Kenya’s dream to roll out cheap public transport for $0.2 comes to a screeching halt after 18 posh buses worth $60,000 each break down and there’s no money to repair them

A NYS bus parked in Nairobi. (Pitstop Limited)
  • In March 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta instructed the National Youth Service to step in and start ferrying commuters within Nairobi city using their luxurious Yutong buses in an effort to resolve the transport crisis that continues to plague the city.
  • While the idea may have been noble the whole programme is quickly turning out to be a poorly thought out plan that perhaps should never have seen the light of the day.
  • One year and three months down the line two-thirds of the buses have broken down and there are no funds to repair them.

In what is turning out to be perhaps the biggest blunder yet, the Kenyan national government is counting massive losses running into thousands of shillings all because of a paltry Sh20 ($0.2).

In March 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta instructed the National Youth Service to step in and start ferrying commuters within Nairobi city using their luxurious Yutong buses in an effort to resolve the transport crisis that continues to plague the city.

While the idea may have been noble the whole programme is quickly turning out to be a poorly thought out plan that perhaps should never have seen the light of day.

Under the initiative dubbed “Operation Okoa abiria,” NYS deployed 27 of its 29 buses to ferry passengers at a cost of Sh20 ($0.2) irrespective of destination.

The 27 NYS, covering nine routes, were each tasked with at least four round-trips daily - the first two between 5am and 9am, and the last two between 5pm and 9pm - from Kencom and OTC bus stages.

However, some city residents questioned how long the buses would remain in operation and how effective the service was in solving the chaotic public transport sector.

One year and three months down the line and their doubts have come to pass. Two-thirds of the buses have broken down and there are no funds to repair them.

Auditor-General Edward Ouko has revealed that only nine of 27 buses are currently in operations with the rest grounded.

“Under the circumstances, the sustainability of the Okoa Abiria Programme is highly uncertain,”

Mr. Ouko said in a qualified audit report that no funds had been received for subsidised service, adding that the project also lacked a budget allocation for maintenance and operation costs of the buses.

“As at the time of the audit, only nine out of 27 buses were still operational while 18 had broken down and were grounded,” Mr. Ouko said in the report on the National Youth Service Mechanical Transport Fund books of accounts for the year to June 2018.

One then wonders how the remaining two buses can serve millions of Nairobians while still serving thousands of National Youth service recruits.

About 30,000 youth are recruited annually and trained in various skills (paramilitary, engineering, fashion and design, business management, catering, agriculture, secretarial, plant operation, construction, driving) and, prepared for other national matters such as service in the armed forces, national reconstruction and disaster response.

Meanwhile, Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Co., Ltd., Yutong global bus supplier, as of December 2018 had produced its 15,000th bus to be delivered to Africa at its factory in Zhengzhou, Henan Province.

Since entering the market in 2004, Yutong Bus has been the top Chinese bus exporter to Africa. 

Over the past three years, the Company's exports to Africa have accounted for 45% of China's total bus exports to the continent.

In 2017, Yutong saw a total sale of 67,568 large- and medium-sized buses including 24,865 new-energy buses.

According to alibaba's e-commerce site China best seller bus yutong 50 seat ZK6122H9(HN9 bus goes for US$45,000 - US$60,000.

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