In a scheme to rake in profits, several importers of electrical cables are flooding the market with fake products that do not meet critical safety requirements.
A nationwide surveillance conducted by the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) last Friday revealed that more than 70 per cent of all imported electrical cable brands on the market were substandard and could cause fires.
Out of 22 electrical cable brands sampled for laboratory testing, only two, which were manufactured locally, passed the critical safety requirement test for conductor resistance at the GSA Cable Laboratory in Accra.
The test showed that 20 of the brands, all imported products, were not designed or test-approved to meet the requirements in safety standards.
The Director General of the GSA, Prof. Alex Dodoo, told the Daily Graphic in an interview that “19 out of the 20 imported brands of electrical cables failed the critical safety requirement for conductor resistance and this is dangerous because such cables can cause fires”.
He explained that the GSA, as part of its consumer protection and import inspection mandate under the Standards Act, had begun the testing of imported products and market surveillance.
As part of the exercise, 22 brands of electrical cables were purchased from the market in Accra for laboratory tests to prove their authenticity. Out of the number, two were locally manufactured brands and the remaining 20 were imported ones.
Fake cables cause fires
The Deputy Director of Public Relations at the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), Mr Billy Anaglatey, reacting to the upsurge in fake electrical cables on the market, said most domestic fires could be attributed to the use of inferior wiring and defective electrical materials for buildings.
He said an alarming 80 per cent of all domestic fires in the country resulted from the use of substandard electrical cables to wire buildings.
“Substandard electrical cables are the major cause of domestic fires in the country. About 80 per cent of all the domestic fires we have recorded can be linked to the use of such inferior products. These days traders warn buyers before they sell the cables to them, but because of the cost, some buyers still buy the inferior products and that is why some newly built houses which are not yet occupied are catching fire,” he said.
Meanwhile, checks by the Daily Graphic from the market last Saturday revealed that imported electrical cables were far cheaper than locally manufactured ones.
For instance, while locally manufactured cables cost between GH¢160 and GH¢180 per coil, imported ones went for between GH¢30 and GH¢45.
That trend, we gathered, was because the imported cables were mostly fake.
Although a fake cable may not be spotted from its cover, a simple test in a laboratory could reveal that it is inferior.
“The flooding of the markets with substandard cables is due to manufacturers reneging on quality and safety to produce cheaper cables,” a source in the construction industry who wants to remain anonymous told the Daily Graphic.
He said some of the features of substandard cables included reduced diameter of copper conductor, using copper-clad aluminium or other metals, instead of copper conductor, reduced insulation thickness, shorter length per coil and fake labels or packaging, even in terms of quality certification.
Implications of using fake cables
The implication of the influx of fake electrical cables on the market are many. Aside from destroying the market for genuine local manufacturers, the phenomenon, engineered by some elements, is directly responsible for the many fire outbreaks all over the country.
Behind every wall at home, in an office or a building in general, there are cables that channel electricity for daily consumption. They may be visible or buried in conduit pipes. These are housing electrical cables that connect all electricity-powered items and sockets to the main electricity source.
Consumers are likely to pay little or no attention to the kind of cables that wire their homes, but rigorous laboratory tests will reveal the dangers associated with using such cables to wire buildings.
Some of these dangers include fire outbreaks through overheating when the small diameter of a substandard housing cable reduces its ability to conduct electricity effectively, thereby causing the cable to overheat. When that happens, it causes the cable to burn or melt.
Also, the reduced conducting ability of a substandard housing cable may cause it to lose insulating properties and that could lead to circuit malfunction and possible electrocution and electrical disruptions.