The Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) is tracking foreigners in Kenya who deal in fake goods in order for them to be prosecuted and deported and for assets to be recovered.
Officials from the Multi-Agency Anti-Illicit Trade Outreach (MAAITO) said the government will take the fight against the vice a notch higher by going after the culprits' assets.
It will also trace funds stored outside the country.
“We’re taking stock of people engaging in this business within our borders. We’re not only inspecting and seizing counterfeit products but also unmasking individuals in the entire chain, all the way from manufacturing, importation, wholesale to retail," the ACA's Executive Director, Elema Kalake, said on Thursday during in Athi River, where counterfeit goods worth Sh32.8 million were destroyed.
"We want to find the complete chain of criminals including the foreigners behind retail outlets. The foreigners are doing the illicit business with the aid of Kenyans. We are working with agencies such as the Asset Recovery Agency and the Department of Immigration to recover monies [obtained from] the illegal trade. We will nail the foreigners."
Authorities say illegal trade has increased in Kenya for the last 20 years, perpetrated by an organised network that has taken advantage of administration and governance loopholes created by fair trade practices allowed under certain regulations.
“The vice has grown to great proportions in recent years, threatening the economy and realisation of the country's development goals,” said Kieni member of Parliament Kanini Kenya, chairman of the National Assembly Committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives.
“At least 91 per cent of these goods are from China. I say this because I don’t want us to pretend we don’t know their source."
Flora Mutahi, chair of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, said the vice "went beyond borders".
She noted that according to the Business Action to Stop Counterfeits And Piracy (BASCAP), a global intellectual property arm, the total value of counterfeits and pirated goods globally stood at between $923 billion and $1.13 trillion in 2013.
Ms Mutahi said the figures are expected to rise to between $1.9 billion and $ 2.81 trillion by 2020 and added that a study by the KMA found Kenyan traders were losing close to 40 per cent of their market share to counterfeits.
The World Bank indicates that illegal trade has increased seven times faster than legal trade since the 1990s and represents 15-20 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
So far, MAAITO has seized counterfeit goods worth more than Sh13.5 billion and destroyed a portion worth at least Sh1.5 billion.
The ACA said that in the last two weeks, its agents arrested a Pakistani and seized components of counterfeited HP computers worth Sh30million that had been imported illegally for reassembly and sale.
Wanyama Musiambo, the National Coordinator of the Multi-Agency Taskforce to Combat Illicit Trade, blamed corruption and collusion between custom officials and traders.
He also cited weaknesses in national regulatory regimes and global financial and transportation systems as well as inadequate screening of goods at border points.
Mr Musiambo regretted that despite several high profile seizures, the crime continues to take place due to graft, and poor coordination and synchronisation of activities.
“All this is as a result of corrupt activities. We must all confront the question of corruption in both the public and private sectors," he said.
"More than 90 percent of the products we’re burning today got into the country through official borders manned by our public officers. All those manning our entry points must be beyond reproach if we want to deal with this crime ... we do not want to destroy our economy.”
He warned unscrupulous traders that the government will not relent in the fight against the proliferation of counterfeits.
During the function, MAAITO launched the 2019-22 National Anti-Illicit Trade Action Plan, which includes a coherent approach to coordinating enforcement agencies.
Mr Musiambo said the action plan is aimed at synergy of policies and efforts by institutions for the sake of an environment that facilitates a harmonised implementation strategy.
It will address the incoherence of government strategies and policies by the agencies that make up MAAITO and tackle enforcement hurdles.
In 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the establishment of a rapid results initiative to combat the vice, and formation of a multi-agency task force for better coordination of enforcement activities.
Mr Musiambo said the government will, under the new strategy, reduce the flow of counterfeits into the Kenyan market by 20 percent in the next one year.