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The Akamba Public Road Services The company was started between the mid and the late 1950s by Sherali Hassanali Nathoo who was a member of the economically and professionally vibrant Ismaili community of Machakos.
The company’s first national headquarter was in Machakos town which was in the middle of a lucrative route linking Nairobi city and Kitui town. The main contribution of the Akamba in the colonial economy was skilled labour in industries and government positions in various parts of the colony and the East Afrcan region. It seems the initial and major intention of the company was to provide transport between home and workplaces for these workers and their families.
the company’s reach went beyond the Kamba clientele and became a sort of national road carrier that was spearheaded by an elite fleet of buses known as “inter-city coaches” that were powered by British-made Leyland-engines. In line with its phenomenal growth, the company moved its heard quarter to Nairobi the capital city of Kenya.
Thereafter, many more hubs were opened in key urban centres in East Africa as the company extended its service to all major parts of the region.The reason for growth could be attributed to the bus service founder’s intuitive leadership, keeping to schedules and having a highly-rated road safety record. The company also operated a secure and reliable parcel courier service that rivaled that of the then monolithic government-owned Postal Corporation. The gradual post-independence decline of the once-dominant train passenger services of the Kenya-Uganda Railways also helped the company’s growth.
The company’s success can also be attributed to its workers. The bedrock of the bus company’s staff was young Kamba men who filled most of the clerical, engineering, driving and ticketing operation positions. Truly, the bus company was a cultural ambassador to the Kamba nation whereby the distinct yellow body and large “Akamba” logo with the trademark athlete bearing a javelin was seen in all parts of the region, to the extent that the yellow colour came to be stereotypically associated with the Kamba community.Starting in the 2000s, the company started to face a myriad of challenges. The death of the founder in the year 2000 pushed the company closer to the brink of collapse. It was reported that there were squabbles and ineptitude on the part of the heirs. It seems there was poor succession management and it was only the trust the company had built over the years that kept it going while in fact it was an economic shell. Further, the declining road infrastructure and security situation had a heavy toll on the company.
The deteriorating road condition in its traditional routes started to bear a heavy toll on the vehicles and it became difficult to maintain vehicles while sustaining the low prices the company was well known for. Further, newer companies whose buses had more powerful engines such as the Japanese-made Isuzu and Swedish manufactured Scania, sleeker designs and other amenities came in to offer stiff competition.
The final collapse came in the year 2006 when creditors accompanied by auctioneers descended on the company’s numerous assets around east Africa.The giant of Ukambani fell and many livelihoods were lost. Local family-owned businesses can learn from this chronicle to try improve generational business leadership succession.