NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 24 – The counterfeits menace has plagued Kenya for a number of years now. It has not only resulted in the loss of billions of shillings, but also poses a great danger to the health and safety of consumers.
Counterfeiters target fast-moving consumer goods and the coverage is also expanding towards many other sectors.
So serious has counterfeit become, that US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger said it should be mentioned in the same breath as corruption and impunity.
According to the envoy, officials who allow counterfeit products into the Kenyan market are just as bad as those who take part in corruption activities as they occasion an avenue of causing harm to Kenyans.
“Every person who profits from fake products, who permits fakes to enter the country, who turns a blind eye to the law of the land, is participating in a criminal enterprise. He is directly harming the people, destroying Kenyan jobs and stealing from legitimate Kenyan businesses,” he said.
He added: “They should be stopped, and they should be punished by the law.”
There lays the greatest hurdle gripping the country – a new law against counterfeiting is yet to be implemented. The Anti-Counterfeit Bill 2007, introduced in the 9th Parliament, went up only to First Reading on July 26, 2007 before the House was dissolved.
When Parliament is dissolved, all pending business before it has to be introduced afresh.
The Industrialization ministry reintroduced the Bill in 2008, as the Anti-Counterfeit Bill, 2008. It sailed through without much debacle and was signed by President Kibaki in December and published in February this year.
The arising challenge is that it is yet to be implemented by the government, specifically the Ministry of Industrialisation, thus ineffective as a law.
Major players in the manufacturing industry, through Kenya Association of Manufactures have been calling for the speedy implementation of the law, which would see dealers in counterfeit facing either a 15-year jail term or five times the value of the fake goods fine, when it becomes law.
The Anti-Counterfeit Act, 2008, would also see the creation of an Anti-Counterfeit Agency charged with, among other things, combating counterfeit trade and other dealings with counterfeit goods in Kenya.
Its officers will be empowered to enter and inspect any place, premises or vehicle on suspicion that counterfeit goods are found or manufactured there. Inspectors also have powers to seize tools, which may be used in the making of those goods.
The new law also covers intellectual property and medicines, which are among the most counterfeited items and proposes stiff fines and even imprisonment for those caught trading in counterfeits, with prison terms stretching up to 15 years.
It is estimated that affected manufacturers experience losses of up to 30 percent, or an annual revenue loss of Sh40 billion by the government. All locally manufactured and imported goods which would not have the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) marks would be deemed sub-standard.
But there are some measures that can be taken up in the mean time. At the moment, KEBS requires that all locally manufactured and imported goods bear the standardization mark. All goods not bearing the mark will be deemed sub-standard thus not fit for use.