competitive the service provider recommends the government to introduce a new Information Technology Act.

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 01.02.10)

Consumers Face High Fuel Prices
Fuel increment does not only affect the motor vehicles drivers, but would also threaten the availability of agriculture enterprises which are already struggling to be on the map. It is not a threat only but would also undermine economic gains.
The Zambia National Farmers Union has questioned the relevance of fuel Strategic Reverse Fund in moderating local fuel price. Diesel was one of the huge expenses in the products to the market. Most of the agriculture products will suffer because of the fuel increment which would lead to the producer price to transporting input and farm products to the market.

(Source: The Post, 18.01.10)

Snapshots on Consumer Issues

Electrification Project Cheers Sinazongwe DC
A project is soon to start in Sinazongwe district to improve its economy. The implementation of the project under the Rural Electrification Authority was already underway with 30 kilometers of the Lake Kariba shore earmarked for electrification. The purpose of the electrification has already been erected; an exercise which had created not less than 80 jobs for local communities. This development was a milestone in the development of the district, considering that the local community had hardly benefited from the construction of the lake. Despite the lake having been constructed, local people have not really been benefiting from this venture. However, with electrification project being implemented, a number of business such fishing will bloom.

(Source: The Post, 17.01.10)

Climate Response Key to Continent’s Growth
Climate change has become the most pressing global threat at the moment. It will impose an additional burden on sustainable development in Africa, even as the continent contributes very little to the total global greenhouse gas emissions. The modest gains that the continent has achieved in the past decade could be reversed by climate change. Both mitigation and adaptation are important in the long run. Adaptation in the present is fundamental to the achievement of poverty reduction and sustainable development, which are indeed needed in order to strengthen the continent’s ability and disposition towards charting a low carbon development pathway.

(Source: Business Daily, 12.02.10)

Cement Traders Reduce Prices
Cement has seen its better days, most cement traders have reduced the price of the commodity by a few Kwacha’s difference. According to MICMAR Investment Limited the reduction is due to a notable discount given to traders by Lafarge Cement Zambia PIc which is being passed on to customers. The price depends on the quantity one is buying, a customer can even get a discount and buy a bag at Zambian Kwacha 52,000 (US$1.0516). Lafarge Cement Zambia company has reviewed its distributor programme of cement across the country.

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 05.03.10)

About the Newsletter
Consumer Watch newsletter is a joint initiative of the CUTS ARC and ZACA, published with the objective of enhancing consumer welfare through sensitisation, information dissemination and capacity building of consumers, business entities and government. While addressing consumer concerns, the newsletter focuses on bringing out issues such as violation of consumer rights and measures to be taken by the relevant authorities to protect stakeholders.

CUTS ARC and ZACA will strive to support and lobby the Government and the stakeholders to ensure resumption of the process to eventually enact a functional Consumer Protection Law in the country and also establish a functional institutional mechanism to implement the law. This is in line with the changes taking place in other countries in the region in the wake of globalisation and liberalisation. Apart from carrying consumer-related information, the publication will also give an analysis on current consumer concerns in the country.