Affordable, quality goods hold the key to war on counterfeits


An assortment of counterfeit goods before they were destroyed at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital’s incinerator in Eldoret Town. FILE PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Counterfeiting remains a serious challenge for local and multinationals as it has continued to harm consumers and overall trade.

Besides undercutting the market, it has the knock-on effect of hurting national economies and growth.

What is crucial is that global counterfeit goods are now worth over five percent of the world trade. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, counterfeits cost the global economy $ 51.7 billion a year.

And as per the Kenya Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA), 78 percent of consumers in Kenya buy counterfeit goods because they are cheaper compared to original brands.

The proliferation of counterfeits has equally shortchanged economic development hence worsening environmental pollution now threatened by greenhouse gas emissions.

Fast-moving goods including personal household items, packaged foods, and alcoholic beverages constitute a vast market where counterfeit trade thrives.

Kenya in particular has been negatively impacted by trade in counterfeits.

Intellectual property theft has in the recent past also stifled innovation and deterred honest, local entrepreneurs from investing in product and market development, especially in knowledge-based industries.

Some of the most affected victims of intellectual property theft include small local entrepreneurs who work tirelessly to make a living for themselves and their dependents.

Unfortunately, they lack both resources and know-how to defend themselves.

Undoubtedly, the ultimate victims of unfair competition through counterfeit trade are consumers. Poor-quality goods are sometimes sold at exorbitant prices besides exposing users to health and safety risks.

Governments are also losing revenue due to unpaid taxes and consequently incur large costs in enforcing intellectual property rights.

The trade is also stealing local jobs that can be created through localisation. In a nutshell, the menace is simply destabilising the whole society.

The menace can be attributed to several factors that include advances in technology, increased international trade, emerging markets, lack of consumer education, customs and border protection.

There is, therefore, a need for weakening consumers’ willingness to buy counterfeit products by promoting local production and manufacturing; and one that is affordable.

E-commerce and social media platforms can, and should also, prioritise and establish ways to protect consumers from the promotion and sale of counterfeits.

Luckily, policymakers have an opportunity to make real and impactful changes to protect consumers and brands.

Manufacturers and trademark owners across the region have a crucial role to play in containing this scourge. This could be through public awareness, the use of technology such as barcoding to curtail counterfeiters, securing supply chains through anti-counterfeit technologies or dedicated consumer hotlines through which reports can be made.

Companies can also report instances of counterfeiting for quick action, support investigations and enhance filed surveillance through dedicated sales teams.

We all have a role to play in sustaining local economies and I call on all Africans to support home-grown brands and products.

The writer is the managing director of Unilever Kenya.