East African businesses gear up for fight against illicit trade

Thursday August 18 2016

East Africa continues to grapple with increased trade in counterfeit goods. PHOTO | FILE

The East Africa business community plans to step up efforts to fight illicit trade that has been one of the leading causes of revenue loss for both the private sector and governments.

During the second regional anti-illicit trade meeting that kicks off on September 15 in Nairobi, the regional lobby East African Business Council (EABC) has said delegates of the two-day conference will focus on enforcement measures of laws against counterfeits as well as inter-agency cooperation to boost information sharing across the region.

According to EABC, unscrupulous local and foreign traders are flooding the regional markets with fake and substandard goods putting business operations at risk.

“There have been serious negative impacts on the viability of industries, jobs and tax revenues across the region,” said Lilian Awinja, the EABC executive director.

Uganda and Tanzania governments are estimated to lose $1.4 billion and $1.5 billion in annual revenues to illicit trade respectively, while Kenya loses over $350 million.

Kenyan manufacturers lose $500 million in revenues and about 40 per cent of their market share to counterfeits.


The most counterfeited goods include medicines, soaps and detergents, dry cell batteries, alcoholic beverages, cosmetics and software.

Early this month Kenya’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board was said to have been allowing importation of substandard and fake drugs into the market in exchange for bribes from illegal traders.

Counterfeiting and other forms of illicit trade undermine investment, research and innovation, reduce profitability and market share for legitimate operators and create an unlevelled playing field.

In the last few years, the fight against illicit trade marked areas of progress including adoption of the East African Community Anti-Counterfeit Bill, 2013; operationalisation of the Kenya anti-counterfeit agency; formulation of the Anti-Counterfeiting Goods Bill, 2015 in Uganda; formulation of the Competition and Consumer Protection Bill in Rwanda.

Other areas of progress include the launch of the EABC Regional Code of Conduct, which was endorsed by the EAC heads of states and key businesses in March 2016.

The regional anti-illicit trade is organised by the EABC in collaboration with the EAC Secretariat, Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), Kenya Government and its anti-counterfeit agency.

The first meeting was held in 2010.