State agencies target illicit trade on Kenya-Tanzania border

Coast Regional Coordinator John Elungata

Coast Regional Coordinator John Elungata.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Government agencies are working to stem smuggling and the flow of contraband on the porous Kenya-Tanzania border in the Coast region.

This follows reports that the trafficking of these goods from Tanzania continues through illegal routes so that smugglers can evade taxes.

Coast Regional Commissioner John Elungata ordered security agencies to be tough on smugglers.

“We need a tougher approach to trafficking and the seizure of all contraband goods at border points to send a signal that we are on high alert,” he said.

He was speaking in Lunga Lunga, Kwale County, where he chaired a meeting about curbing smuggled goods.

Mr Elungata urged security officials at the Shimoni and Vanga border points to help stem the flow of illegal goods.

He also said that the trade in illicit goods and substandard counterfeit products hurts local manufacturers. The trade also robs the government of millions of shillings in tax revenue.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Southern Region Coordinator Joseph Tanui said that smugglers use boats, motorcycles and unofficial routes to bring the goods into Kenya.

“We will penetrate smuggling cartels by engaging law enforcement and intelligence agencies to ensure that we have confiscated the contraband goods,” he said.

KRA also plans to sensitise border communities about taxation. 

The government, Mr Tanui said, has lost millions of shillings due to widespread tax evasion by unscrupulous traders.

“Smuggling of goods benefits a few people but in the long run results in hardship for all citizens. It is important that businesspeople engage only in lawful ventures,” he said.

Data from the National Crime Research Centre shows that in 2020, sugar accounted for nearly half of the goods smuggled across Kenya’s porous borders, accounting for 48 per cent of all the incidents, with 789 cases reported in 2019.

Other popular products smuggled into Kenya include alcohol and illicit brews (28 per cent), illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin (25.2 per cent), cereals (23 per cent), clothes, shoes and handbags (12.8 per cent), charcoal/coal (12 per cent) and wheat and maize flour (11.3 per cent).

Sugar is smuggled mainly through eight counties - Garissa, Kajiado, Narok, Migori, Mandera, Kwale, Trans Nzoia and Busia.

But Mr Tanui said KRA is taking robust steps to deal with smuggling cartels while enhancing revenue from legal trade.

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