Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has opened a new $37 million small arms factory as the country seeks to improve self-reliance on defence and security equipment.
The factory was opened on 8 April in Ruiru, Kiambu County and has the capacity to produce 12 000 assault rifles per year. In the next year the factory will focus on 9 mm pistols and 7.62 mm assault rifles.
The factory draws 60 percent of its input from local sources, the Kenyan Presidency said. Kenyatta said the country seeks to enhance self-reliance in security through local production of equipment and technologies in line with the Big 4 Agenda and Vision 2030 programmes.
He pointed out that the factory will lower the cost of acquiring weapons for Kenya’s security agencies and establish a sustainable national security industrial base that provides jobs for the Kenyan youth.
“This ground breaking initiative will allow us to lay the foundation for addressing the high cost of weapons acquisition, free us from the complex foreign export approval processes currently in place, provide Kenya with greater security sector independence and flexibility, and allow Kenya to design and produce high-quality weapons, customized to our unique needs and operating environments,” Kenyatta said.
“I am also pleased to note that the diligence of our security organs has delivered this project well under budget, with the project having been completed at a cost of about Ksh4 billion [$36.9 million] against private sector quotes of Ksh15 billion [$138 million], a saving of Ksh11 billion [$101 million],” the President said.
Through the arms factory, the President said Kenya plans to create a weapons manufacturing surplus that will transform the country into an exporter of security equipment.
“This will not only boost our balance of trade position, it will also create employment for thousands of Kenyans, in addition to creating a skills and technology environment that will drive transformation in civilian industries,” he said.
Kenyatta said the Government’s decision to set up the arms factory was encouraged by Kenya’s success in the local manufacture of some of the equipment needed in the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As with pharmaceuticals, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and medical equipment generally, Kenya has identified a compelling urgency to create domestic production and this also applies to the security sector equipment in order to free our country from the vagaries of international supply chain systems,” he said.
Interior CS Dr Fred Matiang’i said that the local manufacture of small arms will help eliminate exploitative brokers and cartels in the supply of weaponry.
Kenya has a modest local defence industry, but it is expanding its capabilities. In 1997 the Kenya Ordnance Factories Corporation (KOFC) was established to manufacture small arms ammunition. The new small arms facility intends to expand into medium and heavy weapons in the coming five years.
It appears private company Chalbi Industries is manufacturing the 5.56 mm CMZ-4 assault rifle at present (this is a copy of the M4/M16). It has been used by Kenyan troops in Somalia.
In late 2012 Osprea Logistics attempted to establish a facility to assemble Mamba Mk 5 armoured personnel carriers in Kenya at a cost of Sh3.5 billion ($41 million). However, it never got off the ground.