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13.06.2007 Business & Finance

Consumers international closes Africa office

By The Chronicle

Consumers International (CI), the largest consumers protection agency in the world has closed its Africa office based in Accra, Ghana leading to the scaling down of consumerism in Ghana and Africa.

The Accra office, which was the head office of CI for Africa was opened about a year and half ago but had to be closed down for strategic reasons.

“We did indeed recently close our office in Accra, but rather than an indication of CI scaling back its long-standing operations in Africa, it is a result of CI's desire to make the most of our presence on the continent,” Luke Upchurch, Head of Media Consumers International told The Business Chronicle.

With 28 member organizations across Africa, he said CI's overriding priority is to help them, and the consumer movements in general, to develop and campaign for the rights of all African consumers.

To achieve this, Luke Upchurch told the Business Chronicle that CI had to take the difficult decision to close the office in Ghana and use the significant expenditure savings to work more effectively with our African members.

“To this end, we now have a permanent staff member working from our member's premises in Harare (The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe), a dedicated Africa coordinator in our London office (Ms Mary Muchena), and we are in the process of recruiting a Francophone officer to work from one of our French-speaking organizations in West Africa,” Luke Upchurch explained.

Luke Upchurch stressed CI's commitment to Africa. This means supporting member organizations and working more closely than ever with them.

However, A cross-section of consumers that the Business Chronicle spoke to were not happy that CI is leaving Ghana. George Acheampong, a public servant who was shopping at Game Shopping Mall in Accra said CI is needed in Ghana to educate the consumers on their rights.

In his reaction, the Ghana Consumers Association's President, Dr. Ferdinand Tay said funding is always difficult to come by because it is does not work to protect the interest of members but the general public. “It is not a professional body such as Ghana Bar Association, but to protect the interest of society,” he stressed.

Food, trade, public utilities, sustainable consumption and health are the specific areas that the Accra Office was working on. The office was empty when the Business Chronicle paid a visit last week.

Ten years ago, only a few African countries - Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe - could be said to have strong consumer organizations but today CI in Africa works with some 80-consumer organizations of which 37 are members of Consumers International (CI).

In response to the rapid growth of the consumer movement in Africa, a CI office was officially opened in Harare, Zimbabwe, in March 1994, to co-ordinate and supports the activities of African consumer organizations.

A sub-regional office in Dakar catered for West and Central African countries. In September 2005, both offices merged into a single office based in Accra, Ghana.