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Kenya cracks whip on counterfeits

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 4 – The government has moved to strengthen the Anti Counterfeit Agency as a pointer that it is determined to decisively deal with illicit trade in the country in coming months.

Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey said they have set aside some Sh202 million in this financial year’s budgetary allocations to hire staff and beef up the agency that will be in charge of combating counterfeits.

“The board is in place; we have recruited 15 or so staff members who’ll man the body and we will recruit more. We have also gazetted inspectors who will go round and inspect the goods and they have powers to seize,” he said.

The board was inaugurated in December last year but has not been fully effective, a situation that the Minister blamed on limited funding.

However, he said they would use what they have in the meantime and pledged that the agency, which will be housed at Teleposta Towers, would undertake more activities and be more visible in this financial year.

Counterfeiting costs the country billions of shillings in unpaid taxes and renders many firms uncompetitive, with the latest being Eveready East Africa that has been forced to lay off more staff.

This is the third time in less than five years that the battery manufacturer has been forced to send home its workers as the market continues to be flooded with substandard cells.

But while admitting that Kenya’s porous borders were largely contributing to the illegal trade which in turn negatively affects the industries’ bottom line, Mr Kosgey argued that sacking workers was not the right way to deal with the issue.

“The answer is not to lay off staff. The answer is to fight anti-counterfeits and also to continue making good quality batteries that are competitive,” he advised.

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The proliferation of substandard goods which include pharmaceuticals, alcoholic beverages, computer software and electronics has not only impacted the business environment in Kenya but also the flow of genuine goods and services in the East Africa region.

The East African Community Gross Domestic Product of $73.3billion is also threatened by the counterfeits as is its investment climate.

This prompted the formulation of the East African Community (EAC) Anti Counterfeit Bill which upon implementation is expected to curb this trade which also includes piracy and the violation of Intellectual Property Rights.

In the meantime, the government in partnership with the East African Business Council and the EAC Secretariat have organised a two day conference in Nairobi that will seek to identify and address the gaps that exist in the region’s policy frameworks.

The Regional Anti-illicit Trade Conference on October 6 to 7, that will be officially opened by President Mwai Kibaki, will be attended by private sector participants as well policy makers drawn from key ministries, judiciary, border and customs officials and copyright registrars as well as other international organisations.

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