The volume and value of counterfeit and substandard goods impounded by Police on the local market have risen over the past year. Fake and illicit pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and alcoholic drinks worth Rwf140 million were confiscated during a recent operation by Rwanda National Police. This is a huge increase in value compared to counterfeits seized during a similar operation in 2015, when only Rwf14.9 million worth of fake goods were impounded.
The standards watchdog has been faulted for not doing enough in the battle against unscrupulous traders, who have turned Rwanda into a dumping ground for fake goods. This is a cause for concern given the fact that pre-shipment inspection of Rwanda-bound products has been suspended. The growth in value and volumes of fake and substandard goods erodes gains of the Made-in-Rwanda drive as it affects consumption of locally-made products.
Counterfeits and substandard goods are cheap as they are mostly smuggled into the country without paying taxes. This creates unfair competition in the market as law abiding and genuine traders, and manufacturers make losses and hence stifling industrial growth. Though the challenge is global, it is high time policy-makers revised and made the law on fake goods more punitive. Though one is liable to pay a fine, ranging from Rwf20 million to Rwf100 million, or serve a jail term or both as par article 342 of the Penal Code Act, this has not deterred counterfeiters.
There is need for a law that makes counterfeiting or dealing in fake and substandard goods very expensive and risky business. Besides sabotaging government programmes and compromising public health, fake goods affect revenue collection targets and hinder growth of local industries, among others.
However, citizen vigilance is also required to help in detection and reporting of anyone suspected to be dealing in or making fake and substandard products locally.