Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Anti counterfeits campaign gets louder in East Africa

The Tanzanian Standard Newspaper has added its voice to the outcry over counterfeit products in the region.

According to the paper, 2007 statistics show that over US$20 million is lost in tax revenue to counterfeiters each year within the East African Community (EAC). Brand owners typically lose over three times that value as taxes are on average between 25-40% of the value of goods.

This problem has compelled the East African Community to set up an inter-governmental forum to combat the problem of piracy in member states. The EAC has also hired consultants to develop a comprehensive anti piracy strategy. Proposals also include establishment of specialized anti-piracy units to fight counterfeits in the region.

This story comes on the back of many others reported on the sale of counterfeit Kiwi shoe polish, mainly in Uganda, BIC pens and Batteries last year. The editorial lays blame on globalization and liberalization as being responsible for the increase in counterfeits in Tanzania. This may well be true. Unfortunately globalization, and its cousin liberalization are here to stay. The problem is that with them came increased poverty even though per capita incomes have increased - somewhat! Poverty renders many consumers vulnerable to exploitation. Many of the counterfeit goods sell well during 'back to school' periods when parents are shopping for students returning to boarding school.

Whereas the governments in the region must do something really soon, brand owners need to be more vigilant in policing their marks. Many local manufacturers within the EAC with export volumes in millions of dollars do not have registered trademarks! Currently, there is insufficient awareness on the part of policy makers, bureaucrats and enforcement agencies in Tanzania, Kenya or even Uganda to ensure that the law is enforced.

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