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Lessons for Kenya from Germany’s love of self

The love for foreign products by Kenyans’ is not only well documented but also a lifestyle statement. Kenyans  buy more foreign goods and services than they market their own products to consumers abroad.

Be it clothing, furniture, household items or beer, most recognisable products traded by Kenyans in their business outlets, on almost a daily basis, are foreign.

Dressed in famous brands like Armani, Louis Vuitton and Gucci or using the latest iPhone and sitting on leather chairs imported from Europe and toasting to expensive Scottish whiskey, is considered classy in Kenya. This has led to the influx of imported products into the local market as foreign manufacturers outdo each other for a share of the pie.

The net effect has been closure of many local industries, leading to job losses and the high rate of unemployment in the country, as imports  surpass exports. By contrast, in some of the developed countries, the reverse is true and nowhere is this evident than in Germany. Germans’ love for their products is unmatched and you do not need to look further than their roads.

While in Kenya and by extension Africa, the car of choice has always been a Toyota, for Germans, it is either an Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen or Opel.  Indeed, a first-time visitor from Africa will have to wait for hours if not days to spot a Toyota on many German roads.

“We are very proud of our products and we believe if you buy domestic, you are supporting the economy,” Antonia Korn of Bundesliga International, the company that runs the German league, told this writer on a recent visit to the country.

Germany is listed as the fourth largest auto maker in the world behind China, US and Japan with famous high-performance and high-quality sports cars such as Porsche, Mercedes, Audi and BMW, known for their quality and technological innovation, manufactured in the country.

“Most of these people also work in these factories and feel proud to drive a model of the company they work for. They are also quality, powerful cars and look nice,” added Korn.

Indeed, in my three days in Munich, Audi and BMW, which have headquarters in the region, were the dominant models on the roads while Opel was the car of choice for many in Mainz when we visited the town. The same can be said of Stuttgart, where Mercedes has its base, and Wolfsburg the home of Volkswagen. 

Because of the love for their cars, the auto industry contributes combined annual sales of over €385 billion (Sh45 trillion), or 15 per cent of Germany’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs close to 800,000 people every year.

Germans’ affinity for their products goes beyond cars. If you want to have a drink, what you will get is a German brand. In Munich for instance, Bavarian beer is all that is consumed and no German will be caught dead drinking anything else. Every region has its beer product and residents of those towns prefer to consume that as a way of supporting their own.

“Like here in south Germany, all towns that form the Bavaria region such as München (Munich), Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Augsburg, Regensburg, Würzburg, Ingolstadt, Fürth, and Erlangen only serve Bavarian beer and its very popular,” added Korn.

The love is so much that the annual Oktoberfest (beer festival) — held between September and October — has become a huge tourist attraction in Munich with more than six million people from around the world attending the 16-day event every year and close to 10 million litres of Bavarian beer consumed.

It is a stark contrast to Kenya where Summit Lager, a product of Keroche Breweries, struggles to get off the shelves as many prefer foreign drinks.

Kenya’s most famous shoe manufacturer Bata has been forced to close shop due to low demand and now, we have the same products being shipped into the country from China.

It is a reality many are struggling to come to terms with but things would be different if Kenyans took cue from Germans who wear Adidas and Puma products faithfully. 

 Nowhere is this evident than in their stadiums where almost everyone dons Adidas shoes, T-shirt or accessory as they support their favourite teams.

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