Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fight Against Fake Products on Track

The Guardian Editorial; 26th.Aug.2009

FINNALY East African Community (EAC) countries have unanimously decided fight the growing menace of counterfeit products as one regional entity. We join the Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society (TCAS) in hailing the move as we believe it will help bring the dirty business to a halt.

It is globally acknowledged that while a free and open marketplace is fundamental to improve competitiveness, increasing investment, generating jobs and improving the economies of any region illicit trade, especially counterfeit had been undermining each of these goals in the East
African region and has been a growing menace in the region market.

Counterfeit and other form of illicit trade are mainly facilitated weak border controls (especially contributing to smuggling); inadequate sanctions (which are sufficient as deterrent because the balance of risk and reward is not weighted more against the offenders); and corruption, which weakens enforcement of existing regulations and undermines any controls put in place.

Another facilitators is consumer behavior as in many markets, consumers are aware (from appearance, price and place of sale) that they are purchasing smuggled or counterfeit goods, but are happy to buy, because of the lower price.

In Tanzania alone, authoritative research shows that counterfeit constitute about 38 per cent of all the imported products. This grossly affects not only the consumer but also the government.
The move by the EAC countries to jointly criminalize counterfeits deserves support because studies have shown that the business of importing fake products is complicated by the fact that it is supported and perpetrated by a sophisticated network of people who know how to evade law enforcement organs.

We are informed that the EAC is in the final stages of drafting the crucial legislation which is expected to be tabled at the November East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) session before being passed into law and ratified by the parliaments of the respective five EAC member states.

While we look forward to the swift passage of the all important legislation, we would like to call on member states to prepare and implement a mass sensitization campaign that would enable people of the region to actively participate in fighting against the menace. Without people’s support, the fight against this growing problem is bound to hit a hard rock, the good intentions of the legislation notwithstanding.

Partner states should also put in place measures to combat illicit trade including reducing the economic incentives to engage in the trade strengthen controls at the border points; enforce existing national and regional laws; introduce punitive measures against the culprits, including seizing and destroying illicit goods and machinery.

It is also crucial that the regional seek the active support of countries which are notorious for being major sources of counterfeit imports.

Here we have in mind countries like the People Republic of China, widely known for being a friend and supporter of third world countries, including Tanzania in their development aspirations. If China is to be seen as a true friend in the real sense, it should crusade its businesspersons who are the main source of counterfeit. Together we can fight this menace and win.

Consumers’ society hails EAC for criminalizing counterfeit imports

The Guardian; Tuesday; 25th.Aug.2009
By Correspondent; Felix Andrew

Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society (TCAS) has hailed the recent decision by the East African Community to criminalizing the importation of counterfeits saying the move would bring the dirt business to a halt.

Speaking in Dar es Salaam at the weekend, the society’s executive director, Bernard Kihiyo, said the decision taken by EAC would help to reduce the ever increasing importation of fake products to the region.

He said counterfeit goods would stop flowing into any of the member states only after the EAC governments destroyed the well-knit syndicate behind the importation, distribution and the sale of sub-standard goods. Authoritative research shows that counterfeit constitutes about 38 percent of all products imported into the country, adding that fake products adversely affect both consumers and the government.

He urged the EAC to take stem measures against culprits importing counterfeits into the region. According to Kihiyo, controlling the importation of counterfeit goods was not an easy task ‘’because most importers are Tanzanians who deliberately order cheap products from outside the country so as to reap a windfall upon selling them.

He warned that the business of importing fake products was further complicated by the fact that it was supported and perpetrated by a sophisticated network of people who know how to evade law-enforcement organs’’.

‘’It is a strong network that only the combined force of all relevant government organs can beat’’ he noted, adding that some members of Tanzania business community had made it a culture of import counterfeits to their country.

Kihiyo said domestic markets were flooded with low quality products including edible oil and spare parts. Apart from foodstuffs, there are several imported products that are below standards, thereby threatening the lives and health of consumers, he said.

Speaking to members of the press last week, the EAC General Secretary Ambassador Juma Mwapachu said the community is in the final stage of enacting a legislation to criminalize importation of counterfeit goods in all the five partner states.
The legislation is expected to be ready before November’s East African legislative assembly (EALA) whereby it will be discussed before being passed into law and ratified by respective national parliaments.

He said the counterfeit are targeting East African markets where law enforcement on imports is not strict and resources to do so are scarce. The counterfeit legislation will help harmonize laws in the EAC partner states and impose much stricter penalties including confiscation of the goods and imprisonment for their importers. The legislation is being drafted with the assistance of Investment Climate for Africa (ICA).

He warned that if unchecked, counterfeit will negatively impact on the region’s economy and concerted efforts for economic growth will roll backwards. He further said that apart from costing government in terms of revenue loss, the counterfeits will kill local and emerging regional industries, which are crucial to the regional economic sustainability competitiveness and job creation.