Nokia's campaign against counterfeit handsets recorded a major breakthrough when 11,000 Nokia items were confiscated in downtown Nairobi.

Accompanied by police officers, officials from the Anti-Counterfeit Agency and the Kenya Bureau of Standards, Nokia on Friday raided the Sky Building on Luthuli Avenue, which houses several handset traders. A Chinese national was also arrested at his home, where he allegedly assembles Nokia products.

Bad effect on the economy

"This campaign has started bearing fruit not only for Nokia, as the biggest player in the market, but also for the industry as a whole," said Kenneth Oyolla, general manager Nokia, East and Southern Africa. "The elimination of counterfeits will help save Kenya billions of shillings lost in tax revenue; we believe this war against [counterfeiting] has just started and Kenyans will be the biggest winners if we completely eliminate the problem."

The items confiscated included 2,071 counterfeit Nokia handsets, 330 separate earpieces and 9,084 pieces of batteries. This has been the biggest and most successful raid for Nokia and anti-counterfeit officials.

As part of the campaign, Nokia has been holding workshops with officials from Kenya police, revenue authorities and the anti-counterfeit agency, detailing effects on the economy. For end users, Nokia has provided an SMS (Short Message Service) short code where IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers can be sent for verification.

Fake handsets from China have better functions

Counterfeit handset imports from China have thrived in Kenya, with some arguing that the fake handsets have better functionalities such as twin SIM and more smartphone features at a lower price than Nokia phones.

"We have introduced a wide array of mobile phones, including dual SIM models, feature phones and smartphones, giving Kenyans broad choices at different and very affordable price points," added Oyolla, in a press release issued after the raid. "Our consumers have started to take advantage of these offers, indicating that they are also learning that one can have a smart and affordable mobile phone."

Nokia is also raising awareness of the dangers posed by counterfeit mobile phones, which do not follow safety standards for use of dangerous chemicals such as lead and mercury.

The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, comprised of major global brands, estimates that the international counterfeit trade is worth £385 billion a year and makes up 5 to 7 percent of world trade.