Recognition of geographical indications helps to build the productive and trade capacities of countries, and strengthens their capacity for trade negotiations. As part of the wider strategy to popularize identification and protection of all the unique products in Northern Uganda under the Geographical Indications (GI) Act, the National Working Group (NWG) led by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau is holding a two-day engagement with multi-sectoral stakeholders from the Acholi Sub-Region.
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. Northern Uganda has been identified to have a wide array of products that can be protected under GIs. These include shea butter, sim sim, peanut butter, fish species, local crafts like ‘adungu’ among others.
Speaking at the workshop, Gilbert Agaba, the Director Intellectual Property who represented the Registrar General, Mercy K. Kainobwisho said the engagements are intended to increase awareness about GIs to enable recognition and promotion of local products whose quality, reputation and characteristics are fundamentally linked to Uganda. “Northern Uganda is naturally endowed with diversity in areas of agriculture, natural resources, culture and traditions which qualify as geographical indications. As leaders at different levels, my appeal to you is to interest yourselves with GIs. If embraced, these GIs can transform our economy through revolutionizing the agricultural sector and increase demand for our products at the regional and international market” he added.
Geographical indications are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuff, wine and alcoholic drinks, handicrafts, and industrial products. Examples of global 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 among others.
Geographical indications are also usually perceived as part of the cultural heritage of their localities and a means to commercialization. Hon. Ben Anyama, a member of the URSB Board who represented the Chairman said GIs will enhance the communities’ abilities to maintain consistence practices to produce quality goods through their collective efforts. ‘Northern Uganda is alive to the potential that GIs hold for economic development of the region. This is the reason why the protection of this particular intellectual property right is embedded in the legal framework of the Government’ Anyama said.
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, Masaka’s passion fruits, Kabale potatoes, Moo yaa (shea butter) from Northern Uganda among others.
The National Working Group comprised of the various stakeholders will hold a series of consultative meetings across the country over the coming months to strategise on the implementation of GIs while strengthening identification, registration, protection and regulation.