KARACHI: Used computer importers want to dispel the perception that they are importing computer junk and adding to the electronic waste problem in Pakistan.
The government currently faces the challenging task of controlling the dumping of electronic waste without hurting the lucrative used computer market.
“It is all propaganda, refurbished computer importers do not import computer junk,” says Abdullah Malik, President of the Pakistan Computer Association, Islamabad Chapter.
Karachi Electronics Dealers Association (KEDA) Chairman Muhammad Idrees also did not believe that second-hand computers being imported were junk and said Karachi saw a phenomenal growth in reliable used computer markets.
A decade ago, there were only three markets, now there are over 6,000 large and small markets thriving in the city, he said.
“We have opposed (the proposal to ban imports of used computers) because it will result in the closure of thousands of wholesale and retail shops,” questioning what the affected employees would do when they lose their jobs.
“The government has already banned imports of computer parts and they are only allowed to import refurbished computers with complete accessories,” Idrees said. It also strives to encourage production and manufacturing in the information technology sector.
Imported refurbished computers have a big market in Pakistan, with at least 60 per cent penetration, while branded computers, which are foreign-assembled, have a 20 per cent share. The rest of the market deals with locally assembled computers.
Some time ago, the government proposed a ban on used computer imports, but that was strongly opposed by the computer dealers. Thousands of used computers annually find their way into Pakistan despite the country being a signatory to an international body, the Basel Convention, which follows environmental developments.
Former president Pervez Musharraf allowed imports of refurbished computers in the early part of the current decade in a bid to give a boost to the information technology sector. Computer imports are increasing while prices are decreasing.
One of the factors that contribute to the increasing sales of used computers is their cheap price. Used computers sell for Rs6,000 to Rs12,000 in Karachi. Prices of locally assembled computers and new branded systems are at Rs25,000 and go up to Rs150,000.
“We are convinced that our market is separate and it is different from used computers,” said an official of a local computer assembling company.
“Our target market is the corporate sector. But what we demand from the government is to ensure that the used computers being imported are not older than two to three years.”
“I like locally assembled computer systems because I can make modifications and play latest computer games,” said Ali Danish, a computer games enthusiast.
Computer manufacturing in Pakistan is completely non-existent and everything from casings to CD-ROMs and small parts are imported from China. Some popular local computer assemblers are Viper, Inbox, Optimum and Raffles. They cater to a large number of customers from home users to the corporate sector.
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