Photograph — Kemi Adetiba - Youtube

“Until big [indigenous] brands become exportable when people think about Nigeria, they will only think about fraud and terrorism.” – Tara Fela-Durotoye

In an effort to raise awareness on the issue of piracy, counterfeiting, and intellectual property theft in Nigeria, Tara Fela-Durotoye, creator and CEO of foremost indigenous makeup brand, House of Tara, has launched a campaign tagged ‘United We Stand’. The campaign which was officially launched last Friday at the Filmhouse Cinema, Lekki, was in conjunction with other stakeholders in the beauty, pharmaceutical, music and entertainment industry.

The idea for the campaign started as a personal one with the #IStandWithTara campaign after the makeup mogul received a call informing her that the counterfeit of her products was being sold in China. However, when Oke Maduewesi, the founder of Zaron Cosmetics asked that they join forces to tackle the menace, she thought it a wise idea.

“I got a call from, the founder of Zaron Cosmetics, Oke Maduewesi. She said, “Tara this is what I’m facing and I know you’re facing the same thing as well. I think we should work together to address this issue because if we address it individually we may not make as much impact,” Tara narrated at the launch. “The minute she said that I understood and agreed.”

Piracy, counterfeiting, and intellectual property theft in Nigeria has ripped producers, manufacturers, and creatives off the dividends of their work. All of these have also impacted the country’s economic and financial development negatively. “Until big brands become exportable, when people think about Nigeria, they will only think about fraud and terrorism,” Tara said. “So as brand owners, we can’t sit still anymore; we have to think about it, talk about it, and act on it.”

In truth, if the issue of counterfeiting and piracy is effectively dealt with, it would produce a positive ripple effect of improving the country’s image internationally, develop investor confidence, and consequently increase the influx of businesses to the country.

Tara also addressed consumers, highlighting the role that they play in promoting counterfeiting, and their power as influencers to shape culture and change the value system. “Brand owners need to teach influencers to change their values and understand the long term implications of [their] patronage of counterfeit products. It is not just about the brands, it concerns and touches everyone; if there are counterfeits, how do we build sustainable brands and businesses?”

 “We need to realise that the only reason there’s a supply is because there’s a demand.” – Tara

The launch proceeded with panel discussions on the health, social, economic and creative impact of piracy and counterfeiting. With panel members that cut across the board; lawyer, Obafemi Agaba, medical practitioner and dermatologist, Vivian Oputa, and Babatunde Adenaike, product manager, Flour mills Nigeria plc. Other panel members included Obi Asika, Okechukwu Ofili of Okada books, and Oke Maduewesi.

An impassioned Agaba addressed some major problems in the fight against piracy and counterfeiting – the absence of, and enforcement of existing laws. “Although we have a law that attacks piracy, we do not have a law that directly addresses counterfeiting. Without a law how do we move forward?” he asked. “We have been trying to change our trademarks law for the past 20 years, nothing has happened. There’s a new copyright bill that has been drafted but it’s sitting in the legal drafting department of the ministry of justice and can sit there for the next 10 years,” Agaba lamented, adding that stakeholders need to spur the government into creating laws by means of protest.

For Maduewesi whose indigenous makeup brand, Zaron Cosmetics, is currently feeling the strains of counterfeiting, stakeholders; particularly the government, must do all they can to stop the “evil” of piracy and counterfeiting. “I see counterfeiters as evil because their objectives are just to kill businesses. They wait for you to start a business, grow and nurture it till it becomes a big brand, and that’s when they come in,” she explained. Maduewesi explained that she reached out to Tara when she found out that 50 percent of her market share was counterfeited products. “I freaked out at the possibility of losing everything I have ever worked for,” she said.

“Counterfeiting kills people. It kills businesses. And it kills the economy. Because we can’t grow as a country if our businesses don’t grow.” – Oke Maduewesi

The meeting ended with a keynote address delivered by Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, the Hon. Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment. Considering the country’s current economic challenges, this union against the issues of piracy, counterfeiting, and intellectual property theft appears timely. The government must join these stakeholders to create an environment where indigenous businesses, creativity, and innovation thrives.

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