THE flooding of counterfeit products in the African continent continues to be a major threat to industries.
Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) has hosted an Anti-Counterfeiting Africa Conference, to help educate and empower organisations across the continent against the negative effects of counterfeit trade.
As among the leaders in the high tech industry sector, and a company that places a priority on protecting customers and its brand, HP has raised awareness on the impact and consequences of counterfeit trade during its two-day summit in Johannesburg this year.
Sometimes people don't really understand the real concept of counterfeit goods, which is the unauthorised representation of a registered trademark carried on goods identical or similar to those goods for which the trademark is registered.
The sole purpose is to deceive the purchaser into believing that he/she is buying the original product. Reports show that as the global trade in counterfeit goods is growing, Africa is increasingly being targeted as a market for counterfeit merchandise.
A new trend has also emerged that Africa is being used as a transit route for fake goods, which also poses an indirect threat to European and American markets, said Fabrice Campoy, the Printing and Personal Systems Africa Director.
He said African nations are, therefore, becoming increasingly aware of challenges that counterfeit trade represents to their economies and their citizens, and becoming active in the fight against it.
Government officials, lawenforcers and representatives of ministries responsible for Anti-Counterfeiting, gathered at the summit to discuss consumer protection and raise awareness against illegitimate goods.
Here, HP outlined how to fight counterfeiting, and look specifically at how policy makers can toughen applicable laws and enforcement capacity across Africa, continued Mr Campoy.
"The HP Anti-counterfeiting Programme works hard to protect partners and customers, but this is only made possible through close collaboration with law enforcers around the world," he said.
"We therefore truly appreciate the cooperation of African law enforcement in helping to make this event possible, and protect African customers from the inferior standards and potential risks of counterfeit," he added.
Moreover, Mr Campoy said that original HP supplies distinguish themselves by their superior quality and reliability at competitive prices.
Authentic HP LaserJet and HP inkjet print cartridges, unlike counterfeits, benefit from a history of investment and testing to provide superior performance and consistent results.
Counterfeits affect a lot of things from the producers to the consumers that in the end it destroys the business and finally kill the market of the legit industry that its products are being counterfeited, said Mr Jeff Kwasny, Brand Protection Programme Manager for HP's Printing and Personal Systems group.
"False goods impact businesses and global trade through lost revenue, damage to brands and the negative effects on hard-earned reputation and consumer confidence," said Mr Kwasny, adding:
"At the 2014 Anti-Counterfeiting Africa Conference, we have brought together those most affected by counterfeits in the region from policy makers to brands like Unilever and Nike so we can work towards tackling this criminal activity together."
Across Europe, Middle East and Africa region (EMEA), over the last five years (2009 through 2013), HP has conducted around 1,600 investigations, resulting in about 1,300 enforcement actions (raids and seizures by authorities) and around 11 million units of counterfeit products and components seized, thus preventing them from being sold in the EMEA marketplace and beyond, Mr Kwasny said.
Furthermore, the Programme has also overseen around 4,000 unannounced inspections of HP products at the warehouses of HP Channel Partners across EMEA in the past five years (2009 through 2013) to verify that they are not selling counterfeit products to their customers, he added.
Through its Anti-counterfeiting Programme, HP has actively educated its customers and partners to be vigilant against fake printing supplies.
It also cooperates closely with local and global law enforcement authorities to detect and dismantle illegal operations that produce counterfeit HP printing components, Mr Kwasny said.
Although, most of the time it might seem harmless to buy a knock-off item; after all, the originals are out of reach for most who are longing for a real designer label. This is, however, only the visible side of the illicit trade in fake goods.
The increase in counterfeit goods in a market represents a major threat to business and is also a key barrier to trade.
The distribution of cheap and poor quality pirated goods in a market creates an obstruction to the distribution of genuine products.
In a report done by CTI called 'Effects of Counterfeit and Substandard Goods in Tanzania', it estimates that Tanzania could be losing between 15 to 25 per cent of the total domestic revenue due to counterfeit products.
This means if estimated total government domestic revenue was 6.7 trillion/- in 2011/2012 subsequent loss in government revenue due to counterfeit products stood well over 1 trillion/-.
The study reveals that business people dealing with counterfeit products are able to sell more products at less cost thus reaping huge profits compared to those dealing in genuine products.
Businesses dealing with genuine products face stiff competition from counterfeit dealers, notes the CTI report, adding that unemployment caused by large imports of fake goods is big.
This is partly a result of counterfeits denying domestic industries the opportunity to expand production and scaring off investors who want to establish industries in Tanzania.
Although, recently CTI has called for the enactment of a comprehensive law and formation of an agency to spearhead the fight against the manufacture and importation of counterfeit goods, as there are some laws and policies relating to fake goods, they do not address the problem fully.
In one of the stakeholders' meetings that was held in Dar es Salaam recently to discuss laws and regulations relating to counterfeit and sub-standard goods in Tanzania, CTI Chairman Dr Samwel Nyantahe warned that the situation is deteriorating because some factories have been constructed mainly to manufacture fake goods for certain countries, including Tanzania.
"We have agencies, laws, policies and the Fair Competition Commission (FCC), but we are yet to succeed. We want to have a specific law to address the problem," noted Dr Nyantahe. Buying fakes is not innocent.
Crime syndicates thrive on the trade to keep their illicit activities going. With the African market in fake goods expanding, one can expect criminal syndicates strengthening their foothold across the continent. This means that governments will have to invest more in law enforcement.