Animal health stakeholders in Kenya have formed an association to promote proper use of animal health products, fair practice in the industry, conduct public awareness, and articulate and address their needs. Launched on 16th August 2019 at Serena Hotel, Nairobi, the Veterinary Input Suppliers Association of Kenya (VISAK) consists of manufacturers, formulators, importers, and distributors of animal health products and equipment.
According to Dr. Maurice Ogutu VISAK’s interim vice chairman, the association will also advocate for a transparent and efficient system of registering veterinary products by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). A transparent and efficient system of registration of veterinary products by VMD will contribute to addressing the influx of substandard and counterfeit products plaguing the animal health sector in Kenya, to the benefit of livestock owners.
“When there is delay in registration of (veterinary) products, livestock owners can end up using unregistered, counterfeit products,” said Dr Ogutu. VISAK will work with VMD to address challenges the animal health industry is facing, and develop guidelines on drug registration, good manufacturing, and good distribution practices.
VMD will also train VISAK to build up their technical capacity, and develop guidelines needed to ensure their operations adhere to their regulatory requirements.
Before VISAK was formed, animal health matters were handled by a subcommittee within the Agrochemical Association of Kenya (AAK). The responsibilities handled by that subcommittee have now been transferred to VISAK. Its formation also ensures the animal health sector in Kenya aligns itself with international standards.
VISAK will also be conducting public education and awareness on responsible handling and use of medicines and vaccines by last mile countrywide stockists, who sell them to livestock owners, to ensure they are stable and effective. “We shall educate the stockists on handling medicines, storing them in the right environment, and ensuring they have the right premises, and qualified personnel to handle them,” said Dr Ogutu.
The Kenya Veterinary Association (KVA) welcomed the formation of VISAK saying it would make it easier for KVA to be meeting with VISAK members to discuss animal health matters, in the country. “It will be easier to collaborate as we had problems initially assembling the animal health industry players individually,” said Samuel Kahariri, the national chairman of KVA. VISAK will also help weed out illegal operators in the animal health sector and ensure unlicensed manufacturers and distributors will not access drugs and other animal health products, which results in shortages, in some regions in the country, according to Dr Kahariri.
“This will impact communities, as they will be accessing quality veterinary services from those selling (licensed) veterinary medicines,” said Dr Kahariri. Issues like drug residue in livestock and drug misuse will be minimized since the drugs will be entrusted to qualified veterinary professionals and paraprofessionals, according to Dr Kahariri.
Creating one voice for the industry
Viktar Proshchanka of Norbrook Kenya, a veterinary pharmaceuticals company, observed that VISAK will help animal health products stakeholders in the country to have a voice, since they share common interests. According to Proshchanka, through VISAK, the animal health sector in the country will grow to impact the country’s economy and food security.
The Kenya government lauded VISAK members for forming an association since it will support the ministry of livestock to fight counterfeit veterinary products in the country. According to Harry Kimtai, the Ministry of Livestock’s Principal Secretary, VISAK will make it easy for the government to withdraw licenses of errant members engaged in malpractices after VISAK reports them. “It will be easier for the government to regulate the sector,” said Kimtai.
The association will also be collaborating with the government to draft policies and regulations beneficial to the animal health sector in Kenya. Kimtai promised the government will create an enabling environment for VISAK members to do business, and will hold regular meetings with members to discuss their challenges. In these meetings VISAK will highlight issues affecting the animal health industry for the government to take action.
The Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) welcomes the formation of VISAK. GALVmed, together with some private sector companies in the animal health industry had been exploring setting up an industry association in Kenya since 2014. During VISAK’s formation, GALVmed provided financial support that facilitated hosting of some meetings, as the VISAK subcommittee team worked on what would become VISAK’s constitution and other founding documents.
According to Dr Lois Muraguri, GALVmed’s Director of Operational Support & External Affairs, GALVmed and VISAK are in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to outline areas of support moving forward. The MOU will address the exchange of information and collaboration on issues affecting animal health private sector operations in Kenya, and Eastern Africa region, strengthening regulation of veterinary medicine in Kenya, supporting regulators like VMD, developing projects and programmes, aiming to improve the regulatory environment in Kenya, and Eastern Africa region. Through the MOU, information and experiences on setting up and managing the animal health industry association will be shared for the benefit of other countries in the EAC. “We are very excited about this new development and look forward to working closely with VISAK and other stakeholders” Dr Muraguri said.
Companies dealing with animal health products in Kenya can register to join VISAK as members at a fee of Ksh20, 000 (US $ 194).
Written by James Karuga