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Kenya leaves South Africa high and dry after it slashes contract worth $160 million for high-capacity buses in favour of local businessmen

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  • Ministry of Transport has slashed the orders for Sh1.6 billion ($160 million) high-capacity buses to be used in the bus rapid transit (BRT) system in the City by half.
  • Kenya had initially planned to buy 64 bus rapid transit (BRT) vehicles from South Africa but will now only source 32 and the other half be made locally.
  • In 2018, local manufacturers went up in arms after the government announced that it would be sourcing BRT buses from South Africa, a distance of 2924.18 km or 1578.93 nautical miles yet the same could easily be sourced locally.

Kenya has left South Africa high and dry after it decided to slash a lucrative contract worth billions of shillings in favour of local businessmen.

The country’s Ministry of Transport has slashed the orders for Sh1.6 billion ($160 million) high-capacity buses to be used in the bus rapid transit (BRT) system in the City by half in favour of buying some from local assemblers.


The inside of one of the high capacity vehicle in Nairobi. (the star)

Kenya had initially planned to buy 64 bus rapid transit (BRT) vehicles from South Africa but will now only source 32 and the other half be made locally.

“We are set to acquire only 32 BRT buses from South Africa. The rest of the buses will be sourced from local manufacturers across the country,” Transport secretary James Macharia said on Friday.

We will provide you with details about financing at a later date.” Mr Macharia added.


Transport CS James Macharia

Also read: The 8 roads in Nairobi that are set to be upgraded and use brt system worth Sh54 million

The Cabinet secretary earlier estimated the cost of each bus at Sh25 million ($250,000), pricing the 64 at Sh1.6 billion ($160 million).

Kenya has followed Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam footsteps and is opting for the BRT system, to support its rickety public commuter services and ease congestion, a plan that will see the creation of special lanes dedicated to more efficient buses.

In 2016, Dar es salam, a city of five million, is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, a major economic hub in East Africa, became the first city in East Africa to launch a BRT system, which has helped ease public transport.


BRT buses seen in Dar es salam, Tanzania.

In 2018, local manufacturers went up in arms after the government announced that it would be sourcing BRT buses from South Africa, a distance of 2924.18 km or 1578.93 nautical miles yet the same could easily be sourced locally.

Tanzania at the time had even hired a local Kenyan passenger bus body-builder Labh Singh Harnam Singh (LSHS) to build its high-capacity buses for the BRT services poking holes on Kenyan government move.

President Uhuru Kenyatta who rode on the promise to create more jobs and revive the ailing manufacturing sector by pledging to provide incentives to support local companies in a bid to generate jobs, revenue and hence higher taxes was turning out as yet another empty political promise.


President Uhuru Kenyatta. (Victor Matara)

Meanwhile, the Treasury has allocated Sh5.53 billion ($54 million) to be used in the construction of special lanes for high-capacity buses in efforts to decongest Nairobi roads.

The buses are set to be deployed on the already-marked Thika Super Highway and other major roads within the capital city.