It was in the year 2000 that the phrase ‘Africa Rising’ was coined. This was through a forecast that the African continent would experience a massive surge in its developing economy, thanks to investments into infrastructure, technology, agriculture, education, tourism, and telecommunications.
The World Bank projected that Sub-Saharan Africa would remain one of the fastest growing regions in the world through the investments in the previously mentioned sectors of business. This growth in economic activity would increase the size of the middle class by approximately 300 million people. Additionally, the World Bank predicted that private consumption in the region would remain strong particularly with the continent’s burgeoning middle class looking to splurge on new passenger vehicles and for most, their first such purchase.
Last year, Africa was projected to see sales of new 2 million cars with major auto players such as Toyota, Tata Motors and General Motors looking at the continent for growth opportunities. According to Zawya, there are approximately 21.6 million passenger vehicles operating in Africa; making the continent’s nearly 1.2 billion population a very attractive prospect for global automobile manufacturers to penetrate. Not to be left out of the lucrative market, African entrepreneurs are now entering the automobile industry; designing and developing vehicles specifically geared for the local market and local consumers but with global aspirations. Here are some of Africa’s home grown vehicles:
Kiira Motors Corporation, Uganda
Originally developed by students from Uganda’s Makerere University for a project headed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the sedan hybrid electric vehicle called the Kiira EV SMACK was designed for the region, local terrain and consumers’ ability to afford the car. The five-seater sedan is powered by a rechargeable battery and has an internal combustion engine-based generator which charges the battery. The first commercial vehicle from this line is expected to rollout in 2018
The domestic vehicle maker Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company has built on its success of manufacturing buses and trucks to launch a passenger car line comprised of a truck (IVM 1021A) and a Sports Utility Vehicle (IVM 6490A). According to the company website, the automobile company was commissioned by President Goodluck Jonathan and founded by Mr. Innocent Chukwuma.
Kantanka Automobile Company, Ghana
The Ghanaian based automobile company founded by Apostle Safo Kantanka, assembles its passenger vehicles (mainly SUVs and pickup trucks) at the company’s manufacturing plant located in Gomoa Mpota in the central region of Ghana. The automobile company has reportedly pushed back commercial release of its models pending approval from the Ghana Standards Authority. The commercial success of these “made in Africa for Africans” cars will depend on the uptake by African consumers.
Birkin, South Africa
Founded in 1980 and based in Durban, Birkin Cars is best known for its quality reproductions of the Lotus 7 Series 3, called the Birkin S3. The company exports locally manufactured Lotus and other limited-edition performance car replicas around the world.
Saroukh el-Jamahiriya, Libya
Call her the saroukh el-jamahiriya which means Libyan- Rocket …which explains the design. The legendary “Libyan rocket” was fast, luxurious, and safe. Designed especially for former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 1999, the car, wholly built in Libya, was the country’s pride and joy, pitted against the German luxury car market leaders Unfortunately, it never went into full-time production, yet it was a prime example of inventive North African design. Designers claimed it to be one of the safest cars ever made, comparable to Volvo and Saab. It had some innovative safety features, including the ability to drive for miles on flat tyres – making it perfect for desert conditions – and a full electronic safety system with airbags. In fact, it was one of the first cars to have airbags for all four seats.
Laraki, a car manufacturer based in Casablanca, is owned by Moroccan luxury yacht designer Abdeslam Laraki. The company designed and manufactured its own range of luxury performance cars and sport models, including the Borac; the V8, 1 750 horsepower Epitome, the only officially recognised African-made supercar; and the Fulgura, which embodies a Lamborghini in look and spirit. Larakis are strictly concept cars, custom-built for each customer, and were ranked among the most expensive cars in the world in 2015, priced at over $2- million (about R33-million) each.
Advanced Automotive Design, South Africa
Pretoria’s Advanced Automotive Design makes racing-style sports cars and has been in business since 1995. The company is famous in motoring circles for its 2007 Shaka Nynya, named after the Zulu king. It has impressed drivers with its versatility and speed.
Competing in the lucrative off-road market, the small but powerful Wallyscar, manufactured in La Marsa, Tunisia, is a relatively new company, founded in 2006. The company is building a strong reputation for affordable, reliable, and powerful 4X4s, despite the size of its vehicles, which are like Suzuki and Skoda. Per reports from 2014, the company sells over 600 units a year, predominately in Africa and the Middle East, but also as far as Panama and Europe. The company’s plans include making its sporty, colourful, off-road vehicles more environmentally friendly, as well as trying its luck in international off-road motorsport.
The future for the African automotive industry is one that started off as dark as the continent but over time lights of inspiration and mechanical genius have popped up in various regions. All we can say is that we cannot wait for Africa to fully rise.