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Thika manufacturers appeal for government’s ‘preferential treatment’.

A section of the leaders who graced the Local Manufacturers' forum in Thika. They include Bimal Shah, MPs Eng. Patrick Wainaina (Thika), Kanini Kega (Kieni) and Simon King'ara (Ruiru). 

Manufacturers in Thika have pushed for governmental regulations to protect infant industries scrambling to compete with global giants and unfair imports.

Speaking during the inauguration of the Thika Local Manufacturers Forum at Edgewood Hotel, the manufacturers sighted various bottlenecks that suppressed the growth of industry in Kenya, especially the small and upcoming entrepreneurs in the Jua Kali sector who have to fight it out with established multi-national companies.

The new group represents an aggressive new strategy for a local industry that has been scrambling to compete with global giants.

Among the key obstacles was the imports of cheap products that were readily available in the Kenyan market.

“The government must support local industries especially the small traders in all aspects including training, technological and financial support for them to survive the global competition. The state needs also to protect us from cheap imports and influx of substandard goods from outside,” said Bimal Shah, Managing Director at Broadway Group of Companies.

He called on big companies to mentor upcoming manufacturers as this would go a long way in developing the country.

“We need to change our mindset and support each other. There is a lot we can learn from each other. With dedication and support for each other we can go very far,” he added.

Bimal called on the government to revive the textile industry through incentives such as the development of policies that would encourage trade within the country.

“Recently, the interior CS (Fred) Matiang’i ordered all school buses to be painted yellow. Why can’t we have the same in relation to school uniforms just as in most western countries where all schools have to choose from three or four colours? This way, we can have the textile industry contracted to sew school uniforms for schools across the country,” suggested Bimal.

Thika MP Eng. Patrick Wainaina, who was the architect of this idea, assured manufacturers, both big and small, that he would campaign for the legislation of policies and bills that protected local manufacturers.

He reminded them of a bill he had tabled in Parliament which sort to impose high tariffs on all imports that suppressed local industries.

“By imposing high tariffs, we will reduce the imports of given products because the high tariffs will lead to higher prices for the domestic consumer and higher imports costs for foreign suppliers or producers.  This is necessary in order to protect infant domestic industries from foreign competitors,” said the Thika MP. 

Wainaina poked holes on the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZ) saying that even though it was intended to substantially to lower the cost of doing business in the country, the country did not benefit from it as the proceeds ended up benefitting foreign countries.

“The raw materials in EPZ are sourced from outside the country thus benefitting farmers from the source countries. The products are then sold abroad thus ending up creating jobs for these countries. Kenya provides labour thus benefits the least in terms of growing its manufacturing chain of production,” he said.

Admitting that no country in the world has ever made developmental strides without growth of the local industry, Kieni MP Kanini Kega, who doubles up as the Parliamentary Committee Chairman on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, assured the manufacturers that he would personally push the Executive to impose prohibitive taxes on imports that were readily available in the local market.

However, he challenged the local manufacturers to produce goods that met international standards as his committee would not allow them sabotage quality.

“We are going to bite the bullet and fight those cartel that jeopardise local industries through cheap imports. Otherwise, I challenge you (manufacturers) to check on quality and pricing as we will also have to protect the consumer,” said Kanini.

Kanini added that he would also seek to regulate the electricity tariffs for manufacturers.  

Others who spoke included Ruiru Town MP Simon Ng’ang’a King’ara and Sarah Karingi who is a 
motivational speaker.

It was resolved that the group seeks registration as an association so as to ease their bargaining power when forwarding their grievances to the authorities.

They will be meeting on a quarterly basis to review their progress and set agenda for the way forward.

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