Kenya has started enforcing vehicle importation restrictions as its revenue authority begins crushing dozens of unclaimed vehicles at the port and those that have not met eight-year old import limit.
Nairobi has effected a ban on importation of trucks of up to 30 tonnes older than three years ostensibly to comply with the Transport Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Global Sulphur strategy, which seeks to cut emissions by 2030.
Starting this month, only tractor heads and prime movers not older than three years from the year of first registration will be allowed into the country but only up to June 30, 2023, after which no used tractor heads and prime movers will be imported.
But this leaves Kenya in a bind that while making efforts to reduce emissions, the other East African Community partner states are still importing vehicles older than eight years.
Efforts to harmonise the importation of used vehicles into the region have always faced headwinds.
In 2020, the East African Community (EAC) recommended the slashing of the age limit for imported cars in the region to five years by 2021 to promote local assembly, but it is yet to be implemented.
Kenya only allows the import of second-hand cars not older than eight years while Tanzania has set its limit at 10 years. Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan do not have limits. On average, cars in the region are 15 years to 20 years old.
The EAC argued that disjointed policies on age limits among the member states were flooding the regional market with old cars and stifling the growth of new car manufacturing.
“Lack of clear policy on age limits has been identified as a factor contributing to increased imports of used vehicles, while also posing adverse impact on environment, safety and health,” said a policy brief submitted to the EAC heads of state.
Used car imports make up about 85 per cent of the 2.2 million cars on the road in the region.
The report, carried out by the EAC secretariat and the Japan International Co-operation Agency, estimated that the region loses about $2 billion in foreign exchange every year on importing cars.
It is argued that with more stringent measures on the cars coming in the EAC, a window would open up for local manufacturing to thrive and meet growing demand.
The report also recommended that the East African Community invest in two large-scale assembly plants that would produce cars with a price range of between $5,000 and $10,000.
The region would aim at producing 500,000 units per year by 2027.
“It is expected that the growing economy and expansion of the middle class will continue to spur the demand of vehicles in the EAC region,” said the policy brief.
While the EAC dithers on implementing the proposal, Kenya’s new policy has been met with resistance from transporters especially on the Northern Corridor, who argue that it is against the protocols of the bloc concerning the transport sector, where uniformity of rules and laws should apply.
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Long-distance transporters have protested saying it will disadvantage their business. The transporters and truck owners say the new policy will give their competitors from the other countries in East Africa an unfair edge.
The group also says lowering of the age of imports from eight years to three is a further attempt by the Kenyan government to enforce the use of the standard gauge railway to transport cargo, as it will make long-distance trucking more expensive.
Time to relocate
“The new rule by Kenya Bureau of Standards will encourage more companies to shift their base to other East African countries,” said Salim Karama, a Mombasa-based transporter.
Transporters also argue that the shift by the Kenya government to ban importation of trucks will make trucks more expensive and unaffordable to many as the cost per truck will increase from around $60,000 currently to over $160,000.
Truck owners observed that the move by Kenya will not decrease pollution, as there will be other companies based outside Kenya importing trucks older than eight years that will ply Kenyan roads.
According to Kebs, strict rules will be applied to all imported diesel and petrol-powered vehicles, and they have to meet the requirements of EURO IV/4 before importation into the country.
The “Euro” in Euro IV stands for European Emission Standard, and it is what is used to define the acceptable exhaust emission limits for vehicles sold across the world. These standards were introduced in 1970, and since then, manufacturers, oil companies, and vehicle owners were ordered to stick to them.
The strategy targets to have a global transition to low sulphur on-road diesel and associated vehicle emissions standards by 2030.
As Kenya strives to implement the rule agreed by standards technical committee members from the five East African countries (Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda) meeting in Nairobi on November 15, 2019, other countries have remained reluctant in implementing the proposed vehicle emissions standards for the East Africa region.
During the conference, participants agreed to distinguish the emission limits for vehicles under three major categories: limits for new vehicles, limits for imported used vehicles and limits for in-use vehicles.
There was consensus that limits for new vehicles would be set to attain EURO 4/IV compliance encouraging vehicles manufactures in the sub-region to comply with the global criteria on safety and emissions.
Used vehicle imports were required to have at least complied to EURO4/IV technology at the time of manufacture.
Considering that cleaner fuels were introduced in 2015, it was also agreed that emission limits for in use vehicles will be informed by available inspection data in the sub region to avoid a large percentage of in use vehicles failing the emission tests.
Late last month, Kebs issued warning to traders saying only motor vehicles not older than eight years will be allowed into the country and that it will admit second-hand vehicles whose first year of registration is 2015 or after, effective January 1, 2023.
Across the board
Any such vehicles that arrive in the country from January 1, 2023, will be rejected at the importer’s cost, a directive that also applies to diplomatic staff.
In a notice issued in November 2022, Kebs advised importers seeking to ship second-hand vehicles whose first year of registration is 2015 to do so before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has announced that it will destroy more than 200 overage vehicles at the Mombasa port starting January 4, 2023, to reduce congestion at the container freight stations holding the vehicles.
In a Kenya Gazette notice released on December 2, 2022, KRA stated that most vehicles had reached the maximum legal import age stipulated by the Kenyan government.
“Pursuant to the provisions of sections 42 and 248 of the East African Community Customs Management Act, 2004, notice is given that the under-mentioned condemned goods shall be disposed of by way of destruction on the January 4, 2023, after the expiry of 30 days from the publication of this notice,” read the notice.