Proliferation of counterfeit goods in the country threatens legitimate trade and adversely affects the economy. Local manufacturers and traders are grossly undercut as the market is saturated with cheap and fake products. The main reason for the increased trade in illicit commodities is poor controls. Agencies responsible for checking imports and validating their quality have deplorably failed to do their work, allowing substandard goods into our market. Not that they do not know it; that is a conduit for quick money for the corrupt officials.
We acknowledge all efforts to curb trade in fake goods. The government must urgently seal all the loopholes through which they enter our market. But this also requires action from the public, who should volunteer information to the authorities for action.
In a presentation to a parliamentary committee this week, Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya outlined plans to deal with counterfeits. The first is policy and legal strategy, which involves collapsing and merging governmental agencies tasked with inspection and quality checks. The several institutions include the Kenya Industrial Property Institute, Kenya Copyright Board, Pharmacy and Poisons Board and the Anti-Counterfeit Authority.
However, the challenge is, each works independently, in silo, and expends energies and resources in controlling trade in particular goods. Worse is the jurisdictional and turf wars that lead to paralysis and allowing the menace to thrive. In the circumstance, there is reason in reviewing their roles and mandates and establish points of confluence and, where necessary and practicable, merge them. That would be cost-effective and efficient.
Secondly, Mr Munya expounded on policy where importers have been allowed to have their goods inspected in the country of origin. The objective of that is to reduce importation bottlenecks and ensure ease of trade. But the question is the efficacy of such processes, given that, although the agencies contracted to do the inspection are international and reputable, some in-country factors militate against proper checks.
Despite all this, Mr Munya and the authorities must focus on enforcement of rules and regulations. There are comprehensive and adequate regulations to curb illegal imports, but they are never implemented. Borders are porous, institutions charged with quality checks are corrupt and systems are faulty.
For a start, the government should mount an aggressive crackdown on counterfeits, rein in illegal traders and enforce the existing rules. We need urgent and practical measures to end illicit trade