OK so I should probably write an update about last week and who I met in Kampala and what I went and did last weekend in Western Uganda, but instead I'm just going to blow some steam about the car situation here in Nairobi. Which can be summed up pretty succinctly:
The main problem is the duties. Duties to get a new vehicle here typically (TYPICALLY) run right around the same amount as the ENTIRE STICKER PRICE OF THE VEHICLE ITSELF. So, I'm looking at a nice new Hilux, Toyota's kind of equivalent to the Tacoma pickup back in the US, the first (and only) car I had out of college (I payed something in the mid-teens for it, used and a couple years old). The sticker price is something around $25K which of course is a stretch on a humanitarian budget, but possibly doable.
Here's why a pickup or an SUV - something with decent clearance and 4WD is important - of all the countries I've been to all over this continent, Kenya has, hands down, far and away, without a doubt, and beyond all comparison the WORST roads of anywhere. Ever. I'm talking speed-bumps the size of Volkswagens, roads in complete disrepair, potholes so big they should really be called craters. Some of them actually look like sinkholes, there are at least 2 within a couple kilometers of my apartment that I know if I ever hit by accident will pop the tire and probably bend an axel, at the least. There is no way I'm investing in anything less than a truck, as it would just get torn to shreds here. I've actually seen potholes in the speedbumps.
So anyway, back to the shiny Hilux. I'm thinking I just might be getting one when WHAMMO I find out about the duties. Just take that price and double it. Hey at least the math is easy, right? So instantly you take the idea of "new" and eliminate it from your car shopping vocabulary, that's no longer an option.
OK, so, used. Anything in the last 7-8 years is pretty much still out of reach because locals typically pay the duties in monthly installments, like their actual car payment. So anyone selling one is also selling it with whatever is still left on the duty. So I can't really afford anything newer than a 2001, maybe a 2002 if I find a steal.
Which just so happens to prove a very minor problem in that Kenyan banks won't make loans on older cars given the legal restrictions around the selling / importation / etc. of older model vehicles, in what I understand to be a rather admirable governmental policy trying to force newer vehicles onto the road and reduce fuel consumption. Smart move when the country's often out of gas (lines were 30 deep at the pumps yesterday, that I saw). So, I can't get a loan for the cars I can afford, but I can get a loan for the cars I can't afford. Brilliant.
Which in a way is fine, because, considering the state of the roads here, 100K kilometers on a used car, well I'd estimate that to be at least 1.5 to maybe 2.0 times as many kilo's wear and tear as it would be on the same vehicle in most developed countries. So I'm hesitant to consider one of those cars anyway.
So I'm up a creek. At this point I'm thinking maybe I'll just resort to taxis and borrowing friends cars here, and renting when I have to. WV's vehicle allowance is nice and all, but it gets me nothing up front to fund a car, so unless you want to blow your down-payment-on-a-home savings on something decent, that's not an option. I can always take the pool car which will be one of those used sedans that will get swallowed in a pothole, but then I don't get the allowance, and you can only use that for work anyway.
I realize I'm in the humanitarian sector now, but honestly, time is money, and the amount of time I've burned and will still burn on this headache is just bad business.
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