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Battling illicit trade

Private sector wants government to up game to protect genuine manufacturers

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Ugandan companies including Unilever, Uganda Breweries Limited and BAT Uganda are carrying out sensitisation workshops countrywide to weed out illicit trade.

Joanita Menya Mukasa, the managing director for Unilever Uganda said on March.16 that counterfeits destroy the country’s image in addition to costing lives.

In addition, she said illicit trade costs the country’s future in terms of job creation because genuine manufacturers fail to expand business lines.

“It is also expensive in terms of time given that security agencies and players have to spend time running around to arrest and prosecute the culprits – leading to loss of money by government,” she said.  “Illicit trade needs to be fought with all the minds we have,” she said.

Billy Tsuma, from BAT Uganda said illicit trade vice should be addressed from the supply side. For instance, he said, 44% of the illicit cigarettes on the Ugandan market equivalent to Shs38bn was documented in the last quarter of last year.

He said, this is a big loss to the Uganda Revenue Authority and the government that needs money to offer service delivery.

He said, illicit tobacco trade is also a security issue and that creating awareness on its negative impact is very critical.

“The more awareness that we create, the easier it becomes for the other interventions to work,” he said.  He added that culprits should be prosecuted and fined heavily as a means to fight the vice. He also said, the EAC member states need to implement the illicit trade protocol by enhancing work on border controls.

Abel Mwesigye, the executive director for Kampala City Traders Association also recognized the fact that illicit trade is a big problem.

He said, “We as KACITA we have no compromise to it…illicit trade does not make your business grow; it is not sustainable. Sensitisation against this trade is key because some people know it, others don’t. We pledge total support to combat illicit trade and we will have all our members sensitized about it.”

Julius Nkwasire Mponooka, the assistant commissioner in charge of enforcement at URA said, the body welcomes all efforts geared towards fighting the vice and fits well in their wider strategy for increasing tax-to-GDP ratio that currently stands at 13%. He said, URA is working with what he summarized as ‘three Es’ – education, engagement and enforcement to deal with illicit trade.

He said, URA has always responded to such acts by confiscating and burning the goods involved.

For instance, he said, on March 18, they were to burn illicit products worth Shs1.2bn to send a message to the market that the authority is protecting the market.

“We have to make illicit trade very expensive,” Nkwasire said.

Going forward, he said, the revenue body will continue to embrace partnerships to enhance prosecution, background investigation to ascertain the real problem and deal with the culprits in line with the law. He also said, they will further hunt the dealers through joint operations.

Charles Twine, the spokesperson for Criminal Investigations Department (CID) said, illicit trade is closely associated with terrorism, crime and corruption and that the department, together with other actors will continue to fight the vice that is anti-development.

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