Intellectual Property Crimes
Counterfeiting and other intellectual property crimes account for the most financially profitable criminal enterprise surpassing such traditional enterprises as drug trafficking and poaching. This is primarily because the counterfeiters have permeated every sector of business including machinery, medicine, foodstuff, clothing, footwear, electronics, software products, alcoholic beverages, currencies, publications and the entertainment industry among other products. Counterfeit and smuggled goods negatively affect the economies of countries through denial of revenue, stifling growth of local industries and legitimate businesses and affect the health and safety of consumers.
There are two aspects of this trade in the region;
- Trafficking in counterfeit products produced abroad and distributed locally
- Local production and distribution of counterfeit and substandard goods
Owing to low income per capita in the region, coupled with fairly good transport infrastructure, trade liberalization, counterfeits which are priced lower than genuine products are finding their way into each and every corner of the region. INTERPOL and EAPCCO operations such as FAGIA OPSON and PANGEA carried out in the region have exposed the extent of this scourge in Eastern Africa.
The most affected are fast moving products such as substandard and falsified medicines, foodstuffs, alcoholic & non-alcoholic drinks; cooking oils, electronics, pharmaceuticals and electronics. On foodstuffs, beverages and medicines, expired and substandard products are also on sale.
The Chiefs of Police have roundly condemned this trend and enacted measures to combat counterfeiting including enhanced information sharing and authorizing frequent operations targeting these illicit products. In an effort to curtail the circulation of illicit goods, the private sector has played a key role by providing law enforcement their unequivocal support through sharing of intelligence, training and supporting targeted operations against counterfeiters.
Going forward, the region in will have to work more closely with INTERPOL to enhance regional operations, and incorporate more partners such as the World Customs Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO).
The fight against counterfeits can however never be won without enlisting public support. Creating awareness among citizens is key in this war.