The dream of almost every African is to one day own a car. Owning a car presents exciting prospects for an individual, particularly the power of independence and also that of convenience. The demand for automobiles on the continent is very sharp, but the automotive market in Africa is flooded with second-hand cars mostly from Japan. The question we should be asking ourselves is: Can we also create our own, to emancipate ourselves?
Already the Japanese are exploiting the craving of the African person to have a car. They have conveniently found an outlet for their second-hand cars and an African will do anything they can within their reasonable means to secure a car for themselves. Hence, the automotive industry in Africa is dominated and monopolized by the cheap cars coming from Japan. The African benefits, they have the car, but ultimately the Japanese or any other nation dumping their second-hand cars in Africa are benefiting more.
The key is to unlock our own automotive industry. The issue at hand is to spark an automotive revolution in Africa. Almost everything that Africa consumes comes from outside the continent. We provide them with the raw resources, and they give us the finished products. But imagine a situation where we make our own cars and people believe in this notion. Even the ability to manufacture other products besides automobiles will be considerably stretched in positive terms for our own development, emancipation and benefit.
The demand for personal consumption is markedly rising, bolstered by sharp increases in personal incomes. It simply means that the demand for personal vehicles is significantly soaring too. According to the Paris-based Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles (OICA) or International Association of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, in Africa there are on average 44 vehicles per 1,000 people.
According to McKinsey, the number of vehicles on the African continent has doubled between 2006 and 2016 to a total of 32 million vehicles on the road. By comparison, there are approximately 260 million vehicles on the road in the US alone.
Here lies a potential for exponential growth in localizing the automotive industry. African governments need to put up the necessary conditions, infrastructure and resources to harness this potential. If these are in place, this growth can be satisfied with locally produced products, which will result in economic growth, the creation of skilled local jobs, and advancements in local technical capabilities.
Edward T Hightower, writing from Motoring Africa: Sustainable Automotive Industrialization, had this to say, "Lower continent-wide or countrywide per capita income levels should no longer be a barrier to investing in automobile production in Africa. In advance of per capita incomes in Africa growing to the $8,500 per year take-off point for personal vehicle purchases, recent trends now make vehicles and personal mobility more accessible to consumers in the middle and at the base of the economic pyramid.
Advancements in mobile technology and software have enabled the expansion of the sharing economy. Application of these technologies to personal mobility can allow rides or vehicles to be hailed or shared with a few clicks on a smartphone. This means that rides or vehicle usage can easily be scheduled and purchased on an as-needed basis. This per-use pricing makes vehicles accessible to individuals at significantly lower income levels."
There is a lot that can be done to power the economies of Africa through localizing the production of vehicles on a wide scale. There are huge opportunities that must be satisfied because of the growing personal mobility needs of Africa’s emerging middle class.