Manufacturers ,Traders Join Effort To Fight Illicit Trade And Counterfeit Goods

Key stakeholders have committed to fight illicit goods in Uganda. Uganda Breweries Limited, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), British American Tobacco (BAT), Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) and the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) of Police among others on Wednesday assured the public that they are determined to fight against the vice.

Speaking at a sensitization workshop held at Hotel Africana on Wednesday, Unilever Managing Director, Joanita Mukasa, said illicit trade is a vice that needs joint effort in its fight since it costs government money on top of killing innovation and market for genuine products.

The stakeholders in a group photo after Wednesday’s workshop at Hotel Africana

“Counterfeits are morally wrong. If we can let counterfeits cost an image we have built over the years, then it is not okay. Counterfeits cost lives. What happens to your life if you consume counterfeits? It is counterproductive and costs time,” Mukasa noted.

Billy Tsuma, who represented the Chief Executive Officer at BAT Uganda, said cigarettes are the most taxed products in Uganda. According to Tsuma, UGX50 of every UGX100 goes to URA in taxes.

He noted that 24% of cigarettes consumed in Uganda are illicit with 1% being those manufactured locally. Last year alone, Tsuama revealed that BAT lost UGX38 billion to counterfeits, which money he says URA should be collecting.

He, however, said that awareness is critical. “It is why we are here as BAT. Cigarettes are fast moving consumer products. We need counterfeiters fined heavily,” Tsuma said.

KACITA Uganda Chief Executive Officer Abel Mwesigye said illicit products are all over the market and readily available more than the genuine products.

However, he warned dealers in this trade that it is expensive and unsustainable.

“We have seen how illicit trade affects us. We have no compromise on illicit trade. If someone can counterfeit your product, then they have killed your market. Illicit trade doesn’t sustain you or your business because it is not sustainable,” Mwesigye said.

Mwesigye noted that there is a need for more sensitization about the dangers of illicit goods.

“The people consuming these products have no option. These illicit products are readily available and are everywhere compared to genuine products. We need massive sensitization because we (KACITA) interact with these people,” he said.

Julius Nkwasire Mpomoka, the URA Assistant Commissioner Enforcement said that the Authority is investing time in the 3 Es – Educate, Engage and Enforce.

According to Nkwasire, URA has a strategy to protect brands and make illicit trade very expensive.

For instance, on Friday 18th March, Nkwasire said the Authority will destroy cigarettes worth UGX1.2 billion.

“We are sending a message to protect our own genuine products. We shall destroy them so that people do the right thing. We shall continue to educate, engage and enforce,” Nkwasire noted.

According to UBL in 2021, they seized illicit alcohol worth UGX375 million and between 2019 and 2020 government lost UGX1.9 trillion in revenue from sales of illicit products in the alcohol sector.

Data shows that alcohol sector has over the years been faced with the challenge of illicit trade in the form of counterfeits, contraband, look-alikes, and non-DTS-compliant products, which have not only caused harm to the unsuspecting public but also led to a significant loss in government revenues through unpaid taxes.

Joseph Lubulwa, UBL Brand Protection Manager said that counterfeiters take 64.5% of the market share, leaving the remaining percentage to the genuine dealers.

He however appealed for timely prosecution and tougher penalties for offenders.

CID Spokesperson Charles Twiine assured stakeholders of fighting illicit trade as he said:

“Our mandate is to secure lives, detect and deter. We are talking about illicit trade. Illicit trade is closely associated with terrorism. The moment we entertain illicit trade, you are playing on people’s innovation and health,” Twiine said, adding that: “We are committed to working with everybody here to fight illicit trade. We look forward to working with you.

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