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Manufacturers protest move to import high capacity buses from S. Africa

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The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has criticised the importation vehicles for the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT), saying the move defeats the Big Four Agenda.

In a statement, KAM said manufacturing, as a key pillar in the Big Four Agenda for the country, means that local sourcing towards the growth of the sector and the consequent provision of jobs to our citizens cannot be understated.

“In our endeavour to grow the sector at 35% per year to achieve the desired 15% GDP contribution by 2022, the Buy Kenya Build Kenya Strategy should be rigorous and should prevail for both the short and medium term. This is especially so for products that can easily be manufactured within the country,” it said.

According to KAM, as the largest procurement entity in the country, the Government, where possible, ought to direct its spending on locally manufactured goods with a view of supporting the Big Four Agenda.

Currently, it said the manufacturing sector’s contribution to the GDP is 8.3%, with a registered growth of 0.2% growth in 2017. Favouring imports over local content, as seen in the recent importation of 64 BRT buses from South Africa, bypassing the local bus assemblers and body builders, goes against the agenda to boost the sector’s ability to provide employment locally and increase its GDP contribution towards the country’s economic goals.

KAM noted that local Vehicle Assemblers have a production capacity of 34,000 units per annum, which makes them capable of producing the required number of high occupancy buses for the project.

“It is also worth noting that engaging local assemblers to deliver these buses means a shorter lead-time for delivery when compared with those being imported. Additionally, locally assembled buses have been tested and proven in the Kenyan market, where they are known for their durability and low maintenance cost. Local engineers have the knowledge to design and engineer these buses for local operating conditions,” it stated.

Subsequently, the Association said a well-established aftersales network for parts, maintenance, service and repairs for local buses already exists to ensure the success of the BRT system.

“We also need to consider that many apprentices locally will be trained under this project in order to sustain an up-to-date, functional system,” it added.

According to KAM, the local bus Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits attract 0% import duty and excise duty, in which case the local buses would be more affordable than imported buses-which would attract 25% import duty and 30% excise duty.

“At the moment, Kenya is a twin deficit economy. This means it has both fiscal and current account deficits. A current account deficit occurs when a country imports more than it exports. Clearly, importation of the BRT vehicles risks exacerbating the current account deficit which has been worsening over the years, as well as, stifling Government’s efforts to industrialize under the Big Four Agenda,” it said.

“If we are to realise the desired goals in the Big 4 Agenda, it has to be demonstrated through commitment to the 40% local content procurement regulation, especially in critical infrastructural projects and decisions. This will, in turn, encourage further investments in the sector by both local and foreign investors, increasing government revenue and more importantly offering productive jobs,” KAM added.

According to Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, the decision to purchase the BRT vehicles from South Africa at a cost of Ksh 1.6 billion was informed by the fact that local assemblers have no capacity to meet the required standards for high capacity buses.

“We are only acquiring the first batch from South Africa because the buses that were available did not conform to the KS-372- body building standards, but the rest will be sourced locally,” said Macharia.


Critics were, however, quick to point out that neighbouring Tanzania, which has already implemented a similar project sources its buses from Kenya.

The buses are to be deployed on the already-marked Thika Super Highway and other major roads within Nairobi.

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BT Reporter
BT Reporterhttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
editor [at] businesstoday.co.ke
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