Isuzu Motors, commonly referred to as Isuzu, is a leading international automobile manufacturer founded in Tokyo, Japan in 1937. In 2022, the company moved its headquarters from Tokyo to Nishi-ku, Yokohama, Japan. The name Isuzu was inspired by the Isuzu River that flows near to the Ise Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s most sacred and revered shrines.
1st January 2018 saw the multinational officially launch Isuzu East Africa (Isuzu EA) in Kenya, following the ownership and hence name change, from General Motors East Africa (GMEA) to Isuzu EA. Isuzu acquired 57.7 percent shareholding from GMEA in 2017. The primary aim of this investment has been to expand commercial vehicle production and sales in Eastern Africa. Other shareholders include the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) (20 percent), Centum Investments (17.8 percent) and Japan’s Itochu Corporation (4.5 percent).
Established in 1975, GMEA was involved in the import, assembly and sale of Isuzu vehicles, from trucks to buses to passenger cars. Isuzu EA has continued to maintain market leadership in Kenya’s commercial vehicle segment since 2012.
Isuzu EA is the pioneer manufacturing and distribution organisation outside of Japan where Isuzu has a 100 percent ownership. It serves as an important base for Isuzu’s long-term growth trajectory throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Since its inception, the Isuzu brand has lived up to its vision of creating commercial and heavy duty vehicles that truly serve the targeted customers. High quality, reliability and long life characteristics have remained at the core of what Isuzu manufactures and assembles to-date.
Nearer home, Isuzu EA has been the leading local vehicle assembler in the last two decades, with over 95 percent of sales in the light and heavy commercial vehicles segment. Isuzu EA raised its market share to a new record of 44.7 percent in the year ended December 2022, after increasing sales despite an overall slump in the new vehicle industry. According to the Kenya Motor Vehicle Industry Association (KMI), Isuzu sold 5,968 units in the review period, representing a five percent increase from 5,609 units ended December 2021, when its market share stood at 39.4 percent. This success has been driven by the outstanding support of customers and business partners who continue to demonstrate confidence in Isuzu’s enduring legacy.
Isuzu EA’s Assembly Plant on Mombasa Road has a capacity of 14,000 units per year and employs in excess of 5,000 people along the entire Isuzu chain. The Isuzu brand has attained strong leadership in the market, having assembled over 100,000 units since the first Isuzu vehicle rolled out of its Nairobi assembly plant in 1977.
In 2011, Isuzu EA (then GMEA) appointed the extremely capable Ms Rita Kavashe Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director (MD), making it the first multinational company (MNC) in Kenya with a woman at the helm. Ms Kavashe presided over the transition from GMEA to Isuzu EA.
Under Ms Kavashe’s exceptional leadership, Isuzu EA has embraced community support initiatives that respond to different societal needs. Its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program has mainly been impactful in the areas of Environmental Conservation, Education, Sports, Road Safety and Healthcare.
Environmental Conservation, part of the United Nations 15th Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG #15), is a worldwide top priority with a major focus on both afforestation and reforestation which support the earth’s ecosystem. Isuzu EA has adopted 70 of 110 hectares (Ha) of bare land in Muumandu Hill Forest in Machakos County, where the firm launched a tree planting project to rehabilitate the forest within a period of 10 years. This is in collaboration with the Muumandu Kalimanzalu Community Forest Association (CFA) and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). Thus far, the firm has contributed about 3,300 seedlings to the forest, which have been jointly planted by Isuzu EA staff and the community forest associations. More than 1,000 seedlings have also been planted in Mua Hills, Machakos, in response to the need to increase Kenya’s forest cover from the current 7.4 percent to 10 percent by 2030.
In line with SDG #4, the need to provide access to quality education, Isuzu EA has been extensively involved through provision of buses for school transport. In addition, Isuzu EA has partnered with a local education trust, Palmhouse Foundation, to launch a Sh 100 million endowment fund in support of underprivileged students. Over 700 students from all over the country have benefited. Isuzu EA has also provided both internship opportunities and full-time employment to some of the beneficiaries.
In June 2022, Isuzu EA joined Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) in establishing a girls mentorship programme at Embakasi Girls Secondary School, anchored under KCDF’s tertiary education programme. The Isuzu EA female workforce have been setting aside some of their time to mentor 236 girls on topics ranging from self-awareness, sexual reproductive health, drugs and substance abuse, among other key topics young adults are faced with on a day-to-day basis. The main objective is to provide a safe space for the mentees to explore their personal dreams and ambitions.
Similarly, in support of the boy-child, an initiative dubbed MENTENDA aimed at inspiring the society to act on the pressing challenges facing boys in Kenya was instituted. In collaboration with KCDF, Isuzu EA male staff have been mentoring students of Muhuri Muchiri Secondary School to become confident and responsible men, unravelling their potential to become able leaders in various influential spaces.
In support of sports development in Kenya, Isuzu EA took an interest in the national women’s rugby team popularly known as the ‘Kenya Lionesses’, after they won the Africa Women’s Sevens Cup. A CSR project named ‘Lionesses Arise’ sponsored by Isuzu EA and facilitated by KCDF was initiated, to improve the livelihoods of the ladies through economic empowerment and prepare them for life beyond their active sports careers. Since the project began, 29 ladies have undergone training and graduated. Isuzu EA is proud to have been associated with the women’s rugby team that flew the Kenya flag at the Tokyo Olympics in July 2021.
Isuzu EA has a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the National Transport Safety Agency (NTSA) to develop information and communication video clips from the Highway Code for online dissemination to road users on safety, good behaviour and responsibility when on the roads. The videos are available online and in driving training schools to support positive attitudes on road safety.
To mitigate the impact of unavoidable road accidents, Isuzu EA supported the establishment of a pilot emergency response centre in Naivasha along the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway. Working with Nurse in Hand, a donor-supported organisation, the firm funded the construction of the Naivasha Centre as a base for a rapid response paramedics team that can be deployed to a scene of an accident on motorbikes. The primary function of this rescue centre is to get to the accident scene faster and stabilise victims before onward transportation to hospitals via ambulances. The Nurse in Hand team has trained paramedics on standby to help save lives and minimise casualties. Isuzu EA has massively invested towards the project.
On 26th February 2022, an Isuzu EA team of 33 CSR volunteers led by MD Rita Kavashe and divisional directors Wanjohi Kangangi and Fred Wasike, participated in the 2022 Zambezi Hospital Cancer Walk. The purpose of the annual walk is to raise public awareness on the growing cancer rates in the country, and fundraise for free screening camps to aid early detection and hence, treatment. The charity walk attracted over 500 participants drawn from supporting organisations and several schools.
Isuzu EA, under Ms Kavashe’s exemplary and hands-on leadership, has proven itself to be a ‘Trusted Logistics Partner’, proactively engaging the community through diverse initiatives and cementing its position as the number one vehicle assembler in Eastern Africa. The premier MNC transforms lives as it dominates the roads with reliable and fuel-efficient vehicles.