It is not difficult to sight counterfeit products in Nigeria. They are readily available in mammoth quantities on our streets, major roads, makeshift shops, and even markets. But this manufacturer’s nightmare does not come to play only in Nigeria. It is a global challenge, and so huge is this illicit industry that it is estimated to be about $450 billion.
Soiled reputation, loss of revenues, associated health risks, and tax loss amongst others, are some of the many destructive effects this dark market has on manufacturers, consumers and regulators (the government).
Despite these huge risks, the market continues to thrive mainly because counterfeiting may be a matter of survival, especially for under-developed and developing countries. In Nigeria, where over 70 million people currently live in extreme poverty, it is not surprising that the ridiculously cheap prices at which counterfeited products are sold make it desirable to many consumers who cannot afford to purchase the original product.
Here are some of the most counterfeited products in Nigeria.
Pharmaceutical products, especially drugs, are arguably the most counterfeited product in Nigeria. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said it is the developing world’s largest counterfeit drugs market. The regulatory agency says about 13% – 15% of drugs in the country are fake. In the past three years, it had seized 2 trillion naira ($4.8 billion) worth of counterfeit drugs.
The proliferation of these drugs into the market is propelled by medicine merchants in makeshift drugstores, and online and physical pharmacies, who dispense fake pharmaceutical products without certification to unsuspecting customers. These substandard products are attractive to many Nigerians primarily because of their pocket-friendliness.
But then, they are accompanied by grave health and economic consequences. From kidney failure to cancer and internal bleeding, thousands of people die from fake drug use. On a similar negative note, it threatens profitability for players in the health sector with genuine products, which resultantly stifles investment.
Fashion (Jewellery, shoes)
From shoes to jewellery, the fashion industry is another sector plagued with this problem. Top fashion brands like Nike, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Jordan, and Addidas, which are distinct for their high-end price, have had their luxury products phonied to meet the needs of people who do not have the wherewithal to use the brand. Some of these designer brands have sparse outlets in Nigeria. So when the number of products in circulation does not commensurate with these outlets’ capacity, it becomes evident there is a murky market. We have seen roadside stores, market, and social media retailers become a go-to for these unauthentic products.
For example, during the world cup in 2018, replicas of the Super Eagles jersey were in circulation in markets before the official release date by Nike. So explosive was the sale that a trader told BBC he had successfully sold more than 3,000 pieces before the release date.
While some of these products are easily noticeable to be ingenuine, others have qualities of originality, leading many into thinking they are purchasing an authentic product. It has become popular because people see it as an alternative and reliant source to become part of a fashion culture or trend.
Books, and optical media
Authors, artistes and actors are supposed to get paid whenever anybody picks up a copy of their books or listens to their music. But endemic piracy in Nigeria has robbed these creatives of a significant part of their rightful benefits. The Nigerian Copyrights Commission (NCC) says the country loses N918 trillion ($ 3 billion) annually to the activities of pirates.
It is pervasive to see roadside booksellers have pirated copies of books and as well see pirated optical media in traffic. Technology has also given rise to the digital consumption of content, but this is equally fraught with piracy challenges as people now have access to e-books and several free streaming and download platforms.
From the sales of dirt-cheap gels to deodorants, the cosmetics space in Nigeria is another thriving space for counterfeit products. The beauty and personal care market is worth billions of Dollars globally, and the situation is no different In Nigeria.
Per Statista, in 2023, revenue in the Beauty & Personal Care market was as high as US$7.87bn. This growth trajectory is not expected to wane anytime soon, as the market is expected to grow annually by 16.48% (CAGR 2023-2027).
It is easy to see why there are lots of counterfeit brands out there trying to get a piece of the money. Most of the time, fake cosmetic products are a replica of popular foreign brands imported into the country through porous borders. Well, not all fake cosmetics products in the market are imported. There has been a recent rise in organic skincare makers who are usually not certified to produce.
If you have ever visited a mechanic’s workshop in Nigeria, there are chances you have experienced the use of counterfeit automotive products. The market is thriving as many technicians find it as a means to cut costs. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) estimates that about 75% of auto spare parts in the country are fake.
The majority of cars imported into the country are foreign used, so it is not surprising that they are often up for repair. Counterfeit products have negative effects on vehicles, even when serviced by skilled technicians. Its destructive effects result in road crashes, loss of lives and properties, and healthcare costs amongst others.
Nigeria is among the countries with the highest road accident rates in the world, and the country loses N80 billion annually due to road accidents due to a host of factors likely including substandard auto parts.
In the quest for pleasure, many Nigerians fall victim to fake alcohol. And it is disturbing because, on almost every street corner and bus stop in the country, you find someone selling either sachet or bottled alcoholic beverages.
It is surprising to know that the adulteration of these products is not just limited to dry gins and affordable beverages but also top alcohol brands. Just last December, following a petition from the Moet-Hennessy Group that some unscrupulous persons are faking their brands in the market, no fewer than ten cartons of counterfeit drinks with a market value of over one million naira were recovered.
They often use recycled bottles with the trade mark of the original owners of the alcohol brands, which erases suspicion from consumers’ minds.