30 June, 2008

Mark of quality may make goods disappear from market

According to Business Daily some consumer goods not bearing the East African Standardisation mark may be removed from supermarket shelves from tomorrow. This is in line with the requirement for all locally manufactured goods to bear the quality mark as agreed by the by the EAC members states.

According to the report, Nakumatt Supermarket has issued a notice of its intention to remove all non conforming goods from its shelves as the deadline for compliance takes effect in all the EAC countries from 1st July 2008.

As previously posted here, Kenya Bureau of Standards has consistently alerted Kenyan manufacturers of the requirement for their manufactured goods to carry its standard seal indicating that their quality has been certified. However IP Kenya is sceptical of the extent to which adhering to the standard will advance the stated objective of eradicating the menace of counterfeiting and substandard products in the region.

To beat the deadline the counterfeiters may have moved ahead and put their act together to “comply” with the requirement by branding their products with the quality mark. As a recent case in Uganda demonstrates, at least some counterfeiters are ahead of the deadline and have branded their products with the diamond quality mark.

As reported here and here the case concerned importation into Uganda of counterfeits BIC pens by a Ugandan company Wenbara Trading Company Ltd. The pens were imported from China described as writing plastic materials but on verification by Ugandan Revenue Authority the cargo was found to contain pens marked as “BIC” and “made in Kenya”. The boxes containing the pens were also branded with the diamond mark of Kenya Bureau of Standards and falsely indicating that the pens were made by Haco Industries in Kenya.

Endowment fund for research and innovation

A report in the Nation reveals that the government will in the next financial year establish a Ksh 250 million endowment fund to support research and innovation. The disclosure is attributed to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Higher Education Science and Technology Prof Crispus Kiamba who was opening a regional scientific workshop organized by the Kenya National Academy of Sciences. Prof Kiamba is also reported to have disclosed that a Science, Technology and Innovation policy paper will be presented to the cabinet for deliberation.

It is not clear whether this fund is the same or is a supplement to the fund outlined by the Minister for Finance during the budget speech (see earlier post here) to promote science, technology and innovation.

However it may appear that the two funds are separate components since the budget speech proposal was for Ksh. 300 million and in the current financial year whereas the latest proposal will be implemented from the next financial year.

IP Kenya can only (re)reiterate what the Minister for Finance said during the budget speech that science, technology and innovation will play an important role in driving the country’s growth through promotion of efficiency, productivity and competitiveness.

Sweet dose for malaria patients

Writing in the Daily Nation’s Horizons magazine, Gatonye Gathura reports that scientist have artificially produced artemisinin, the compound used for treatment of malaria, and within 3 years it will be possible to produce enough to treat all malaria cases in the world.

He reports that in a research funded by Gates foundation, the scientists have produced artemisinin from yeast in a process similar to that of brewing bear and the partnership with Sanofi-Aventis is gearing up for industrial production of the drug.

While this is good news for malaria patients, this new scientific development will deal a big blow to farmers in the country who have recently taken up farming the artemisinin producing herb-artemisia annua. Reportedly the farmers on average are making Ksh 20,000 annually from a ¼ acre of land from cultivating the herb which is in demand especially by Swiss pharmaceutical company Norvatis which is a major manufacturer of the malaria drug.

The process of producing artemisinin by extracting it from the dried leaves of the herb is labourious, making the cost of the drug expensive for malaria patients- especially in developing countries.It is hoped that the new method of producing artemisinin will dramaticaly bring down the price of treatment to the level of making it the cheapest anti-malarial drug.

13 June, 2008

2008 Budget: 300 million fund to promote science, technology and innovation

In his budget speech, the Minister for finance Hon. Amos Kimunya has outlined a number of proposals to promote science technology and innovation in order to enhance growth and employment in the country. To achieve the long term growth of the country he proposed several measures in key sectors of the economy. One of the 5 key measures meant to spur higher productivity and expanded employment opportunities is promotion of industrial research, technology and innovation

He reiterated that science, technology and innovation will play an important role in driving the country’s growth through promotion of efficiency, productivity and competitiveness.

To entrench a culture of science, technology and innovation, he said the government will introduce several proposals for debate in parliament including;

  • A national policy for science, technology and innovation

  • A bill to upgrade the National Council of Science and Technology to the National Commission of Science and Technology

  • Creation of the National Science Foundation and National Innovation Agency.

He also said that the government recognizes the critical role played by SMEs as catalysts for economic transformation and industrialization. To this end the government will facilitate SMEs growth. The government will also facilitate expansion of business incubation services to support over 100 additional enterprises and creation of 100 software development enterprises.

To achieve these objectives the Minister allocated Ksh. 300 million towards innovation and piloting program covering various projects such as;

  • Fish leather processing in Kisumu

  • Mango processing in Malindi, Kerio Valley and Muranga

  • Mini-leather processing in Garissa, Pokot, Migori and Bungoma

  • Honey processing in Eldama Ravine, Kajiado and TARDA regions

  • Cashew nut and palm wine processing in Kwale and Malindi

  • Fruit processing in Meru, Tharka Nithi and Kendu Bay

  • Rehabilitation and upgrading of technology for a leather development center in Nairobi.

09 June, 2008

Fake products flood the Kenyan Market

Daily Nation reports that the Kenyan market is flooded by fake products, and the situation is being made worse by the current economic hardship in which the purchasing power has gone down.

Some of the imported counterfeits are marked as “made in Kenya” and with fake Kenya Bureau of Standard diamond mark. The situation is worse where even anti malaria drugs have not been spared, with 1 in every 5 drugs suspected to be harmful.

The report indicates whereas most of the products are imported the trade is expanding locally especially in Nairobi where fake cooking oil, maize flour and alcoholic drinks are manufactured and the goods are then sold in neighbouring countries.

The practice is affecting not only the economy but many local manufacturing companies who have to endure the unfair business practices. Haco Industries, a local manufacturing company is reported to be losing Ksh 100 Million every year as a result of counterfeiting of one of its brands, BIC biro pens. Sometimes the counterfeit is so similar to the genuine product that even the brand owners may not tell the difference.

It is reported that Kenya Bureau of standards has directed that from July this year all manufactured goods in Kenya will be required to carry standard seals indicating that their quality has been certified. It is debatable whether this new directive will help. The mark can easily be applied on counterfeit products as a recent case in Uganda demonstrates.

The case concerned importation into Uganda of counterfeits BIC pens by a Ugandan company Wenbara Trading Company Ltd. The pens were imported from China described as writing plastic materials. However on verification by Ugandan Revenue Authority the cargo was found to contain pens marked as “BIC” and “made in Kenya”.

Tellingly the 852 boxes containing the pens had a diamond quality mark of Kenya Bureau of Standards. And even though the cargo was imported from china, the boxes containing the pens also indicated that they were made by Haco Industries in Kenya.

To address the counterfeit menace, the anti counterfeit bill (reported here) which proposes establishment of an anti counterfeit agency will be tabled in parliament this year. It will be recalled that this bill has been pending for a number of years now.

However the war on counterfeit activities will not be won by creating layers and layers of laws. In addition to enacting new laws and regulations it also important that they be enforced.

More on anti counterfeiting measures in neighbouring Tanzania here and here
Countefeit horror here.