Toyota's investment in Kenya signals a shift from sales and distribution to manufacturing in the country. The Japanese powerhouse has similar arrangements in other African nations such as Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Egypt, and Nigeria. South Africa is its only "serious" operation in Africa which has been in existence since 1972 and employs over 7,000 people to man its Durban plant and distribution channels. $1.5 million was invested in 2023 to bolster distribution and carry out light assembly, and the latest $7.5 million announcement will be to repurpose the oldest vehicle manufacturing plant in Kenya to make Toyotas.
Toyota first entered Kenya in 1964, however the presence was not truly operational and aimed at selling and servicing Toyota vehicles. This is beginning to change as Toyota now inches closer to manufacturing automobiles in Kenya.
In July 2023, Toyota invested $1.5 million in a multi-purpose vehicle parts logistics facility in Mombasa, Kenya. This facility will be focused on importing and distributing vehicles, with light production occurring. This plant marked the first time an SUV was assembled locally in Kenya but involved importing pre-assembled parts and basic assembling. Toyota's Kenya President and CEO, Masafumi Mogami, had this to say about the facility which will create 500 jobs:
"The opening of this new facility is a significant milestone for Toyota Tsusho in Kenya. It will allow us to better serve our customers and support the growth of the Kenyan economy."
In February 2024, the more interesting facility was announced which involves investing around $7.2 million (i.e., Sh 800 million) to upgrade the Thika-based Kenya Vehicle Manufactures Limited ("KVM") plant to assemble Toyota vehicles. The KVM plant was established in 1976 and was the first vehicle manufacturing facility in Kenya and focused on Land Rovers and Leyland trucks. The plant is located about 25 miles (i.e., 40 kilometers) northeast of Nairobi and covers an area of about 40 acres with an installed capacity to produce 6,600 vehicles per year.
Toyota has its largest operation in South Africa where it has a hub in Durban which produces the Hilux, Fortuner, Corolla Cross, and Ranger for domestic consumers and export. This plant was established in 1972 and employs over 7,000 people. Ghana has had a Toyota assembly plant since 2010, Egypt produces vehicles through a joint venture since 1999, Nigeria assembles Land Cruiser Prado and Hilux models also through a joint venture since 2014, and Côte d'Ivoire assembles Hilux and Land Cruiser models through a partnership with Sifca Motors since 2016.