EAST AFRICA – Anti-counterfeiting Efforts Receive a Boost

Anti-counterfeiting efforts in East Africa went a notch higher, with the first ever Regional Anti-Illicit Trade Conference being held in Nairobi, Kenya on 6th and 7th October 2010. The event was hosted by the East African Business Council (EABC); in partnership with the Government of Kenya and the East African Community Secretariat. According to EABC, […]

EAC-logoAnti-counterfeiting efforts in East Africa went a notch higher, with the first ever Regional Anti-Illicit Trade Conference being held in Nairobi, Kenya on 6th and 7th October 2010. The event was hosted by the East African Business Council (EABC); in partnership with the Government of Kenya and the East African Community Secretariat.

According to EABC, a report published in 2008 by the Organization for Economic Co‐operation and Development (OECD) states that the global cost to companies from counterfeiting is estimated to be as high as $630 billion annually. Within East Africa Community(EAC), it is estimated that counterfeit and substandard products cost the East African governments over US$ 500 million in lost tax revenue annually.

East Africa’s business environment has been inundated with counterfeit and pirated products, making the region extremely unattractive to investors and genuine enterprises. Not only does it eat into the profits of legitimate operators, it also destroys jobs by undermining investment in product development.

The profitability and market share of EAC companies, especially those involved in manufacture of fast moving consumer goods have been negatively affected by counterfeits and pirated products. This has had serious negative impacts on the viability of industries, jobs and tax revenues across the region. Several industries have had to shut down, such as the textile industry and the music industry leading to loss of jobs. Cheap and sub‐standard products supplied through foreign and local traders and manufacturers are illegally replicating well‐known brand names and designs on their packages and labels. Imitation products are common in a variety of product areas.

East Africa does not have a regional Anti-counterfeiting law, even though some of the East Africa Community Countries such as Kenya already have legislation in place. There is, however an Anti-counterfeit Policy for East Africa. The regional Anti-counterfeit draft legislation is still being debated by the various regional stakeholders.

Being a high level ministerial conference to attempt to tackle the growing menace of counterfeits and illicit trade, the Nairobi meeting certainly signals a good start by the members of the East African Community.

By David B Opijah in Nairobi, Kenya