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Kenya

Validating counterfeits an SMS away

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 6 – New technology that will enable consumers to verify the authenticity of the goods they purchase through their mobile phones will be introduced into the market early next year as an attempt to eradicate counterfeits in the country.

David Svuarer the engineer behind the technology told Capital Business that through the innovation dubbed ‘Shinpi’, consumers will be required to send an SMS with the product’s code to an independent verification center to confirm whether a product is genuine or fake.

“The codes are encoded such that you can see the country of origin, the manufacturer and the product identification. It’s a globally unique code that can be read by the naked eye. The SMS goes to the center which holds all these codes and is able to distinguish one product from the other,” he said of the technology that has been developed by Genaco Verigen.

The solution, he explained, has 23 technical details such as the self corrective codes, anti-attack encoding and encryption that make the system simple, foolproof and effective.

The solution is also cost effective and users of the service will only be charged by their mobile phone service providers for the SMS sent.

This cost to the consumer, he said, was minimal compared to the damage that the consumption and use of counterfeited goods causes. Currently, the government loses Sh90 billion every year due to the menace while manufacturers lose up to a third of their revenues not to mention job losses.

“Calling and messaging rates are coming down in Kenya.  If for example you are going to buy medicine that will cost you nearly Sh3,000 you will send an SMS for less than Sh5 to check whether the drugs are genuine or not,” he argued.

Nearly 30 members of the Kenya Association of Manufactures have expressed interest in applying the unique codes on their products as they strive to eradicate counterfeits, illicit trade and sub standard goods, he said.

However, he acknowledged that the counterfeit rings that will be affected by the introduction of this service would try to fight back. To avoid creating any animosity, Mr Svuarer said they were trying to push affected corporations to consider bringing on board the counterfeiters by giving them the formulas so that they can produce the original products.

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But while admitting that this was a tall order, he said enabling the counterfeit industry to produce their products legally would have the multiplier effect of creating employment as well as spur the growth of local industries.

“If they (big corporations) agree to provide the back-end to the counterfeiters so that they can be legally licensed, then it means that a big part of the industry will not fight back,” he reckoned.

The engineer, who disclosed that over 100 companies were involved at various stages of the project, said they planned to market the technology through word of mouth.

And once more consumers become aware of the technology; Mr Svuarer expressed optimism that it would have an enormous impact on not only the Kenyan economy but that of the region as well.

This is because global corporations would outsource the production of their goods in the East Africa where there labour costs are relatively cheaper, which would translate into an export boom for the region.
 

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