Webcast Series: Protecting Your Brand in Africa

Published: February 3, 2021

Marius Schneider

Marius Schneider IPvocate Africa Legal Advisers Ltd. Ebene, Mauritius Anticounterfeiting Committee—Middle East and Africa Subcommittee

Vanessa Ferguson

Vanessa Ferguson Ferguson Attorneys Johannesburg, South Africa Anticounterfeiting Committee—Middle East and Africa Subcommittee

Africa is rising: its growing middle and upper classes represent an untapped, dynamic, fast-moving, and competitive market that businesses cannot ignore. But, as brand owners embrace this emerging market, they must also address widespread counterfeiting in the region.

To assist brand owners, INTA is hosting a series of six live webcasts with on-the-ground experts on the topic of enforcement of intellectual property rights in Africa, running weekly from February 25 through April 1.

Consumer expenditure on the continent is growing at an average compound annual rate of 3.9 percent since 2010, from US $1.4 trillion in 2015 to an expected US $2.5 trillion by 2030, according to recent statistics. Add to this the importance of brand recognition to African buyers, the young and overall growing population, rapid urbanization, and the spread of the Internet and mobile phones, and it is clear that Africa’s emerging economies present exciting opportunities for rights globally. Brand owners are increasingly paying attention to this new African dynamic and have started to invest in the region with products and services, retail stores, and ever-higher marketing budgets.

One issue facing rights holders when moving into Africa is the pervasiveness of cheap counterfeits. Fake medicines, alcohol, and cigarettes, together with easily accessible pirated music, films, and software, are widely available. According to World Health Organization statistics, published in 2019, 42 percent of detected cases of substandard or falsified pharmaceuticals occur in Africa—more than on any other continent.

These are only the tip of the iceberg: counterfeiting extends to industries as diverse as apparel, vehicle spare parts, electronics, household appliances, luxury goods, and fast-moving consumer goods such as food products, toiletries, and beverages.

Fortunately, there are many positive developments as better and more efficient anticounterfeiting legislation and technology measures are being adopted throughout the region. Nevertheless, rights holders must set up a robust anticounterfeiting strategy, comprising trademark registrations, customs recordals (where available), and judicial and criminal enforcement. But, to be successful, an anticounterfeiting strategy must acknowledge the specificities of Africa.

Rights holders must understand the nature of trade in Africa: cross-border trade, for example, is a major feature of the African economic and social landscape. For example, in countries such as Uganda, it reportedly accounts for between 25 and 40 percent of formal intra-regional trade.

These well-established and entrenched trade routes support the trade and distribution of counterfeit goods to neighboring territories and, particularly, with respect to the 16 landlocked countries in Africa. Rights holders must also consider idiosyncrasies of governments in relation to deploying enforcement strategies on the continent. Further, the development of African online marketplaces represents an opportunity for rights holders and infringers alike.

INTA’s six-session webcast series, Enforcement of IP Rights in Africa, will highlight developments in Africa. The presenters include government officials, practitioners, and brand-owner representatives from key jurisdictions.

The series starts with an overview session focusing on the current economic climate, factors contributing to counterfeiting, and the robust anticounterfeiting activities taking place across Africa. The four subsequent episodes focus on these topics in different regions of the continent. In the final session, local and international organizations will report on the initiatives they are taking to fight counterfeiting in Africa.

The series will be presented live during the six weeks and will subsequently be available on demand. Members and non-members can purchase a single session or the entire series.

Register here. Watch this INSIDE INTA video to learn more.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

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