Authorities have affirmed that controls on standards meant to protect consumers from counterfeits are watertight.
Speaking at a public forum on Tuesday night, small businesses decried the expensive costs of standardisation process in the country while consumer lobbyists said the input of the larger Kenyan public was ignored.
Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) acting Managing Director Bernard Nguyo explained that the process is “consensus based” and set out to achieve the consumer’s right to quality products as enshrined in the Constitution.
“The process involves looking at a set of requirements that products and services need to comply with in order to meet consumer expectations,” said Mr Nguyo.
He was speaking at the seventh edition of Transform Kenya, a high-powered forum that brings experts from various fields to drive conversation that is organised by The Standard Group PLC.
The topic was standardisation in the industry and trade sector.
Nguyo explained that technical committees are set up, discuss drafts, invite the public for input, analyse the feedback and then the National Standards Committee approves.
“The process is effective in achieving the objective,” added Nguyo.
However, Consumer Federation of Kenya Vice-Chairman Benjamin Langwen lamented that the larger Kenyan public had been neglected in the process.
“The so called technical committees are made from the regulatory bodies... The consumer is critical at each and every stage of the process,” said Mr Langwen.
He also said that consumers needed to be constantly informed and educated.
Representing small businesses, Maxwell Kimeli Sawe, senior operations manager at Sous Drop Limited, said the process to acquire standardisation was proving costly for most small businesses.
This meant investment in expensive equipment that meet quality standards, staff training and certification fees.
“You need a good budget to achieve all this,” he said.
Nguyo said that more than 12,000 products had been certified by Kebs and dismissed claims that there was low implementation of standards in the country.
State Department of Industry Principal Secretary Betty Maina said that regulation and monitoring of the market was being effectively enforced but the main responsibility lay with manufacturers and producers.
“The responsibility to comply lies with the producers, importers. Our role is to regulate,” said Ms Maina.
He said that Government had tightened efforts against influx of counterfeits, especially at points of entry.
“Government has declared that all imports must show conformity,” said Ms Maina.
Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) Executive Director Elema Halake said that imports were a major headache in the fight against counterfeits.
“We have been putting stringent border controls at all the entry points,” said Mr Halake.
He said that progress in the fight had been largely observed since the formation of a multi-agency by President Uhuru Kenyatta in May last year.
He added that Sh5 billion worth of counterfeits had been seized. Figures from ACA show that at least Sh840 million worth of fakes are seized annually.
Halake said that ACA had so far destroyed Sh1.8 billion worth of counterfeits since last year. He said that punitive measures for counterfeiters were on since ACA was empowered through a miscellaneous amendment in 2018.
He said that ACA was also investing heavily in consumer awareness in order to enlighten more Kenyans on how to spot fake products.
Also on the panel was the International Organisation for Standardisation Secretary General Sergio Mujica who said that Kenya was, through Kebs, was a member of the 164-member organisation and played a key role in maintaining key world better practices.
Speaking on behalf of Standard Group CEO Orlando Lyomu, the group’s Head of Strategy and Operations Benedict Omollo stressed the role of Transform Kenya in driving forward conversations on topical issues.
“We have had a very robust discussion this evening on standardisation… We have learnt many things including that our GDP can actually grow if we focus on standardisation,” he said.
Also present were Kenya Accreditation Service Chief Executive Martin Chesire and Kenya Association of Manufacturers Head of Policy Job Wanjohi.