Customs in East Africa sit together with competent authorities and private sector to strengthen IPR Border Control

06 November 2019

Under the auspices of the WCO/JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) Joint Project, 22 officials from Customs and the national competent authority on IPR, as well as the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat, gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, on 28 October-1 November 2019 to talk about how Customs and the competent authorities can work together to further strengthen their border control on the goods infringing Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in East Africa.  This is a part of the collaborative efforts made by the five Customs Administrations in East Africa, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, under their Trade Facilitation and Border Control Project to further strengthen their border control functions with the support jointly extended by the WCO and JICA.  This sub-regional workshop on IPR border control in East Africa was organized responding to the specific needs identified by the five Customs administrations who participated in the “IPR Benchmarking Study” conducted earlier this year in Thailand and Japan.  The participants to the Benchmarking Study particularly highlighted, among others, the importance of collaboration with the competent authorities as well as with IP right holders based on their own legal and operational framework. 

The five-day sub-regional workshop provided an opportunity for both Customs and national competent authorities to exchange their issues/challenges as well as ideas/view to improve their IPR border control at regional/national level and discuss the way to further strengthen their border control function taking into account their unique legal and operational framework.  The participants also deepened their understanding on the TRIPs agreement, global/regional trend on IPR infringement, good practices on recordation systems and ex-officio control through the sessions facilitated by the experts from the WCO and Japan Customs.  In addition, a one-day roundtable discussion with private sector representatives including the pharmaceutical, pesticide and food industry, agents of the brand owners and local business association, was organized on the second day of the workshop where all participants deepened mutual understanding on, for instance, the legal/operational framework on IPR border control in East Africa and the latest issues/challenges faced by the various IP right holders.  More importantly, it provided an excellent opportunity for participants to talk about how they can work together to effectively tackle the increasing threat of counterfeit products in East Africa.  All participants expressed their appreciation to the WCO and JICA for this outstanding opportunity. 

At the end of the workshop, the participating Customs and competent authorities developed their own national action plan to improve their IPR border control taking into account the lessons learnt from the five-day workshop.  The WCO and JICA will continue to support the concrete actions to be undertaken by the five countries for establishing more effective IPR border control mechanism in East Africa.