Counterfeit phones are especially popular among African youth, who cannot afford geniune smartphone models. (File photo/Hsu Shang-li)
Chinese counterfeit smartphone makers face challenges ahead in Africa as Kenya began cutting off the internet connection of counterfeit smartphones in October to reduce crime and other African nations also pledged to ban the phones.
Four Kenyan telecom operators cut off their signals to 1.5 million counterfeit phones in the country on Oct. 1, part of the Kenyan government's effort to protect intellectual property rights, trade and mobile phone user safety. Uganda and other African nations have said they will follow suit, which is expected to affect Chinese counterfeit phones makers who have been major sources of the phones on the continent.
The Communication Commission of Kenya said the counterfeit phone has become a criminal tool since they were smuggled into the country and untraceable. Their signals are often unstable and they cannot guarantee the security of mobile payment.
The Kenyan government has extended the cut-off twice to allow users to switch to genuine phones but has set Oct. 1 as its final deadline. Mobile brands such as Nokia and Samsung provided discounts a for million Kenyans who replaced their counterfeit phones for genuine ones, recycling and reusing the parts of these counterfeit phones.
The four operators now will ask users to verify their identities and check their phone's IMEI number, an unique identification number on each phone. Counterfeit phones do not have the number so that the operator can distinguish them from the genuine model and block the signal.
Some of the counterfeit phones were still able to receive signals by the afternoon on Oct. 2, according to Li Lianxing, the correspondent of China Daily in Africa. Locals said they can understand that the policy will be good for the market but were also concerns that many people, especially college students, cannot afford a genuine phone amid the the economic downturn, according to Li.
Counterfeit mobile phones contain risks but their cheap price makes them popular, especially in developing economies, says Zeng Jianqhiu, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.
To stem smuggling and tax evasion, many countries have taken action against counterfeit mobile phones. India has limited phone sales while Libya also monitors sales in the market.
Li Yi, executive vice president of China Mobile Internet Industry Alliance, said Chinese phones makers also hope African and Latin nations can get rid of counterfeit mobile phones to make room for Chinese mobile brands such as Huawei and ZTE. He suggested the counterfeit phones makers to establish their own brands in order to sustain their businesses in the future.
Li Lianxing 李連星
Zeng Jianqiu 曾劍秋
Li Yi 李易