I DON’T AGREE WITH THE WAY the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) raids the premises of manufacturers suspected of making sub-standard products.

Manufacturers who break the law should be punished. But the means to do so must be civilised and fair.

Consider the manner in which the raid on Swaraj Motors was conducted the other day. Accompanied by the Press and the police, the Kebs managing director raided the company premises and issued seizure notices for all the vehicles in the showroom.

Later, he called a press conference and declared that the India-made vehicles were sub-standard and therefore could not be sold in the market.

As it emerged, Kebs took this draconian decision before conducting thorough tests on the vehicles. The upshot is that the Ministry of Industrialisation has now launched investigations into the matter.

Regardless of the outcome of the investigations, it is unlikely that this vehicle will survive in the marketplace. The damage done to the reputation of the brand is almost irreparable.

Then there was this case when, out of the blues, Kebs announced that it had banned the import of used motor vehicles spare-parts.
Hundreds of millions of shillings invested by hard-working entrepreneurs in this business were put at risk. There was no prior warning. Kebs was not even willing to implement the ban in phases.

This decision was reversed by the Government. The Ministry of Industrialisation has now appointed a stake-holders committee to investigate the whole saga. Included in the committee are representatives of importers of spare-parts, the Association of Kenya Insurers, and operators of auto-bazaars.

From an economic standpoint, the recent mushrooming of the used spare-parts business is nothing to celebrate. It just shows how much of a mitumba (second hand clothes) economy we have become and how we have failed to industrialise.

There was a time when we had a thriving textiles industry that supported cotton farming. Our engineering industries had the capacity to manufacture motor vehicle components and industrial equipment.

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