Why Africa counterfeit market is thriving

May 8, 2017

Africa remains an easy target for the distribution of counterfeit products sold not only through the Internet but also in shops.Apart from urban cities, there are also fake products distribution hubs in rural areas.The distribution of fake products has continued despite raids by the authorities. ‘€œWe have tried our best to curb the distribution of fake products but those sold in shops are hard to detect because they resemble the real thing,’€ anti counterfeit detective working for a multi national company in Africa told your blogger recently. €œIt is believed that these counterfeit products enter the market through freelance salespeople. Based on research in the respective areas, the distribution of fake products in both main cities and rural areas have reached 70 percent.The detective predicted that the amount of fake products in circulation would rise further because a number of retailers lacked the sufficient equipped to detect counterfeits.For example, detective shared how African food producers and exporters are calling on their government to do more to protect them against a rising tide of counterfeiting. In Kenya, fishermen community in Lake Victoria region are facing economic challenges since cheaper Chinese fish started to flood the market.Unscrupulous foreign operators are taking advantage of Africa’s reputation for quality food by counterfeiting labels and packaging to sell their own inferior and potentially unsafe product in local markets. For example, its well know African countries have not yet embraced genetically modified technology in food which make the official home or organic food. However, an increasing number of African producers are being targeted by food counterfeiters in Middle East and Asia, and exporters are bracing for bigger problems in the future.In a jaw dropping revelation, it was clear after our convo that the first thing Africans need to think about is that as soon as their product becomes successful someone will try to copy it or steal their brand. This helps explains why its common to find counterfeit products of Movit products in Uganda that were not specifically manufactured in their factory near Zzana are in Kampala. There were stories sometimes back that Tanzania’s Azam wheat and maize counterfeit was flooding the East African market, how true or false that was, your blogger can’t tell. The bigger picture here is that counterfeiting is a huge industry.

The standard issue that Africans are familiar with is going to Asian countries like Thailand, China and India and buying a fake handbag, suits, cosmetics, shirt and such stuff as well as a life threatening problem exacerbated by food quality and pharmaceutical quality as i shared on this blog last month.There is an enormous amount of counterfeit or sub-standard food being sold, especially throughout Africa. Local producers demand a premium price since their products goes through a rigorous process before hitting the shelves and the rapidly growing African middle class is prepared to pay top dollar for such. Locally manufactured products in Africa are highly prized because provenance of goods is not in question compared to counterfeits coming from Asia specifically China.In one case detective’s handling, counterfeit products were tracked down to a source connected to Chinese company that had an office in Nairobi and Johannesburg in South Africa. The information was passed on to both countries authorities. No action was taken. The detective later learned that some highly influential politicians and security agencies heads were involved in that counterfeit business. From detective point of view all of the evidence that was needed was handed on and did chase up couple times but there had been no further action taken to this date.Detective has now advised the client to pull out of African mainstream market and only supply to trusted clients who can purchase the products online. The product image is very, very important and if my client lose the fact that our product is safe because it’s been counterfeited, that’s going to really affect client’s reputation in Africa.It definitely should have been raised amongst the free trade agreement discussions according to detective who told me how great fall of globalisation would be to manufactures as counterfeiters won’t be able to export to outside their markets without tight restrictions.Products fraudsters are hard to contend because they are getting more sophisticated and closer to copying the original designs.Detective added that there is no silver bullet for counterfeiting. It’s really a matter of putting a business process in place with measures that help protect the brand and the consumer. There’s very little anti-counterfeit technology being put into many African products today but more brands like detective’s client are becoming more proactive in tackling the problem in African markets. In the near future, detective’s client will provide training to distributors of their products and use special devices to detect fake products to prevent counterfeits from being sold in market. The African trade in counterfeit products must be addressed together to prevent developing countries in Africa from becoming a conduit for the illegal products trade.

Contador Harrison