Piracy is a threat to Africa’s software companies

July 17, 2016

Increasing awareness among local consumers on the need to buy original software products is expected to help salvage the future of Africa’s software companies and related small businesses. Software companies are not improving in Africa because of the high piracy rate. The local software companies have to compete with their pirated products and the pirated products of global competitors.The threat of piracy has proved real, that is why only less than 5 internationally recognised software companies exist in the region.Although authorities are reported to have raided many pirate operations, it will ultimately be the customers’ choice and awareness of the need to buy original products that will significantly help the creative industry survive.I spoke to a friend of mine working with a South African software firm and told me that people have to know that when they buy an original software product, they will help save not only the software company that produces it, but also small retailers who sell the product and service.Piracy rates in his country reached 86 percent in 2014 to rank the worst offender of software piracy in the continent even ahead of Nigeria.However, that was an improvement from the 90 percent piracy rate in the previous year, according to an annual survey.At least a third of Africa’s software company’s product titles had been pirated and sell for just half the price of the originals. If people bought original products, which are already cheap, software companies would have been able to employ more local, young software developers by now.There was no way young African software creators can grow if they receive nothing for their hard work, because their creations are pirated.

Another software developer working with an international firm in Nairobi Kenya, shared same sentiment when i sought his views and said he hoped people realised the benefits of procuring original software products.”When they buy the original products, they will not only get the full package, but they will change their work attitude, because they will try harder to protect their personal computer data more carefully from virus and damage,” she said. East Africa region’s software industry sees a growing loss in income every year due to piracy. Last year’s losses alone were estimated at US$900 million, a business representative told your blogger.He said the estimated figure in 2014 represents an increase  of about 33 percent on the loss of $100 million suffered a year earlier.“We do not have the exact figures yet, but we estimate that the industry would have suffered a total loss of around $900 million last year in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda combined.“The figure will grow to around $1.200 billion in 2015,” he said without elaboration. The usage rate of pirated products may be declining but it does not alter the fact that the financial loss suffered is getting bigger. “It is easier to track down piracy committed by companies. We can easily investigate whether they have registered their software,” a vendor who sells software in Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar Es Salaam said.Most software that comes with a legitimate license will provide Africa customers with a special four to 24 digits random serial number.Customers will then have to enter those numbers through an online mechanism and then they will receive an activation code, also in a special crypted code, that needs to be entered into the software company’s database.Upon entering the activation code, the software companies’ automatic mechanism will provide an authorisation to the customers, only then will the customers be able to fully utilise the software.Companies and individuals that use pirated software will not have their serial number or activation key listed in the company’s database.However, even with such advanced mechanisms, the battle against piracy is far from over. Pirated software in Africa mostly comes with a “crack” file that can divert the automatic mechanism and gain authorisation to obtain full access. The fight against piracy is a never ending battle. If African companies develop a new technology to prevent piracy, the pirates will always find a new way to crack it. The best thing they can do in my view, is to educate the public to have a bit of respect when it comes to intellectual rights.

Contador Harrison