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Car makers in Africa

Kiira EVS

The car making industry in Africa is still nascent and it is difficult to measure how successful it would be in the foreseeable future. Africa buys most of the cars and motorcycles driven in the 52 countries largely from Japan. Toyota is the biggest exporter of cars to the continent. However, several countries have vehicle assembly plants for some of the major brands.

In 2017, Africa imported 420,000 new vehicles, 85 percent of them going to South Africa according to a survey by Frost & Sullivan, a US based market research firm.

A 2019 UNEP research showed that over 80 percent of the car imports into Africa were second hand. Used cars in Kenya account for 96 percent of all car sales, and 89 percent in Nigeria. 81 percent of all exported second hand cars from Japan end up in six East and Southern African nations. Kenya is the main market, followed by South Africa (which imports to reexport due because second hand cars are banned there), Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Mozambique in that order. 

African countries that have banned second hand car import

Four countries in Africa have imposed total ban on second hand vehicles. They are: Egypt, South Africa, Sudan, and Morocco.

10 countries allow used cars that are below 5 years old to be imported and impose high taxes on them. 16 countries allow cars that are at most 9 years old, while 24 countries don’t allow cars that are above 10 years old despite having no proper regulations in place.

Kenya in 2019 changed regulations to raise the age limit for second hand car imports to 5 years. (Source ~ UNEP)

Courtesy of UNEP

Kenya now plans to ‘wind up’ import of second hand vehicles that are more than 3 years old by 2021, and in July 2019 introduced a new regulation that only allows cars that are not older than 5 years. This is in a bid to boost the local car assembling and manufacturing industries.

Even though higher taxes are imposed on second hand cars, affording a new one is more expensive in the country. Nigeria and Ghana are also working towards promoting local assemblies even though second hand car smuggling is rife in the two countries.

Despite the challenges, leading car producers are being incentivised to set up assembly lines in different countries. There are also a handful of car makers who have set up shop in some countries.

Car makers and assemblers in Kenya

Car assembling started in 1960s when Volkswagen produced the Beetle. The company returned to set shop recently and now fully produces the Volkswagen Polo Vivo. The car assembly plant in Kenya is run by the Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers (KVM) in Thika, just a few kilometres outside Nairobi. KVM also assembles for the Hyundai Motor Corp.

Other major car assembly lines in Kenya are: DT Dobie, General Motors East Africa, Associated Motors, and the Associated Vehicle Manufacturers (AVA) based in Mombasa, which is the largest and assembles for Toyota. AVA produces the Toyota Landcruiser.

Toyota dropped a bid in 2019 to acquire AVA due to ‘low sales’ of the Hino trucks and buses that it planned to produce, instead subcontracting the assembler to do the work. AVA also assembles Mitsubishi, Scania, and Tata trucks. However, the biggest car seller in Kenya is General Motors which controls new vehicle sales with 27 percent of the market, beating Toyota into second place.

Nyayo car project and why it failed

The Kenyan government in collaboration with the University of Nairobi initiated the first indigenous car manufacturing project in 1986. It was dubbed the Nyayo car. The five Pioneer Nyayo Cars prototypes were created and attained a speed of 120km/hr. The car however never got to commercial production due to lack of funds according to the government.

Nyayo Motor Corporation rebranded to Numercial Machining Complex and manufactures industrial parts and accessories for different industries. The five car prototypes can be viewed at the Kenya Railways Museum. Subsequent governments have considered reviving the project but none has picked it up.

Nyayo car during trials at Nyayo Stadium Nairobi 1990

Mobius Motors Kenya

Mobius was founded in 2011 by Joel Jackson to ‘build a vehicle in Africa, for Africa’. The first-generation Mobius II was launched in Kenya in 2015. It plans to launch the next generation Mobius II before the end of 2019. The company said that preorders for the Mobius II had exceeded expectations with 300 orders already made by the end of April 2019. The car prices start at KES 1.25 million (USD 12,500).

Courtesy Mobius Motors

Car makers in Uganda

Uganda is the fourth largest importer of Japanese second hand cars, after Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania. It has a fairly relaxed importation regulation making such vehicles to be cheaper than in neighbouring Kenya. Notable new car makers and assembly plants in Uganda are:

Kiira Motors car manufacturing in Uganda

Kiira Motors Corporation is an ambitious project established in 2011. It is a collaboration between the government of Uganda (96 percent shares) and Makerere University (4 percent shares). The company traces its audacious history to 2007 when Makerere University students participated in developing a hybrid-electric car dubbed Vision 200, an initiative by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Kiira EVS

The experience would motivate the university to implement a challenge by President Museveni and in 2011, it built its (and Africa’s) first electric vehicle, dubbed Kiira EV. This success led to establishment of Kiira Motors Corporation in 2014. It built the hybrid-electric Kiira EV Smack the same year, and the Kayoola Solar Bus in 2016. It followed up the production with the Kiira EVS.

The Uganda government in 2018 approved the setting up of a car making plant in Jinja that would produce 5,000 vehicles annually. It was given a four-year timeline for the commercial phase to start. It plans to produce buses, sedans, SUVs, light and heavy-duty trucks and pickups. As at 2021, Uganda officially makes electric buses and cars.

Car makers in Nigeria

Car assembly plants in Nigeria started in the 1960s. Volkswagen and Peugeot set up assembly plants in the country in 1972 and 1975 respectively with the former producing 29,500 units annually. In the same period, Daimler and the federal government established Anambra Auto Manufacturing Company (ANAMCO) assembly plant in Enugu with an annual capacity of 7,500 trucks and ambulances. Leyland Nigeria set shop in Ibadan to assemble the Range Rover, Land Rover, Albion, Mitsubishi Canter and The Landmaster.  

The companies started failing due to influx of cheaper second hand cars.

Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Nigeria

Nigeria joined the club of African countries that make cars in 2013 after a government policy shift that encouraged local manufacturing through limiting importation of wholly assembled cars. Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) founded by Innocent Chukwuma unveiled the IVM Fox, IVM Umu, and IVM Uzo. The IVM has its manufacturing and assembly plant at Nnewi, Anambra State.

IVM says on its website that it “introduces automotive products from China, Japan and Germany. It’s product line includes heavy duty vehicles, middle and high level buses, special environment friendly vehicles. The company carries out optimization design and assembly according to African road condition so as produce suitable products at affordable prices.”

The company manufactures buses of various capacities, double cabin cabs and SUVs.  

IVM Slant

Car makers in Ghana

In Ghana, second hand cars rule the market. In 2018, the government shifted policy in order to support local car assemblies and possible full manufacturing of cars.

It signed agreements with three global manufacturers, namely Nissan, Volkswagen and China’s Sinotruk to establish car assembly plants. Nissan accounts for the largest car sales in Ghana at 32.8 percent. Mahindra is a major assembler and competitor. About 10,000 cars get sold in Ghana every year.

Kantanka Automobile car manufacturer Ghana

Kantanka Automobile Company was founded by Kwadwo Sarfo Kantanka. The company produced its first car in 2014. Its approach is assembling cars by order and it can produce 120 cars per month. Just like Nigeria’s IVM, Kantanka supplies the police to prove the toughness of their vehicles and win the faith of a doubting market.

Their models are majorly saloon and SUV. They sold their first car in 2015 and have the following in their range of vehicles: Kantanka Nkunimdie SUV, Kantanka Omama Pickup, Otumfuo SUV, Kantanka Amoanimaa, Kantanka Mensah.

Kantanka Otumfo

The cost of the cars is however somehow high with the least going for USD 20,000.

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