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Foton set to clinch deal for city commuter buses

Foton East Africa is set to win a multi-billion-shilling contract to supply commuter buses to the Nairobi County government, significantly boosting the Chinese firm’s market share in the local vehicle market.

The devolved government has opened talks with Foton to supply at least 200 buses to kick-start a public transport plan later this year, rattling established players General Motors East Africa, CMC Holdings and Toyota Kenya that sell most of the new buses in Kenya.

Beijing-based Beiqi Foton established its local unit in 2011 when it opened an assembly plant and a regional head office targeting sales of its buses, trucks and pick-ups in East Africa.

The company does not report its sales but the deal with the Nairobi County is set to boost its sales significantly, upsetting market shares in the bus segment.

“Foton put in a serious bid for the supply of the buses and we will soon table it for approval by the county assembly,” said county executive for roads and transport Evans Ondieki.

He said that Nairobi would buy up to 2,000 buses over the next three years and that other companies may be asked to supply part of the units.

Mr Ondieki said the move had been prompted by the chaotic transport system in the hands of private investors, adding that the county would offer a safer, cheaper and more reliable alternative.

Foton East Africa CEO Calvin Guo confirmed that the firm had been picked as the supplier of the initial 200 buses this year but a contract was yet to be firmed up.

He said that the specifications of the buses, including seating capacity, are being discussed and would become clear in the coming weeks.

Sources in the new vehicle industry told the Business Daily that the county is looking at importing fully built buses, with Foton expected to supply the units from its parent firm in China.

Nairobi had also considered sourcing the buses from Swedish vehicle manufacturer Volvo but Foton has emerged as the frontrunner in the lucrative contract.