On June 12, Kenya will commemorate World Anti-Counterfeit Day, an opportunity for countries around the world to recognize the economic benefits of strong intellectual property protection, especially anti-counterfeit enforcement, and the significant global progress made towards ensuring that ideas, creative products, and innovations enjoy their full value. This is also an opportunity to celebrate the successes of Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA), which is working closely with the Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Intellectual Property Institute, and Kenya Copyright Board, among others, to protect Kenyans from dangerous counterfeit products and safeguard intellectual property.
Much work remains to be done, however, and it is time for Kenya to join the world in boldly addressing its deficiencies in intellectual property protection. All of us in Kenya come into contact with potentially harmful counterfeit products on a daily basis. These counterfeits damage the health and welfare of Kenyan consumers, undercut Kenya’s economy, and support criminal activities both in Kenya and on a global scale. As long as counterfeit goods flood the Kenyan market, both domestic and foreign investors will hesitate before opening or expanding their businesses, leading to slower growth and fewer jobs for Kenyans. Innovation is at the heart of modern economic growth, and strong intellectual property protection provides an environment in which innovators can do their work without fear that their ideas will be stolen. Intellectual property protection is as important a component of national economic infrastructure as are roads, telephones, and banks.
Over the last year, the US Embassy has partnered with the ACA on outreach efforts around the country. With ACA and the “Fagia Bandia” (“Sweep Away the Fakes”) campaign, we are raising consumer awareness of the health and safety dangers of counterfeit products and improving anti-counterfeit enforcement. We are doing this because we and the Government of Kenya have a shared goal: a strong Kenyan economy that provides jobs and opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship. Major US companies are supporting this goal by setting up and expanding operations here. But, we could attract more American firms if they knew their brands and investment in intellectual capital would be fully protected in Kenya. Strong intellectual property enforcement must exist before there will be significant technology transfer to Kenya by US businesses in leading-edge industries.
Combating this dark trade is a crucial piece in unlocking this country’s tremendous economic potential. In addition to adequate funding and political support for the ACA’s efforts, real progress against counterfeiting, like many other key issues, will require a serious effort to address endemic corruption, which continues to undermine economic development and good governance from the lowest to the highest echelons of the Kenyan government.
This is a major transition period for Kenya. If ordinary Kenyans and Kenyan leaders put country first, carry out peaceful, free, and fair elections, and take serious steps to address corruption and related criminal activities like counterfeiting and illicit trade, then this country’s potential is virtually limitless.
We are ready to be a partner, but Kenya needs to take the lead. Let’s work together this coming year to build a peaceful and prosperous Kenya.