Business leaders and government officials from east Africa are gathering at a two day summit arranged by the Arusha-based East African Business Council (EABC) to discuss the increasing problem of illicit trade in the region. The meeting, which takes place in Nairobi on 6-7 October, is supported by the Kenyan government whose president Emilio Mwai Kibaki is launching the event.

The countries involved are Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. As part of East Africa's common market, designed to promote cross-border trade, the EABC is to propose coherent regional measures to confront existing legislature which is deemed to be non-effective in the battle against counterfeit goods.

The illicit trade includes smuggling as well as the sale of imitation products such as batteries, alcohol, toiletries, clothing, car parts, stationery, cosmetics, medicine and electrical goods. The combined annual loss in revenue in the east African states is estimated to be approximately US$ 500 million.

The common market agreement was brokered by the EABC last July and is on course to begin the long process towards monetary union. Established in 1997 the EABC is an umbrella organisation for East Africa's private sector and works closely with governments, business groups and regional economic communities.