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An upsurge in number of motorbikes in Kenya has led to an increase in motorcycle spare parts businesses as the traders seek to cash in on the boom. The business is currently one of the most lucrative and fastest growing in the East African nation as traders open motorcycle spare parts shops to satisfy rising demand for the products.
Motorcycles in Kenya, as in many other African countries, are mainly used in public transport where they ferry people for short distances in both urban and rural areas. The number of bikes in Kenya has been on the increase, especially in the past four years, as prices of the machines come down and more young people seek employment opportunities in the transport business.
This has made motorbikes emerge as reliable mode of transport in many parts of Kenya. And with increased use of motorbikes in the public transport system, demand for spare parts due to tear and wear has risen. Businesspersons have seized the opportunity to start shops selling motorcycle spare parts and other accessories. Motorcycle spare parts outlets now dot many market centres in rural Kenya and the backstreets and suburbs of the capital Nairobi.
One can count up to five shops dealing with the products in most market centres in Kenya. Majority of the shops are less than a year old with some of the owners having changed business to cash in on demand for spare parts.
In the capital Nairobi, a survey on the main backstreets of the capital namely Kirinyaga and River roads indicated that there are as many motorcycle spare parts shops as there are mobile transfer service shops.
The latter are among the most sought after businesses due to wide use of mobile money. While some of the traders with shops on the two streets are wholesalers, who supply spare parts to hundreds of others stationed in various suburbs in the capital, majority are retailers.
Paul Njeru is among tens of traders with motorcycle spare parts shops along River Road. Njeru, 40, has been in the business for over a year now, having changed from dealing in electricals. “I moved to motorcycle spare parts because I saw the great potential of the business, especially now that many people are buying motorbikes, which regularly need repair,” he said.
In his shop measuring about four by five meters, he sells motorcycle tubes, tyres, brake pads, seats, helmets, shock absorbers, clutches, gear levers, rims, exhaust pipes, among other items. Njeru has stocked the shop with spare parts to the brim leaving a little space for him to maneuvere around and serve customers.
“I have every motorcycle spare part one can need. I restocked the shop about five months ago after seeing that the trade was booming,” he recounted. Most of his customers are motorcycle taxi operators working in the capital.
“They operate their businesses in suburbs across Nairobi. However, some come from outside Nairobi because our prices are lower,” said Njeru, who added that he also deals with motorcycle mechanics and spare parts retailers.
Prices of goods in his shop range from between US$0.59 US$150. The expensive parts are motorcycle frames, most of which are made from aluminum tubes. According to Njeru, the much sought spare parts are tyres and brakes. “Tyres are on high demand because they need routine replacement. Most operators change them between four and seven months,” he said. Njeru sells the tyres between $17 and $29 depending on the make and quality.
And as many other traders in the area, he buys his wares from businesspersons who import them from Asia, mainly China. “I go to industrial area to buy the spare parts from a trader who imports them directly from Asia. He is one of the biggest dealers of motorcycles spare parts and also sells the machines themselves,” said Njeru, who on a good day makes up to $300.
Bernard Moseti, another motorcycle spare parts dealer, in the capital, noted that the business is lucrative. “If you have regular customers and your prices are affordable, you make very good money. There are thousands of motorcycles in the capital and more are being acquired. Each one of them needs a spare part. This makes the business profitable,” he said.
He also noted that the number of people venturing into the business in Nairobi is rising. “When you go to backstreets of the city, you will find that there are some lanes mainly hosting motorcycle spare parts businesses,” he said. However, like other fast-growing sectors in East Africa, the industry has been hit with counterfeit products.
“There are so many counterfeit spare parts in the market that it is hard to avoid them. They are cheap but do not last. Some customers buy them only to come and complain few days later, which is not good for business,” he said.
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