Dialogue best option on used trucks import ban

Debate is raging over the move by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to ban importation of certain categories of used buses and trucks. The regulator in a notice said that used buses more than seven metres in length will not be imported into the country from July 1.

Trucks with load capacities of 3.5 tonnes and above will also be banned from the same date. Tractor heads and prime movers not older than three years will continue to be imported until June 2023, after which only new units will be allowed in. The decision has elicited a raging debate from various groups and deserves sober reflections on its cause.

For some transporters, the ban is bad for business because it would cost them more to acquire newer units in the prevailing harsh economic times.

On the other hand, local vehicle assemblers project an annual sales jump of up to 70 per cent if the ban is implemented. Kebs has indicated that the policy is designed to create demand for locally assembled commercial vehicles in an effort to create jobs and boost skills and adoption of technology.

From simple assessment, the merits of this decision are weighty given the ripple effect it would have on the economy in the long term. Promoting the purchase of locally manufactured vehicles means creating more jobs for Kenyans. The huge amounts of cash sunk into importation would also be spent directly in the domestic market and boost the country’s overall wealth. The protests by the transporters narrow down to a lack of consultations and jitters over financial facilities for the costlier newer vehicles.

Dialogue is the best option here. The government and local motor vehicle assemblers should also address the concern about the affordability of the units. For, while the assemblers may not have control over the cost of the predominantly imported raw material, they can partner with the State and financiers for concessionary loans to buyers.

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