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.

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