By Kelvin Kamayoyo, Zambian Economist, Scholar & BuyZed Chief Technical Advisor and Strategist
Product Certification and Geographical lndications are key to boosting the competitiveness of Zambian products on the global market thereby growing the local entrepreneurs especially the small and medium scale companies. Apparently, both Product Certification and Geographical lndications are business strategies that helps to build brand loyalty and raise consumer confidence exponentially in favour of such a product on the market. As BuyZed Campaign, we are particularly concerned at the low levels of embracing the culture of product certification and registering for geographical indications by the local firms in Zambia.
Some product certifications often driven by the private sector are carried out in the sphere which is unregulated by law and stand voluntary. A product that is certified entails that it has passed performance tests and quality assurance tests, and meets prescribed qualification. Apparently, the process of voluntary product certification is relatively simple and there is no compelling reason why a company should not get their products enlisted for certification. For instance, International Standardization Organization (ISO) manages ISO 9000 and ISO 22000 which qualifies for product certification and are voluntary.
However, most countries globally demand that those products that attract public health interest undergo involuntary or mandatory certification due to food safety and safeguarding human life. Certification often provides the third party guarantee of quality, safety and reliability of products to the customer. Often times consumers in developed markets, e.g. Europe, United States and Australia tend to be more comfortable purchasing and consuming products that are certified by reputable organisations and its source can be traced. Certainly traceability and food safety ought to be part of certification process.
Geographical lndication and Certification are business strategies capable of reinforcing home-grown entrepreneurship in Africa and Zambia inclusive. For instance, the famous “Mongu Rice” is well positioned to subscribe for geographical indication and be known world wide. Once a product qualifies under a preferred global certification it is easier to even classify such a product with “geographical indication” (GI) as a brand say “Mongu Rice” can be a geographical indication in promoting rice grown and processed in Mongu. Off course in doing so special considerations on the Rules of Origin (RoO) is accorded henceforth.
In simple terms geographical indication refers to the fact that a product should be produced in a certain place and should have certain characteristics that are due to that place of production or story behind. For ease of reference a well known geographical indication globally is “Champagne” which is a wine that comes from the Champagne region of France and informs consumers of this fact by its very name, Champagne. Additionally one could even extend citing examples right here in Africa as to the famous “Four Cousins Wine” which is anchored on the story of the 4 cousins of Van Loveren Family Vineyards in Robertson Valley in the Western Cape, South Africa. These are four guys who combined their friendship and talents to make delicious everyday drinking wine for people like them. At national level, Zambia, we have products that can qualify for geographical indications such as Mongu Rice, Kawambwa Tea, Kapiri Glass, Luangwa or Kariba Fish, Nakonde Rice, Solwezi Beans, Chama Rice, among others which appeal to many people across the country.
Through geographical indication within the context of intellectual property rights and international trade law and trade policy both the product and the area where the product is manufactured get to benefit more in the long-run. The product tend to enjoy increased demand and the area or town where its produced trigger curiosity among the consumers and other people who inturn undertake a preferred journey as tourists to that locality. Undeinably, geographical indication and product certification essentially enjoy a symbiotic relationship therefore Zambian entrepreneurs ought to consider this culture for them to penetrate the international market and also withstand import competition on the domestic market.