Robi Njoroge: Anti-counterfeit boss on Kenya's plan to combat fakes at the sourceFriday January 27 2023
When he was named the chief executive officer of the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) six months ago, Robi Mbugua Njoroge promised to "address the multiple and growing challenges posed by counterfeiting and illicit trade in the country."
The agency estimates that Kenya has been losing up to Sh800 billion annually to counterfeiting activities.
It is estimated that one in every five products sold in Kenya is counterfeit and almost four million Kenyans are using counterfeit goods that include sugar, cigarettes, alcohol, bottled water, pharmaceutical products and cooking oil, posing a serious threat to health and security and depriving our economy of vital revenue.
Dr Njoroge spoke to the Business Daily on if Kenya is winning or losing the war against counterfeiters.
Kenya still loses an estimated Sh800 billion annually on counterfeits and other forms of illicit trade. Are your initiatives really working?
There are numerous reasons why Kenya is still losing a lot of billions in illicit trade. The first is differentiation. Very few people are able to tell between genuine and fake. This has become an issue of concern.
Secondly, there is the issue of affordability in the sense that most people will not mind anything that is cheaper in the market despite the impact such a product may have on their health and safety.
People in the illicit trade business will imitate first-moving products that they know they can sell and make millions to support the baron’s world. There is also the issue of convenience.
Most of the time when you are walking or driving across the streets of Nairobi, there are people who are dangling certain goods to you and you will not bother to ascertain if the goods are genuine or not.
In such a case, you will end up buying because the purchase at that time is convenient for you.
What is ACA doing to end this?
We have employed quite a number of strategies. These include a soft approach and brick-and-mortar. Brick and mortar is through enforcement. It is important to note that 80 percent of counterfeit goods in Kenya are from overseas.
Instead of relying on brick and mortar chasing lose cargo into the country, we are implementing what we call the recordation process.
This aims at dealing with the issue of counterfeiting at the source so that we don’t allow them to get into the country and then the government spends a lot of money chasing that cargo.
How does the recordation process work?
Intellectual property rights (IPRs) recordation refers to the process of collecting and entering into an electronic database, information from intellectual property rights owners regarding their registered IPRs, irrespective of their place of registration, for all goods being imported into Kenya.
The intellectual property rights recordation platform allows manufacturers to enter data on the intellectual property of particular goods detailing their characteristics, including high-resolution pictures of the good.
This will enable law enforcement agencies to compare the goods with those captured in the system and flag any counterfeit goods before they get into the country.
The platform which has been live for several months already has over 50 manufacturers who have registered.
How have you deployed technology in the fight?
We have a system which went live last year but it’s still in the stages of development. We are calling it the Anti-Counterfeit Information Management system (AIMS).
This has several modules, including case management where we are able to track your case if you have one with us.
The AIMS system provides for the implementation of the recordal regulations, which were published on July 23, 2021, under Legal Notice Number 118 of 2021.
The recordal regulations give effect to the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 18 of 2018, which amended the Anti-Counterfeit Act, 13 of 2018, by providing for the Recordal of Intellectual Property Rights with the Anti-Counterfeit Authority.
Is frequent tax increases a recipe for counterfeits?
Of course, issues of costs are a concern. Remember I talked about affordability and if a genuine product is costing more, this means that it will be out of reach of the masses.
If these goods get into the Kenyan market today and they are out of the tax system — such as import, excise and VAT — definitely the product and its counterfeit will be cheaper.
This means that at the end of the day what we are doing is that we are denying the government the resources it requires.
Which are the most counterfeited products in the Kenyan market today and why?
The most common counterfeited products are electronics, alcoholic beverages, apparel, footwear, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals just to mention but a few. Remember these are the products that have high demand.