The parliamentary committee on trade has stepped up efforts in fast-tracking the anti-counterfeit bill, which seeks to prohibit trade in counterfeit goods that infringe upon protected intellectual property rights.
Recently, members of the trade committee of parliament spent at least two days at the Esella country hotel in Najjera, brainstorming the bill, before it is table for debate in March.
The bill was withdrawn from parliament in 2013 due to disagreements with stakeholders on the nature of its enforcement, a role which has since been passed on to police, according to trade minister Amelia Kyambaddde.
“Counterfeit and sub-standard products in the Ugandan market are largely imported and they come into the country at low cost than the locally made goods. This is threatening the growth of industry and trade and as government; we are working round the clock to retable the anti-counterfeit bill by the end of March,” she said.
Kyambaddde said various government studies have shown that imported counterfeit products face a number of quality and standard related challenges that have greatly affected the business environment in Uganda.
The products, according to Kyambaddde, mostly come from Asian countries, such as China, India, Dubai, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan, and African countries like Egypt and Nigeria.
“They include alcoholic beverages, shoe polish, toothpastes, toothbrushes, soaps and detergents, pens, books, toys, electrical and electronic items building materials, cosmetics, medicines, clothing, construction materials, and vehicle spare parts among others and they are threatening the survival of several manufacturing companies,” she noted.
However, a section of committee members expressed concern over what they called unfair regulation that is likely to negatively affect ordinary people.
“The best thing we can do is to strengthen our copyright laws, which deal expressly with domestic intellectual protection. Some of these laws we are coming up with are only meant to empower foreign multinationals against our people and make their life hard,” said Nabila Naggayi, the woman MP for Kampala district.
Nabila argued that: “Our people are still poor to afford those imported original items and if we pass the law, we shall have made life hard for the wanainchi.”
On Monday, state minister for trade, Micheal Werikhe, said government will work with civil society in creating awareness, monitoring the market, and naming and shamming all dealers in counterfeit goods.
This, according to state minister for trade, Micheal Werikhe, is because government is determined to fight importation, manufacture and distribution of counterfeits.
“Although Uganda has been ranked among the most entrepreneurial countries in the world, the proliferation of cheap, substandard and counterfeited products on the market threatens enterprise survival and growth, and as government, we shall work with civil society to protect both consumers and entrepreneurs,” Werikhe said on the sidelines of the launch of the Anti-Counterfeit Network, at Protea hotel in Kampala.
He noted that the country loses more than $1.4b (sh 5.012trillion) in annual revenue to counterfeits, which is approximately 38.85% of the Uganda Revenue Authority’s current target of sh12.9trillion.
The CAN director of legal and corporate affairs Fred Muwema said close to Shs14b is lost annually through counterfeit agro-chemicals, which must be fought off the market.
Data from the Uganda National Agro-input Dealers Association, (UNADA) Unada indicates that counterfeits in the agro-chemicals business account for 15-30% of all counterfeits and the trend is increasing
The fake and expired drugs and chemicals are neatly placed on the shelves, from where unsuspecting farmers get them only to cause more harm to the health of users, crops and animals.