By law a car outside of Kenya that is older than eight year is worthless as stipulated by our laws. That means majority of Kenyans who could have afforded to import a car before now cannot because newer cars are generally more expensive.
With only 26 cars per 1,000 people in Kenya compared to over 450 for the 10 leading developed countries, one wonders about the wisdom behind this legislation.
What inspired this short sighted law? What was it meant to solve? At the heart of the debate is the issue of car worthiness that must have taken the centre stage. We must be remember that MPs were driving high end cars and thus to have relied on them to define road-worthiness was not at all representative. That means if you gave our MPs a 2006 car with 300,000 km on it and a 2001 car with 50,000 km, they would take the 2006 car because to them it’s “newer.”
The point here is that road worthiness should be a function of standards one of which cannot be the year of manufacture because usage of the car can render a three- year-old car unroadworthy. KRA might argue that a car imported from Japan for instance must pass the JEVIC inspection before it is shipped to Kenya to certify its road-worthiness.
JEVIC inspectors would be the first to tell you that there are so many cars older than 10 years that can easily meet the required standards and very many that are less than eight years, which would utterly fail.
It also means no extra inspection would be need for older cars than currently allowed as all cars undergo inspection before they are shipped to Kenya anyway. To judge a car’s road worthiness by year of make is similar to the newness that we attach to recently registered vehicle because they are assigned the latest registration number.
The taxes imposed on an imported car are at best prohibitive for the majority of Kenyans. This kind of taxation on any goods is only exercised when a country is protecting its local industry.
Kenya does not have a car manufacturing industry except for assembling and therefore the issue of protecting the local industry has no basis.
If existing assemblies were considered in the 8 year car legislation, Kenyans are effectively subsidising the cost of doing business in Kenya for those companies.
Other incentives should have been explored leaving Kenyans free to import cars that they can afford so long as they are roadworthy.
In order to unlock the job creating power of cars, the public must push for a repeal to this law which is short-sighted in that it only sees the immediate revenues collected by KRA, incorrectly defines car road-worthiness, concludes that a car is a luxury item but is totally myopic to the potential that is in more car ownership in Kenya.
Mwangi is an MBA student in California. State University, San Bernardino.