Consultations on the Geographical Indications (GI) Act and its implementation which aim at popularizing the protection of Uganda’s unique products is in high gear. Today, the National Working Group led by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) and composed of multi-sectoral stakeholders held a consultative meeting needed for the popularization of GIs.
A geographical indication is a specific intellectual property right that designates a product from a specific region and whose characteristics result in both the natural conditions of its origin and the expertise of local producers. Geographical indications are frequent across the globe, particularly in Uganda where they remain untapped.
Recognition of a geographical indication helps to build the productive and trade capacities of countries, and strengthens their capacity for trade negotiations. In her remarks, Mercy Kainobwisho, the Registrar General of URSB said the consultations are intended to strengthen regulations to help recognize and promote local products whose quality, reputation and characteristics are fundamentally linked to Uganda
“As URSB, we are thrilled to have this opportunity to discuss crucial issues for the Geographical Indications sector and enable us join forces to identify these products, monitor foreign markets, set-up control systems to benefit our country’s unique products. This will enable us to tap the benefits as well as exchange best practices and insights while consolidating our advocacy campaigns beyond protection issues” Kainobwisho said.
Geographical indications are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuff, wine and alcoholic drinks, handicrafts, and industrial products. Examples of products that enjoy protection of geographical indications include Champagne from France, Scotch Whisky from Scotland, Havana Tobacco from Cuba, Darjeeling Tea from India, Penja Pepper from Cameroon, Thai Silk from Thailand, Swiss Watches from Switzerland, Argan Oil from Morocco, Tete Goat Meat from Mozambique. Geographical indications are also usually perceived as part of the cultural heritage of their localities and a means to commercialization.
It is hoped that the implementation of the GIs in Uganda will help showcase the country’s unique products such as the famed Mount Elgon and Rwenzori Coffees, Arua Honey, Ankole’s long-horned cattle, the Sironko Onions, Masaka’s passion fruits, Kabale irish potatoes, Moo yaa (shea butter) from Northern Uganda among others.
The Registrar General was quick to point out that Uganda’s rich natural heritage was an opportunistic edge to benefit from. ‘Geographical Indications reflect the wealth and diversity of products that our agricultural sector has to offer. Our producers will be able to sell products at a higher value to consumers looking for authentic regional products. GIs are a key aspect of our trade agreements. Geographical Indications will protect local value at global level’ Kainobwisho said
The National Working Group comprised of the various stakeholders will hold a series of consultative meetings over the next months to strategise on the implementation of GIs while strengthening regulation.