American firm launches app to fight counterfeits in Kenya

KENYA – BrandMark, a US firm, has launched an application in Kenya with capacity to scan goods and help consumers differentiate between the counterfeit and original goods before buying.

Kenya is the first market in Africa that the company used as the launchpad even as it plans to spread its services in the entire continent within one year from now. The app will come as a reprieve to local manufacturers that have been battling with counterfeit with limited success for decades.

BrandMark has had uninterrupted in existence in the US market for over 38 years. It specialises in creating special stickers for manufacturers to enable them to stop counterfeiting.

By scanning the stickers known as Special Icon (S.I) using a downloaded application, buyers are able to receive instant information about the goods scanned. The firm is already working with country’s anti counterfeit authorities to eliminate faked brands.

Peter Massawa, the country’s brand representative, says the technology will give consumers an advantage over making informed choices about goods before buying them for consumption.

According to Mr Massawa, manufactures too soon be able to trace goods from manufacturing point to purchasing. In addition, through back end, the same information will be copied and relayed to manufactures, anti-counterfeit agency and Brand mark systems.

“The most important thing about this service is that customers are not charged to download the application. The scanning is free. We hope governments in Africa will work tirelessly on reduce prices for purchasing smart phones and make them accessible to many [to enable usage of the app],” said Mr Massawa.

The service also provides geo-location of the scanned products. It shows location of the shop where goods have been scanned. The technology will help the anti-counterfeiting agency to respond swiftly whenever fake products are noticed.

The counterfeiting menace has been a hindrance to increasing collection of State revenues. Goods for which no taxes have been paid and which may of questionable quality have penetrated the market giving unfair competition to the genuine ones.

“Products counterfeited range from bottled water, detergents, medicines, alcohol, among others. We have however realised that no individual wants to take chances with use of counterfeited products like medicines, cosmetics and food since such products directly affects the health of individuals,” adds Mr Massawa.

If successful, Mr. Massawa says the initiative will save jobs besides restoring others that have been lost in the past where companies left for other countries over the counterfeiting menace.

Some of the companies that closed down and left for other markets over counterfeiting menace include the American multinational company chocolate producer Cadbury Kenya which left Kenya for Northern Africa, dry cell batteries manufacture EverReady Kenya and Yana car tyres manufactures which closed down in 2016 and moved to India.

Although there have company individual attempts to stop counterfeiting, systems created by these individual companies have not yield much fruit in the past.

This is because some of those systems allowed buyers to perform authentication once the goods have been purchased and obtained from the market rather than before the purchase.

For BrandMark, buyers will have a chance to verify goods before buying. A consumer will make the decision whether to buy or not on the spot upon getting information about the products.

While most counterfeited products are from local market, a study by an international trade organisation (IOC) once indicated that most counterfeited products in Kenya are from India and China.

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