Ghana is yet to take advantage of Geographical Indication (GI), a component of intellectual property, despite the growing market for it, Grace Ama Issahaque, Chief State Attorney of the Register-General Department has said
A geographical indication is a sign that identifies a product as originating from a particular location which gives that product a special quality or reputation or other characteristic and is used to protect goods and services produced in a particular location. Globally, the market for GI is valued at about 50 billion euros.
Speaking to the B&FT in Accra on the sidelines of a Swiss-Ghana Intellectual Property project dubbed: “National stakeholder workshop on the potential of Geographical Indications in Ghana,” Mrs Issahaque said it was important the country put in place all the necessary laws to cushion local producers against piracy and counterfeiting.
“GI is used to protect products that come from a particular region or district which has a certain quality or niche and is due to either climate change reasons, or soil conditions or the way the product is manufactured or produced,” she said.
Mrs Issahaque added that: “So when you take the smock for instance, it is unique to Northern Ghana and the weave is different from Kente. Even though they are both woven stuff, the smock is different from the Kente and these are some of the things that we need to protect and we need to use the regions as a leverage to not only sell those products, but also protect them. It is for identification purposes so that consumers will know that this is the Agotime or the Bolga Smock.”
Although Ghana enacted the Geographical Indications Law in 2003, Mrs Issahaque bemoaned the lack of a Legislative Instrument (LI) to back same. “Over the years, we have had the law in place, but unfortunately, we do not have the Legislative Instrument.”
“We need to pass our draft law, review the old law to incorporate flexibility into it, so that the law will not only protect agriculture products, but also look at using Geographical Indications to protect handicraft and to protect certain services from certain localities in the country to enable those users have a leverage over other competitors in the market,” she added.
She further explained, a draft bill, which is currently before the Attorney General, needs to be fast tracked and before subsequently being forwarded to Cabinet and then Parliament.
“We need to have all these laws in place to enable us benefit from the system; from the 50 billion euro market in the world which growing yearly. It will also protect some products that are unique to certain areas and in the country as whole,” she stated.
Geographical Indications are applied to natural and agricultural products such as wood, sugar, fruits, wine, coffee, tea, tobacco, textile, goods and woven goods.
Geographical indication does not only contribute to the reputation of a product but it creates good will among consumers and can assist immensely in export promotion.
Carlos Kingsley Ahenkorah, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, was upbeat the use of technology to increase and better market traditional products to the benefit of rural artisanal communities.
Intellectual property, he said, is more critical now as the country embarks on an industrial transformation drive, which would ultimately lead to the emergence of innovative products that are unique to the various localities of Ghana.
He added that: “There is the need to enforce laws on piracy and counterfeiting if innovators are to derive the maximum benefits from their sweat. These are what will contribute to the sustenance of flagship initiatives such as the ‘one district one factory policy’, among others.”