The challenge posed by counterfeit goods sold on the continent is a huge one, making it something that brands cannot tackle half-heartedly.
According to Issue 3 2016 of ‘Strategic Marketing Africa’, the journal of the African Marketing Confederation (AMC), experts agree that while counterfeiting is a global scourge, it is at its worst in Africa.
“The list of counterfeit goods is almost endless,” Steven Yates, a Partner at law firm Adams & Adams, tells the magazine. “Items you would expect to find – such as mobile phones, DVDs, food, beverages and clothing – are there. But we have also come across the likes of counterfeit razor blades, super-glues, batteries, golf balls, diapers (nappies) and hair extensions.”
Ailsa Wingfield, Executive Director for Marketing and Communication in Africa at research company Nielsen, concurs. “In a country such as Nigeria you will find genuine brands of literally any product side-by-side with their imitations. Many counterfeit products are very hard to tell apart from the real thing and, in certain instances, can only be identified by a laboratory test conducted by the brand owner.”
Counterfeit goods are also a concern in North Africa, says Mohamed Eldib a Senior Associate at one of Egypt’s oldest law firms, Eldib & Co. Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) are the key target of counterfeiters in Egypt, but also on the list are clothing, electronic goods, mobile phones, TVs and refrigerators.
At times, counterfeiting can be dangerous. Eldib provides an Egyptian example in which counterfeiters collected empty Nestlé water bottles from refuse dumps in Cairo, refilled them with water not fit for human consumption and sealed them again with replicas of Nestlé caps.
Arguably the most insidious form of counterfeiting involves pharmaceuticals, which are available in abundance in fake form. According to an estimate by the World Health Organisation (WHO) fakes account for up to 50% of pharmaceutical sales in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to only around 10% worldwide.
But some progress is being made in protecting legitimate brands. Paul Ramaru, an attorney at law firm Spoor & Fisher, says Kenya is among those making big strides, spearheaded by the Anti-Counterfeit Agency established under the 2008 Anti-Counterfeit Act. According to a study by the International Chamber of Commerce and Anti-Counterfeit Agency, counterfeit goods worth US$835-million were sold in Kenya in 2013.
Edlib believes South Africa is by far the most advanced in combatting counterfeiting in Africa, followed by Egypt and Morocco.
Other topics covered in the latest issue of the magazine include the growing potential of consumer markets in Africa’s secondary towns and cities, Uber’s disruption strategy on the continent, and the importance of advertising ethics in emerging markets.
‘Strategic Marketing Africa’ is published four times a year and distributed through AMC member organisations in Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Indian Ocean Islands. It is also available in selected airline lounges and is mailed to a selected list of marketing industry professionals.