Tanzania: Law Sought for Geographic Identification

Tanzania could benefit as a country if there was legislation and frameworks for the utilisation of Geographic Indication (GI).

TANZANIA could benefit as a country if there was legislation and frameworks for the utilisation of Geographic Indication (GI).

Speaking exclusively to the ‘Daily News on Saturday,’ a PhD student at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Ms Innocensia John, said that apart from boosting tourism, GI can improve the agriculture sector.

A GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities of that origin. “As far as I know there is no existing law in the country that is specific to GI.

However, there are efforts being done by the Business Registrations and Licensing Agency (BRELA) to push for the legislation,” she said.

Presently, GI is mentioned in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), that sets down minimum standards for many forms of intellectual property (IP) regulation, as applied to nationals of other WTO members that Tanzania is a member.

Ms John says that as the country continues developing and with the mushrooming of supermarkets, it is becoming more apparent that customers want to know the authentic source of the products they are buying and that GI is the answer.

“At the moment there are many complaints from customers of being sold rice that traders claim are Kyela or Zanzibar rice but are not.

Agriculture produce typically have qualities that derive from their place of production and are influenced by specific local factors, such as climate and soil.

Whether a sign is recognised as a GI is a matter of national law,” she explained. She cited that GIs may be used for a wide variety of products, whether natural, agro or manufactured and that geographical names and other terms associating a product with a particular place have great commercial importance for the consumer, who often makes choices on the basis of such indications.

Mr Joseph Mollel, a rice wholesaler operating at Sinza Madukani admitted that he sometimes sells other rice to customers asking for rice from Kyela.

He said that he is quite sure that if there were identification marks on packaging could help sellers export different products across the borders, saying that Ethiopian coffee and French wine is sold in many parts of the world because it has the GI advantage.

University of Dar es Salaam Professor of Economics, Humphrey Moshi told this paper that bearing in mind that Tanzania has unique products like Kyela rice, Kilimanjaro coffee and Tanzanite, law makers need to speed the process for legislation.

Prof Moshi said that while this is in process, the business community need to act quickly because it is quite obvious that opportunities are many.

“While the gears for the provision of a law that will allow exportation, local hospitality community needs to be aggressive in having unique Tanzanian dishes on their menus like ‘mtori’ and ‘ugali’ in five star hotels,” he proposed.

According to the PACT EAC Project website, for a GI to be eligible for registration in a third country under the TRIPS Agreement, it first has to be registered in the country of origin.

Currently, only Burundi, Rwanda and Zanzibar have legislative frameworks for the registration and protection of GIs. In Kenya a GI Bill was prepared in 2007, but has not come into force yet.

However, in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda GI protection can be obtained through certification or collective trademarks.

Nevertheless, even though all countries have a fair legal basis for the protection of GIs, only three EAC country products have been registered so far (Kenyan tea and coffee is registered in Kenya through the law on certification marks, Rwanda coffee is registered as an individual mark).