Ksh600 Million Project That Blew Up on President’s Face

The journey for Kenya to get into the list of automobile manufacturers is not only be defined by the Mobius vehicle model that is currently being manufactured locally. The journey seems to date back in the 1980s when Kenya ventured into the manufacturing of their first vehicles-the Nyayo Pioneer.

According to a past article by The Standard, after Singapore successfully manufactured the Proton vehicle model in 1985, Moi instructed the University of Nairobi’s Civil Engineering Department to manufacture a car that would place Kenya on the map to stop its reliance on European and Japanese cars.

The president went forward to issue clear orders that all parts of the Nyayo Pioneer car were to be sourced from Kenya and not a single part was to be gotten elsewhere.

Numerical Machining Complex CEO, George Onyango amidst an array of the Nyayo Pioneer cars that the corporation used to put together in the 1990s.

However, on the material day of the launch, Moi who was accompanied by the ‘super’ minister Nicholas Biwott was in for a rude shock as a pickup that was part of the project failed to start on its launch.

“When the president tried to start the car, it stalled and never showed signs of life. The Nyayo Car project failed with questions being raised about the financial probity of its officials,” read the book Nairobi Today: The Paradox of a Fragmented City as quoted by The Standard.

The cars’ wheels were locally made in Dandora, the small 1.5-litre engines were also built and assembled locally, with the only exception being the carburettor which Kenya didn’t have the capacity to make at the time.

The failure occurred despite the combined efforts of the University of Nairobi engineering department, the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC), Ministry of Defence, National Council of Science and Technology and Kenya Polytechnic (Technical University of Kenya).

It later emerged that the haste with which the multi-million project was executed and its mishandling scrambled Moi’s genuine efforts to have an automobile Kenyans could afford.

In April 2004, former Trade and Industry Minister Mukhisa Kituyi explained before Parliament how the idea was unofficially conceived.

Kituyi stated that the ill-conceived project was carried out as a top-secret, taking up large amounts of government money and finally screeching to an expected halt.  

“The declaration to build a car manufacturing company was made at a public function by the former president, during a graduation ceremony in 1983.

“He asked the university why it could not make a car,”  remarked Kituyi.

Kituyi also indicated that the Nyayo Car Project led to the loss of taxpayers money amounting to Ksh 668,939,609. 

Before going down, the project had only been able to manufacture five prototypes of the Nyayo Pioneer after pressure by donors for Kenya to close down all non-performing projects and parastatals.

“The government pretended to close down the project and instead made it a secret project,” added Kituyi.

The saloon cars that started during the launch could travel at a speed of 120 kilometres per hour but later broke down within a short time.

A past photo of a Nyayo Pioneer Vehicle