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Share genuine gifts this holiday season

Dr. Njoroge is the Executive Director of the Anti-Counterfeit Authority

The custom of exchanging gifts has long been a focal point of our festivities during the holiday season, which is associated with the joy of giving and receiving. This age-old tradition dates back to the earliest stages of human civilization, when individuals traded unusual mementos—like oddly shaped rocks or animal teeth—to strengthen relationships and show gratitude.

But as time has gone on, the gift-giving scene has changed, growing into a prosperous sector driven by materialism. Presents are no longer just commodities; they are now goods, commercial and industrial, decorated with themes and stories attached.

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Now, in the age of branding and intellectual property, gifts are branded with protected trademarks, signifying their superiority, class, taste, and worth. Designer clothing, jewellery, cosmetics, home décor, food and drink items, watches, toys, and even lavish holidays marked by ostentatious consumption are all examples of branded festive products.

However, beyond the surface of joyous celebration, there is a lurking danger: the ominous cloud of counterfeiting. Scammers take advantage of the legal system to trick gullible customers into purchasing counterfeit goods that are not only worthless but also dangerous for their health and safety.

Because counterfeiting is so widespread across industries, many different types of problems are associated with it, including financial losses for firms, decreased tax revenues for governments, health risks for consumers, and environmental threats from poor waste disposal and subpar production techniques.

Financially speaking, as fake goods permeate the market, companies struggle with missed opportunities and shrinking market share. Genuine producers must contend with rivalry from both the hidden world of counterfeiters and their natural counterparts.

The global scale of counterfeit trade is staggering, with estimates suggesting its value surpassing $1 trillion in 2013 and projected to approach $3 trillion by 2022. In Kenya, the menace of counterfeit trade was valued at between Ksh 80 billion and Ksh 100 billion annually in 2017 and 2018.

This escalating problem has prompted policymakers, governments, businesses, and consumers to implement measures to combat the menace. In Kenya, the government has enacted laws and regulatory measures to address both the supply and demand sides of counterfeiting through enforcement and consumer education.

However, combating counterfeiting is no easy task. While trademark owners introduce authentication mechanisms and brand security functions, the problem persists. Effectively addressing counterfeiting requires a comprehensive, multi-layered strategy that engages the government, manufacturers, and the business community. Constructive partnerships are essential, as no single stakeholder can tackle the problem alone.

The Anti-Counterfeit Authority is steadfast in its commitment to bolster its mandate by collaborating with consumer organizations and the private sector. Together, they aim to educate consumers and initiate behavioural change initiatives, emphasizing the dangers of purchasing counterfeit products.

Though buying or consuming counterfeit products is not a crime in Kenya, the ramifications are significant. Counterfeit gifts offer no value for money, compromising on quality and, more critically, endangering the health and safety of consumers. Consumers, in turn, bear a responsibility to report suspicious cases of counterfeiting and identify suspected players in the supply chain, contributing to efforts to deter illegal activities.

As we embark on this festive season, a word of wisdom prevails: scrutinize every detail when making purchases. Keep an eye out for questionable packaging, labelling, and suspiciously cheap costs. Check expiration dates to see if the packaging can be reused. Examine the packaging for any irregularities, damaged or missing safety and warranty seals, overfills or underfills, and other issues.

It’s important to understand that this custom is reciprocal in order to maintain the spirit of fostering relationships through gift-giving. Gift-giving, according to modern sociologist Dimitri Mortelmans, “creates a debt-balance.” Presents must be returned in order to create a generous cycle and avoid bad feelings. Presenting a fake gift is the worst mistake you can do since it may quickly sabotage connections with others and upset the delicate “debt” relationship.

Dr. Njoroge is the Executive Director of the Anti-Counterfeit Authority.

Robi Mbugua Njoroge
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