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Partnerships critical in combating illicit trade

By Phyllis Wakiaga
Wednesday, July 1st, 2020
Anti-Counterfeit Authority. Photo/Courtesy

Illicit trade has a detrimental impact on the substantial growth of legitimate business in the country. 

A review of a recent study by the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) demonstrates how illicit trade has infiltrated the sustainability of local enterprises.

The study reveals that 7,484 jobs were lost between 2016 and 2018 as a result of illegal trade.

The report also states that losses as a result of pirated products stood at Sh2.2 billion during the same period, with the government losing Sh102 billion in revenue in 2018.

Illicit trade manifests itself in six ways: Smuggling, transit fraud or dumping, trade in prohibited goods or products, illicit cash flows, human and wildlife trafficking, trade in small arms and light weapons, and counterfeiting, piracy and substandard goods.

Industry continues to grapple with illicit trade in the forms of smuggled, counterfeit and substandard goods.

Even at this time when we are facing a pandemic, it is discouraging to note that there has been an upsurge in the vice as a result of supply gaps created by containment measures.

Such is the case, that counterfeiters have taken advantage of increased demand for fast moving consumer goods and containment measures to enrich themselves. 

Combating illicit trade continues to be a challenge locally, regionally and globally.

In Kenya, efforts to curb illegal trade continue to be steered by the government and the private sector.

Inherently, robust private-public partnerships involving companies, law enforcement agencies and the Judiciary are the panacea to effectively fight the vice.

One example is the collaboration between the government’s multi-agency team against illicit trade and the private sector, which by mid last year had led to seizure of goods worth more than Sh7 billion.

It is also important to mention the recently unveiled National Illicit Trade Observatory, which was developed by the government and the private sector.

The initiative, according to the Anti-Counterfeit Authority, is designed to be a data management and reporting tool where enforcement agencies will report seized goods, while industry shall anonymously report on counterfeited products affecting their market share.

But even with these great partnerships, we have not been able to beat the vice as desired.

Therefore, we must continue to look into more partnerships and collaborative efforts to combat this enemy.

As industry, we are capable of playing an active role in helping to curb this menace.

First, by providing  actionable intelligence to law enforcement agencies not only on general trends in terms of techniques and routes used by perpetrators but also incident or case-specific information to trigger investigations.  

Secondly,  by developing traceability systems which contribute to enhancing transparency on the origin of raw materials. 

Thirdly, by encouraging sharing of information and knowledge among value chain actors, we would directly or indirectly enhance capture and prosecution of perpetrators.

Additionally, we must look into digitised brand identification, which provides an opportunity for manufacturers to identify where their brands are concentrated and where they are being counterfeited.  

As we diligently work on improving ourselves to better fight this vice, we urge the government to enhance its efforts to secure the economy from illicit trade. 

With focus on tighter controls at entry points and surrounding porous routes, enhancing market surveillance and enforcement in border towns where contraband goods are sold freely and raising public awareness on the dangers of this vice,  we can drastically reduce the amount of illicit trade within our borders and cut its impact on the economy . — The writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the UN Global Compact Kenya chapter board chair—[email protected]

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