Kenya’s Ministry of Industrialisation plans to revive a vehicle manufacturing project that collapsed in the 1990s.
Kibicho Karanja, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry said discussions were underway to kick off the project that will involve small and medium scale companies in the manufacture of vehicle parts.
“We will go out there and encourage local companies to participate in this project, while the government will ensure the products are of quality,” said Dr Karanja.
The PS was speaking during celebrations to mark the annual Africa Industrialisation Day held recently at Nairobi’s Railway Sports Ground.
On display at the Ministry’s stand was a 20-year-old shiny-white saloon car — one of the five Nyayo Pioneer cars, manufactured locally following a directive from former President Daniel arap Moi.
Mr Moi had challenged experts from the University of Nairobi to put to practice the vast knowledge they had acquired through years of teaching.
Teaming up with engineers from the Kenya Railways, the Department of Defense, the National Council of Science and Technology and the Kenya Polytechnic, Kenya’s prototype vehicle came to being. About 60 per cent of the car was made from spare parts sourced from local manufacturers.
However, five cars down the line and the establishment of the Nyayo Motor Corporation to mass produce the vehicles, the cash strapped project collapsed.
The Government needed to establish 11 plants at an estimated cost of Ksh7.8 billion ($96.7 million).
Asked about funding and partners to help revive the project, Dr Karanja declined to divulge details.
He, however, said funding will not be a major challenge as long as local companies are part of the project.
“Public-private partnerships will reduce the cost of reviving the project and also ensure efficiency,” said Dr Karanja.
According to Dr Karanja, a country that wants to industrialise must have expertise of manufacturing its own vehicles, for the local and export market.
This is true with China and India, the two developing countries considered to be on the right path to industrialisation. Some leading vehicle brands in the former are Chang’an, Geely and Hafei, while in the latter, Mahindra and Tata are common.
North America, Europe, Japan and East and South Eastern Asia, for example, joined the league of industrialised nations after recording robust growth in productivity, manufacturing and growth in real estate.
The announcement comes months after Numerical Machines Complex, established after the collapse of Nyayo Motor Corporation, launched an ambitious four-year strategic plan early this year.
The corporation targets to invest Ksh775 million ($9.61 million)) in expanding its portfolio from making spare parts to steel milling, water pumps and lathe machines.
The state corporation is also seeking an additional Ksh297.4 million ($3.69 million) to propel it to profitability by 2013.
It is however, not clear whether the corporation will get the funding it requires to implement the four-year strategic plan, expected to strengthen its presence as an industrialisation driver in the country.
According to the Mwangi Theuri of Numerical Machines Complex, lack of raw materials is among the hurdles the parastatal has faced its efforts to expand its portfolio.
“We have enough expertise to manufacture vehicles, and what is needed is the availability of raw materials which is still a problem,” said Mr Theuri.