Because Uganda is largely an importation economy, the problem of counterfeit goods continues to grow every day and has become a normality and acceptable to most Ugandans which has made the fight against them a hard one.
Anti-Counterfeit network Africa (ACN) has asked government and the media to join the fight against counterfeits in a more intensified manner so that Ugandans are saved and protected from the dangers that come with counterfeits.
Fred Muwame, the legal officer at ACN said that because there are no strict rules on sell and importation of fake goods, the perpetuators of the vice continue to take it as a simple matter hence putting lives, the health and the economy of Uganda at risk.
Muwame urged that dealers in counterfeit goods should be treated as criminals just like terrorists and murderers because the effects are the same.
“Counterfeit goods have caused deaths of more than 700,000 in the 2011 according to World Health Report. This number is higher than the 38000 people that were killed by terrorists in 2015. The fact that a person decided to sell fake goods when knows that they will affect and kill thousands of people just because they want financial gains makes that person a real terrorist and a real murderer. Counterfeiters whose products/services cause wide spread injury/death must face graver offense e.g. Terrorism, murder,” Muwame said.
Counterfeits continue to thrive in Uganda there is demand for them by Ugandans who assume them to be cheap, and because they have been normalized and acceptable in society as an alternative for the original goods that are assumed to be expensive.
“The media has also not been helping as they do not report on such cases where fake goods have caused deaths or health hazards mainly because they want money from advertising. There is need for government to balance between revenue collection, profits and the health of the general public,” Muwame said.
According to CAN, if there is no immediate intervention by 2023, the number of counterfeit goods on the Ugandan market will be 30% higher than that of original goods on the Uganda market. Currently the value of the counterfeit goods exceeds Shs.900Bn.
“Furthermore counterfeit goods present a threat to legitimate businesses that would be beneficial to the economy. They scare aware direct investment because of the unfavorable competition.”
Muwame also advised government not to ban and blacklist all counterfeit goods from the Public Procurement and Disposal Act.
“There are goods that have been banned on the international market but are still being sold on the Ugandan market. Goods that have been banned from the international market should equally be banned from Ugandan market because those developed countries have the technology to detect harmful goods than Uganda,” Muwame said.
Muwame was speaking during a breakfast media dialogue meeting that was organized by ACN to interact with major stakeholders in the fight against counterfeits on how they can work together to fight the problem of counterfeits that is eating up the economy as well as the wealth and health of Ugandans.
As part of the fight against counterfeits, ACN launched a Television program named ‘DON’T BE FAKE” that will be hosted by Andrew kabuura with the aim of educating the public about the dangers of using counterfeit goods.
Hon. Ruhonda Alex, chairman, Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism while speaking at the same function said that the committee has also decided to increase funds for Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to increase their manpower so that they are able to fight counterfeit goods on the market.
“We are planning to give UNBS Shs600 billion in the next financial year to get hire more skilled manpower to fight against fake goods and we are convinced that the Ministry of Finance will agree with us that this problem of counterfeit is a real one that needs immediate address. Although the bill on counterfeit was withheld from parliament, the committee is preparing to bring it back so that it can be passed,” Ruhonda who was the guest of honor said during the dialogue.
Abel Kagumire, the URA customs officer noted that the body does not have the capacity to detect fake goods and cannot block any goods unless there is a formal complaint from the producers of the original good that has been counterfeited.
“We are working with companies like Unliver, Colgate, HPC and others whose goods are normally counterfeited and in such cases we have done a tremendous job and have been able to capture and destroy a number of goods,” Kagumire said.