Kenya once exported telecommunication equipment to USA, Europe

Before turning Orange and now to blue and yellow, Telkom Kenya was once part of a brand with a fabled history that saw Kenya export telecommunication equipment to the USA and Europe. Then under the umbrella of the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Company (KPTC), the firm was locally manufacturing telecommunication equipment for export at the now-defunct Gilgil Multipurpose Manufacturing Complex. The factory had been birthed in 1987 following the inking of a Sh86million deal between the corporation and ISKRA Commerce, a manufacturing firm from the former Yugoslavia tasked to build and train staff at the plant. The telco plant was a result of President Daniel Arap Moi’s 1982 trip to Yugoslavia which he inaugurated on December 5 1988. It would manufacture switchboards, telephone sets, power units and cables. The corporation’s chairman John .N. Kariuki projected that the factory would produce 100,000 telephone sets per year. In the same December, KPTC entered an agreement with global telco giant American Telephone and Telegraph (AT & T) that would see it export telecommunication equipment to the USA and Europe from the Gilgil factory. The three-year contract tipped to earn Kenya Sh60 million, would see the corporation supply AT&T with cable forms for use in its plants abroad. The Standard reported on the uniqueness of the project as the "first and the only one of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa." "Just a quarter-century after independence, Kenya is able to supply countries which were the original suppliers of such equipment," wrote the Standard. Kipng’eno Ng’eny, the Managing Director of the corporation, said that it was "symbolic of what was to come in the future." AT&T’s International Sales Manager, John Sihra praised the "high quality of equipment" made at Gilgil. Almost a year later, John Kamotho the Minister for Transport and Communication said that Kenya had saved Sh343 million in foreign currency over the last three years because of local production of telco equipment at Gilgil. The plant had over the period assembled 1,800 switchboards, 1,000 power units, 30,000 telephones and 8,400 cable pieces. By then KPTC was splashing millions yearly for advertising. Later that year, press reports emerged that the KPTC was seeking a loan from the African Development Bank (ADB) to fund an expansion of the manufacturing complex. The funds were meant to meet ‘expected demands’ in Europe and America. The Finance Minister, Mathias Keah said that the amount would be over Sh110 […]

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