Arusha — Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises within the East African Community have been advised to patent their products and innovations to prevent theft of the same by unscrupulous persons.
A statement issued by the EAC yesterday quoted Prof Margaret Kamar, who is the senator for Uasin Gishu in Kenya as saying that it was only through patenting that East African products will not be misused and abused. She was speaking at the Eldoret Sports Club grounds in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, when she presided over the official closing ceremony of the 19th EAC Annual Jua Kali/Nguvu Kazi Exhibition.
The exhibition opened its doors on December 2, 2018 and drew more than 1,500 exhibitors from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. Prof Kamar gave the example of the Kiondo basket, which was a Kenyan innovation that had been patented in Japan, adding that any Kenyan who wanted to produce the same had to ask for permission from the patent owners.
Prof Kamar called for the elimination of middlemen so that African products could directly access markets in Europe and the USA, adding that EAC governments should also promote African apparel and textiles by making it mandatory for employees to wear the same for at least three days of the week.
"Our future in EAC is to promote our own goods. The balance of trade with the outside world is still very huge and we need to bridge that gap."
The deputy director of trade in the Kenyan ministry of trade, industrialisation and cooperatives, Ms Gladys Kinyua, called on EAC countries to establish One Stop Shops for MSMEs in their capital cities to facilitate movement of products within the region.
Ms Kinyua, who represented the principal secretary in the ministry, Dr Chris Kiptoo, further urged the EAC Secretariat to create a website where MSMEs in the region could market their products to the world freely.
Speaking at the event, Uasin Gishu County's Trade Committee executive Emily Kogos urged EAC governments to support MSMEs saying that they were the foundation for industrialisation in East Africa.
The director of Trade in the EAC Secretariat, Al Hajj Rashid Kibowa, described the 19th Exhibition as the best, adding that innovators had sold their products, struck deals and built networks with some procuring orders for delivery.
"We take MSMEs seriously because they will be the starting point for investment and industrialisation in the region," said Al Hajj Kibowa.