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May 15, 2007

Kenyan firm fabricates appropriate technology food processors

Small businesses are getting a big boost from a Kenyan manufacturer who is fabricating production equipment for them. DK Engineering, based in Nairobi's industrial area, has been creating production equipment for cottage industries which cannot afford more expensive mass production lines.

The manufacturer has been making and selling high quality food processing machines, packing and sealing equipment and baking and catering gear to small small-scale producers. "All our products are made according to the specifications and financial ability of our customers," company technical director Jonathan Mbachu said.

Managing director Leonard Kamau said the company has been creating appropriate and simple technologies. "Customers give us their specific needs and what they would like the equipment to do for them. They also say the amount of money they are willing to spend on the equipment," he said. They then pay a deposit to get the job started.

After construction, customers are given 12-month guarantees on the equipment and also sign a contract for servicing. Unlike imported gear, the locally made machines can get spare parts easily. "We have locally made spare parts for anything that we manufacture," said Mbachu. He adds that his firm has an upper hand against foreign producers who might not understand the local needs and realities for individual producers.

The company produces juice extractors, peanut butter makers, aloe vera squeezers and bakery equipment for small scale producers. The machines can either be electrically or manually driven, an approach which has won the company business from entrepreneurs in Uganda and Tanzania as well.

The Kenya Industrial Estates (KIE) the Government arm charged with helping young industries develop has, according to Kamau, done little to help them. "We have approached them on several occasions but they always say they do not have resources," he said. The company did get some technical help from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in product development.

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