Fake-fighting Sproxil expands into Mali

Social enterprise and brand protection tech firm Sproxil has opened an office in the African country of Mali in a bid to help fight counterfeits.

The firm is looking at exploring a cohesive approach to stamp out counterfeiting and, as part of the launch, has already partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Department of Commerce and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

The project, which is specifically focusing on counterfeits in the pharmaceutical and agricultural sector in Mali, is one of the results of an initiative led by the Commercial Law Development Program at the US Department of Commerce to prevent counterfeiting on a global scale.

"The only person who wins when fake and substandard goods are passed off as original items is the criminal," said Chinedum Chijioke, managing director, Sproxil, Africa. "We are excited to extend our mandate of consumer protection to Mali. Our solution will empower consumers to confirm the authenticity of their purchase and provide brand owners the opportunity to take hold of their businesses."

Estimates suggest that more than 40 per cent of pesticides and fertilisers in West and East Africa are fake. Meanwhile, counterfeit seeds cause losses of more than 90 billion West African CFA Francs ($156m) per year and fake fertilisers more than 180 billion West African CFA Francs ($312m) annually.

Charles Davis, acting USAID/Mail economic growth office director, said: "counterfeiting is a major deterrent to the uptake of improved agricultural inputs, and we believe in the potential of this partnership solution to mitigate this danger."

Sproxil uses mobile technology and a proprietary fraud detection platform to launch secure, data-driven consumer engagement programmes, which are deployed by brands to ensure integrity of the supply chain while also building brand awareness.

In Mali, consumers will be able to use a mobile phone to verify the authenticity of their goods by sending the unique codes on products to Sproxil's designated verification system.

The solution, which has been used by more than 70 drug companies, involves scratch-panel stickers applied to products. A code is revealed when consumers scratch the panel, which they then text to Sproxil for confirmation of product authenticity. Barcodes can also be scanned.

The firm first launched the system in 2010, slowly rolling it out globally, and in Africa alone it operates in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania, as well as Mali.

Sproxil has fielded, across the world, more than 50 million direct consumer interactions for brands using the system.

Sproxil, which also has teams based in Asia and America, and has executed projects across five continents, is looking to raise awareness in Mali on the importance of preventing counterfeit and illegal agricultural and pharmaceutical products specifically, although its service can be used across any sector. In other countries, the system has also been used on automotive products, personal care products and electrical goods.

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