For many, the concept of Africans fully manufacturing their own vehicles is a sign of innovation, which is way overdue! But we have seen that indeed, when these innovations occur, often they represent concepts or ideals beyond the basic needs for cars on the continent. So should Africans manufacture cars that will be used in the manner we use cars today, or should they be futuristic to provide answers to what cars would be tomorrow?
From Ghana’s Kantanka automobiles that can start and stop using voice recognition to Saith Technologies’ self-charging electric car from Zimbabwe, I ask “will these only remain inventions or can they become commercialized both home and abroad?”
In the past decade, it seems like much as South African-born Elon Musk is changing the game with Tesla Motors and its revolutionary electric motor innovation, manufacturing of vehicles in Africa be it luxury, commercial or concept and performance vehicles, is always a little different and ahead of its time.
Let’s take a look at the following vehicles conceived, designed and manufactured in Africa.
Kantanka Automobile (Ghana)
Kantanka Car is an electric car manufacturing company founded by Kwadwo Safo and headquarted in Kumasi, Ghana. The manufacturing base in Accra can produce up to 100 cars month. The Kantanka range of cars includes electric four wheel drive vehicles like the Nkunimdie model, the electric Kantanka Onatafuo 4×4 pickup and the electric Kantanka Opasuo range as well as the electric Otumfo sport utility vehicle. 12 rechargeable batteries power the Kantanka electric cars, so the car can power up by just plugging the charger into an ordinary socket.
One of their unique selling points is that these cars are designed and made to survive bad roads. Another feature unique to Kantanka is that their cars can be controlled with voice commands.
Kiira Motors Corporation (Uganda)
Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) is an automobile manufacturing company in Uganda, which was established in 2012. It began as collaboration between Makerere University, College of Engineering & Industrial Design, the Uganda Ministry of Trade, Industry & Cooperatives, and the Office of the President of Uganda. The government of Uganda has invested over US$70 million in the company. The company was allocated 100 acres of land in the Jinja Industrial and Business Park to build an assembly plant. Commercial production is expected to start in 2018.
Uganda aims to start producing its first car the Kiira EV SMACK with a production goal of 300 a month. The car will be a combination of a conventional internal combustion engine and an electric vehicle, which means they can run on petrol/gasoline and or electric energy.
Saith Technologies (Zimbabwe)
In 2015, Sangulani Max Chikumbutso unveiled his latest inventions and became the first Zimbabwean to design and make a hybrid engine-powered helicopter, an electric car, a magnetic converter, a ‘green’ power generator and a special drone. His designs were launched through his company, Saith Technologies. The Saith Fully Electric Vehicle has a top speed of 90km/h. The automobile doesn’t need charging from a source of electricity. It needs just 5 normal gel batteries to begin producing sufficient capacity to start the vehicle and charge the batteries as it moves.
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)
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.
Moroccan luxury yacht designer Abdeslam Laraki owns Laraki, a car manufacturer based in Casablanca. 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 recognized 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.
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 similar to Suzuki and Skoda. According to 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, colorful, off-road vehicles more environmentally friendly, as well as trying its luck in international off-road motorsport.
Innoson Motors (Nigeria)
Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing makes affordable, high quality and locally sourced passenger sedans in a factory in Nigeria’s Anambra state. The company’s Fox sedan, released in 2015, was declared “a reference point in the success story of the Nigerian automotive industry”. From humble beginnings as a bus manufacturer, the makers of the country’s ubiquitous Uzo minibus taxi, is now planning to go global with interest from potential Japanese and German partners.
So there you have it, you cannot put vehicles made n Africa in a box; they cut across. And while some remain purely concept cars, some have broken barriers to become ‘commercial ‘even if not in terms of mass production!!!