By Magdalene Mukami and Andrew Wasike
German auto giant Volkswagen on Wednesday opened a new production line in Kenya promising thousands of jobs-indirect and direct- to unemployed youth.
The new plant was officially opened by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and the German automaker’s CEO Dr. Herbert Diess at the Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers assembly in Thika, 60 kilometers from the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
While unveiling the first locally made vehicle dubbed the Polo Vivo, Herbert Diess told the launch ceremony that apart from creating jobs his company also plans to industrialize the Kenyan economy.
“We stand to provide great jobs, leading technologies and strategic investment, but it is more than just a plant. Volkswagen is well known for fostering sustainable development in creating new perspectives we have been taking the lead in areas such as job creation, fair working conditions, training and education and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. The same will apply to our operations here in Thika, Kenya.”
John Mwangi from the Union of Kenya Metal Workers Thika Branch told Anadolu Agency that the new facility will create new jobs for metal workers in the area.
“This is a blessing for our youth, the new facility has promised to hire from Thika so we are sure that many who lack employment will be recruited into the new team. The company closed in 1990 but now it is back when we most need it.”
Diess said that Volkswagen wants to contribute to a broader economic development process in Kenya promising that the company will source materials locally and from other African states.
“We will also rely on African suppliers. Currently we source catalytic converters, wheels, wiring harnesses - many produced in South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, in other words, hi-tech electronics made in Africa,” he added.
Diess said that the company will make possible direct employment to about 600 Kenyans and thousands of others indirectly. The Volkswagen group said that it had this year sourced products valued at 1.3 billion Euros in Africa “that makes Volkswagen a strong and reliable partner of the African continent."
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta who went on a test drive in the first locally made vehicle lauded Volkswagen for opening a production line in Kenya noting that it resonated well with his administration’s stated policy to industrialize the economy.
“Today is a great day for some of us because it is the beginning once again of Kenya’s industrialization journey, I want to thank the Volkswagen group for their decision to once again invest in Kenya and this goes well with my own government’s stated policy to industrialize our economy in order to build Kenya,” Kenyatta said.
Kenyatta affirmed his administration’s commitment to nurturing a vibrant automotive sector that will create jobs for the youth and accelerate the country’s economy.
At the ceremony of the unveiling of the new plant, Volkswagen said it would produce 1000 cars per year later to be scaled up to 5000 units. The company, however, failed to mention how it plans to reduce vehicle pollution in Kenya and the East African market especially after a recent UN report warned of deteriorating air quality in Africa due to an influx of motor vehicles.
Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority warned in a recent report that “The state of air quality has deteriorated over the years, resulting in increased reported cases of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI).”
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