Kenyan fabricator of passenger vehicle bodies Labh Singh Harnam Singh (LSHS) has been hired to build high-capacity buses for Tanzania government’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services as Nairobi prepares to import the same from South Africa next month.
LSHS managing director Daniel Maundu said the firm was working on the first order after the Tanzania government contracted Isuzu Motors to build the first 80-person capacity buses for use under the BRT programme.
“Kenya is planning to import the high capacity buses yet Tanzania, which initially imported buses from China, has turned to us to use our 70-year plus experience to build them the buses,” said Mr Maundu who doubles as the Kenya Bus Body Builders Association chairman.
He said Kenya’s plan to import fully built units negated the Jubilee government’s Big Four Agenda, especially the manufacturing pillar, where the government pledged to provide incentives to support local companies in a bid to generate jobs, revenue and hence higher taxes.
Kenya will pay Ksh500 million ($4.9 million) to import 30 buses, effectively exporting jobs to the more advanced economy.
“Our work benefits many companies that manufacture various products from batteries to springs, gaskets, lubricants, iron bars and sheets among other items.
“It is a vibrant supply chain that if activated could directly benefit 6,000 people employed across the industries,” he said.
Mr Maundu observed that most auto-assemblers and body builders were cutting staff due to reduced business as a way of easing operational costs.
“We have capacity to meet any demand within Kenya and have built adequate factories and manpower over the past decades. Kenya has three motor vehicle assemblers and 12 body builders and the plan to import fully built buses will deny us the much-needed business especially after a tough 2017,” he said.
Mr Maundu said firms have already built 104 capacity buses, currently being piloted on Kenyan roads, and had in the past been engaged in building double decker buses that traverse local roads.
LSHS has been serving East African markets since 1948 when it started operations and currently employs 300 staff.
Mr Maundu said awarding such a contract to local companies could see new jobs advertised with automotive engineers and body builders getting demand for new trainees.
Assemblers in Kenya include Mombasa’s Associated Vehicle Assemblers, Thika-based Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers and at Isuzu Motors in Nairobi.