Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Africa & ACTA

An "ACTA" that is very effective
Writing for the The New Vision, consultant Peter Yehangane urges the EAC to join ACTA in its fight against counterfeiting in the region in this article here:

"I urge the EAC to consider joining the ACTA and to share knowledge and technical resources in fighting counterfeits and pirated goods. ACTA will not change member state's national laws on counterfeits, trademarks and patents, but seeks a common ground among member states to enforce rules on anti-proliferation of counterfeits."

The article provides a good overall summary of the counterfeiting problem in East Africa, the status of the anti-counterfeiting laws in the region and the development of the ACTA text.

ACTA's purpose has almost been overshadowed by the commentary over its secrecy which has naturally given rise to sceptics. The provisions of ACTA have also raised criticisms in their own right too. You can read more about the criticisms here. Afro Leo is not sure why not one single African country appears to have commented on the negotiations over ACTA especially as counterfeiting on the continent is, in his opinion, Africa's single largest IP challenge.

Peter is correct that East Africa (and for that matter Africa) should take more interest in ACTA but ACTA should also be encouraging more Africa participation. This is because the counterfeiting challenge in Africa is not only an African problem affecting those that live here but a worldwide challenge where counterfeits in Africa affect lives in countries outside Africa - for example, Africa is frequently described as the dumping ground for the world's unwanted goods which means that there is market for counterfeits or infringing overruns and because counterfeit goods are frequently transported via Africa to other parts the world. Furthermore, once ACTA has been agreed it will be encouraged as a template for African legislators and the knee jerk resistance will come from parties who will see it as an attempt by the developed countries to impose their trade conditions on African states.

To clarify Afro Leo is not necessarily advocating active African participation (because it may lead to obligations) but he is encouraging active African debate and the assessment of ACTA on African states. Now that the text of ACTA is less secret that debate  may be possible. Well done Peter on starting it.

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