The Competition Authority has drafted regulations to control the dominance of the Kamba community in the sale, repair, and distribution of motor vehicle tires in Kenya.
Following an outcry from people from communities who have been systemically competed out of the tire ecosystem, the Competition Authority is seeking to introduce regulations that will ensure that no single community has control over one business, starting with the Kambas in the tire repair business.
“Kenya has over 42 tribes and no single tribe should control any business line. We have so many Somalis, Luos and Daasanach people who can repair tires. Why should Kambas dominate this trade?”
The Authority noted that even in the far-flung Islands of Lake Victoria where there are no cars, you will still find a certain Mutuku struggling to run a tire repair business. “It is as if tires are coded in their DNA. Everywhere you go you will find them. When other communities are going to Saudi Arabia to do domestic work, Kambas are going there to start tire repair businesses. It feels like witchcraft.”
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Attempts by other communities to infiltrate the tire repair trade always end up in tears. Kambas have mastered the art of pricing to the extent that it is cheaper for other tire repairers to subcontract a Kamba to do the work, rather than do the work on their own.
When one entrepreneurial Kalenjin man tried to venture into the tire repair business, the existing repair shop run by a Kamba did not feel threatened. They just offered to do free tire repairs for unlimited time. Six months down the line, the Kalenjin man starved to death, and the free repair deals were terminated.
Even sophisticated tire service shops with scissor lifts, balancing equipment, wheel disassembly kits and pneumatic tire changers cannot keep up with the roadside service centers run by Kambas. “They only use hand-held lug wrenches but they are faster than pneumatic impact wrenches. What kind of witchcraft is that?”
The Competition Authority hopes that by limiting the Kambas in the tire repair business, most of them will move to tire manufacturing and this will be good both for other communities and the economy in general.
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