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Motorcycle firm seeks protection against imports

A Kibo motorcycle.
A Kibo motorcycle. The firm says it is facing fierce competition from imported brands. PHOTO | COURTESY 

Motorcycle assembler Kibo Africa has asked the government to ban the importation of fully assembled units, saying heavy imports have pushed the company’s production below capacity.

Kibo Africa chief executive Huib van de Grijspaarde said the company is currently utilising less than half of its installed assembly capacity due to fierce competition from imported brands that sell at lower prices.

“We are operating at 35 per cent of our installed capacity. The government must make good its promise to promote local manufacturing by banning importation of fully assembled motorcycles to generate demand for locally assembled motorcycles,” he said.

“Higher production of units will ultimately see us enjoy reduced production costs enabling us offer our products at much lower retail prices across East Africa.”

The firm also says that it was badly affected by the 2017 elections, which brought reduced demand for motorcycles from government, SMEs, corporates and NGOs, their main customers. To enhance its competitive edge, Mr Van de Grijspaarde said its Dutch engineers were training local technicians posted to its newly opened sales and aftersales centres in Kisumu, Nanyuki, Mombasa and Nairobi.

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“The government should really abide by the ‘“Buy Kenya Build Kenya initiative”. Our motorcycles have over 300 components that are 100 per cent assembled in Kenya. Higher sales of locally assembled units could see us expand our plant and employ more Kenyans,” he said.

The firm which has employed 60 permanent staff and 30 others indirectly at their partner after sale centres said locally assembled motorcycles were as good as imported ones but enjoyed improved engineering due to local knowledge on the terrain.

Leading motorcycle importers include listed Car & General that is franchise holder of the TVS and Honda brands, Indian firm Bajaj’s Boxer, Yamaha (Toyota Kenya) as well as low-cost Chinese brands.

Last year, Kenyans acquired 186,434 motorcycles, with sales for January to June 2018 hitting 77,443, indicating ever-rising popularity of the two-wheelers.

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