Stringent measures meant to check integrity of imports and eradicate tax evasion cartels have started to bite with traders in Nairobi taking to the streets demonstrating against new drastic rules.
Hundreds of traders under the aegis of Nairobi Importers and Traders Association closed shops and participated in the demo amid growing concerns that many governments across the world are losing billions of dollars to counterfeit products and illegitimate trade.
It is estimated that the country loses an estimated Sh200 billion to counterfeit and illicit goods trade annually, affecting not only businesses, but also government revenue.
The revenue loss informed government’s move for tighter regulations in the 2018/19 budget where Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich decided to deal with illicit and counterfeit trade which chop revenue and retard growth of industries.
To plug the hole, he said a multi-agency team comprising Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenyan Revenue Authority and Anti-Counterfeit Agency are coordinating efforts to identify, seize and destroy counterfeit goods. “Already, the actions taken have yielded results,” Rotich said in his Budget Statement on June 14.
But yesterday, the traders said that amid tightened regulations, they are now suffering losses due to the slow pace of clearance of goods at the ports of entry. In a petition to Parliament, the traders and importers said prolonged delay of goods was affecting their businesses.
“The long period attracts demurrage which will be passed on to the smaller traders will increase cost of goods,” said the association’s chair Alex Mutahi, urging the government to consider an amnesty for them to learn new standards and procedures which seem unclear to most of them.
The petition raises concerns about requirements by small-scale traders to use bill of lading by each trader, saying it will affect them adversely.
“This will lead to increased cost of goods since small traders deal with small quantities. We therefore urge the government to allow consolidation of identical goods with one bill of lading given to the entire container where contents are similar,” he said.
The association also called upon the government to stop ‘blanket destruction of imported goods at the port’, saying that a few contraband goods in a container of consolidated goods should not warrant destruction of the whole consignment.
During the protest in Nairobi central business district, the group eventually presented their petition to Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi’s office before proceeding to Parliament where they were addressed by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja and Kieni MP Kanini Kega.