President cautions private sector on ‘Buy Kenya’ push

President Uhuru Kenyatta meets the factory manager Miritini's Associated Vehicles Assemblers (AVA) David Williamson upon arrival at the plant in Mombasa yesterday. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]
President Uhuru Kenyatta has cautioned private sector players against sabotaging the government’s policy to give priority to locally produced goods in State procurement.

He said anyone engaged in efforts to scuttle government policies aimed at creating jobs for Kenyans should know that they are engaging in futile errands.

He spoke when he presided over the launch of Toyota Kenya’s new assembly plant at the Associated Vehicle Assemblers at Miritinin in Mombasa County.

He said investors who are interested in winning government supply tenders especially in the automotive sector should get into the business of local assembly or manufacturing.

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“The public sector has clear instructions to prioritise locally assembled vehicles in their procurement decisions. However, I have noted with concern, that some of the players in the automotive sector are actively campaigning against this initiative by the government to support the investment in local assembly of motor vehicles,” the president said.

The Head of State added that private sector actors should always put the interests of the country first and adjust their business models to fit into Kenya’s development aspirations.

“As we implement the 'Buy Kenya' agenda, we expect the private sector to reciprocate by investing in full automotive manufacturing; form joint ventures, training and building the capacity of local Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to provide local content inputs,” he said.

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Fully integrated

Uhuru challenged Toyota to scale up its investments in Kenya from assembling vehicles to tier one component manufacturing and the eventual establishment of a fully integrated vehicle manufacturing plant.

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He said the government is putting together a National Automotive Policy as part of measures to support local vehicle manufacturers and instructed Trade CS Peter Munya to present the policy to Cabinet for approval within three weeks.

“The overall objective of the policy is to provide our domestic industry with opportunities to achieve competitiveness in manufacturing of automotive and parts products,” he said. The policy, will among other provisions, lay down the legal and institutional framework necessary to guarantee regulatory certainty for investors.

It will also define the desired knock-down kits levels for vehicles and motorcycle assembly as well as articulate the fiscal incentives and other measures needed to stimulate local content development.

The policy will also outline the role of Technical and Vocational Education and Training in the development of the automotive industry.

President Kenyatta said Kenya is positioning itself to take advantage of the huge market created by the adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Area which holds an enormous market potential of 1.27 billion people.

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Toyota has invested Sh1 billion in the new assembly line designed to assemble the new Hilux 4x4 pick-up trucks. Kenya’s motor vehicle assembly industry registered an annual turnover of $600M (including regional dealerships) last year.

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