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.