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Friday, 20 March 2009

US 'wants bold action' on Kenya corruption

US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger says Kenya Government must tackle corruption so as to benefit from trade opportunities with the US.The US wants the Kenya Government to walk the talk and take bold steps against corruption to benefit more from Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency.

US ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger said an intended trade visit by Kenyan delegation to the US and an African Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa) meeting slated for Kenya later in the year will not "prove successful unless the government takes credible steps to move forward the reform agenda, including taking bold steps against corruption."

"As all Kenyans know, with the recently inauguration of a "son of Kenya" as President of the United States, Kenya has an historic opportunity to further expand its already strong partnership with the United States," Mr Ranneberger said.

Addressing Kenya Association of Manufacturers Brand Protection and Anti-Counterfeit Conference at Laico Hotel in Nairobi on Wednesday, the envoy said the Agoa and the trade visit were key opportunities for Kenya and US to expand their partnerships.

AGOA is a US Trade Act that significantly enhances US market access for (currently) 39 Sub-Saharan African countries.

Mr Ranneberger said implementation of political and economic reforms was crucial to move the country forward "in a way that will promote the welfare of all Kenyans."

He urged the private sector to play leading role in pressing for implementation of reforms jus as they did when they helped end the 2007 post-election violence.

"If not the opportunity Kenyans gained as a result of the crisis and formation of the coalition government will be lost, with tragic consequences," Mr Ranneberger warned.

Counterfeit law

Calling for the implementation of the anti-counterfeiting law that was ascended to last December, the envoy said the government should demonstrate its commitment to reform by taking "urgent, dramatic action against the problem of counterfeiting."

"Such action will show the Kenyan people that the coalition government is, as we say, walking the talk," he said.

The anti-counterfeiting law is awaiting publication by the Minister for Industry to become operational.

KAM executive director regretted that manufacturers lose Sh20 billion every year, and the government Sh30 billion due to counterfeits.

Ms Maina and Mr Ranneberger said the number of fake products was continuing to rise, affecting industries, jobs and consumers.

"I have seen photographs of counterfeit factories where sewage is used to make fake toothpaste, which is then exported to East Africa and the United States," Mr Ranneberger said.

He said the problem of counterfeiting relates directly to the broader challenge of implementing reform agenda and ending the culture of impunity.

He added: "Only by strengthening the institutions of government to make them more transparent and accountable, and bolstering the rule of law, can counterfeiting be ended."

Kenyans were also urged by Ms Maina and the envoy to be in forefront to combat counterfeiting.

Malaria patients

Mr Ranneberger said the situation of many malaria patients in the country worsened due to use of fake drugs.

Ms Maina said nearly 40 percent of anti-malaria drugs in Kenyan market were fake.

"Every person who profits from fake products, who permits fakes to enter the country, who turns a blind eye to the law of the land, is participating in a criminal enterprise.

"He is directly harming the people, destroying Kenyan jobs and stealing from legitimate Kenyan businesses. They should be stopped, they should be punished by the law," the envoy said.

She cited fast consumer goods like food products, soap, detergents, alcoholic beverages, electrical and electronic appliances and medicine as most affected by counterfeiting.

KAM official Vimal Shah said counterfeiting has affected the cost of doing business in the country.

Ms Maina added that KAM was pushing for harmonisation of standards in East Africa Community to fight illicit goods. So far, she said, 700 standards have been harmonised.

Source: Daily Nation

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