In Africa, Owning A Car is Somewhat Sacred
The other day I asked one of my Ugandan friends who currently lives and works in a health research organization, in the United States of America, whether he knew how to drive a car or even owned one yet.
My question was motivated by the socio-cultural excitement that comes with owning a personal car, in Uganda.
“No, I don’t need my own car at the moment because I can take a quick train or bus to the office”, he replied. His response shattered my excitement into pieces.
“How can you work in the USA, earning in dollars and not own a car?” I muttered to myself before sharing with him my long held intention of buying my own car.
Behind my innocent inquiry, there was a deep seated, silent fear of not owning a car, eating up my spirit.
This fear-laden, relentless and ubiquitous dream to own a car is a special kind of social fear that motivates African youth to either work or steal.
The ubiquity of this dream has led to the emergence of passionately accepted stereotypes like, “If you can’t buy a car, you are failure in life.”
This is the social force that led me to ask my friend whether he owned a car or not.
Just when I thought this naive dream was endemic to Ugandans, I found out that it is actually part of The Great African Dream.
The Height of Entrepreneurial Wisdom
The height of entrepreneurial wisdom, in this modern age, is in discovering people’s fears, harnessing and or exploiting them.
Most business models ranging from those for main stream media firms, social media firms, mobile phone makers, car makers and Wellness gurus have a strategy to combat our fears disguised as redemptive gestures to meet our needs. This is because most of our fears flow from our needs.
Social media app developers are aware of the human need for attention and belonging, so create a diversity of apps as diverse as the forms of attention humans need. Social fears of not finding a marriage partner motivate app developers to create apps like Tinder.
With regard to the African predicament of craving for cars, the Japanese have not only identified this fear but also soothed it by unleashing an avalanche of affordable cars on the continent.
The Japanese car-monopoly is evident on the continent with how Toyota car brands like Premios, Vitz, Raums, Coronas, Mark II are defining what owning a car means.
Africans will do anything in their power to make sure that they own a car. This ‘come what may attitude’ to fulfill their dream, exponentially satisfies the Japanese business model for selling cars.
Can refurbishing our public transport facilities subdue this fear of missing out on cars, so we can embrace, and not loathe using public transport means?