‘Made in Ghana’ cars go on sale

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

AC­CRA — Ja­panese Toy­otas, Ger­man Mercedes and BMWS, GM cars and trucks from the USA are driven in coun­tries around the world.

But in Ghana an in­ven­tor and church leader who started out try­ing to make voice­con­trolled tele­vi­sion sets is telling the auto gi­ants to move over.

Kwadwo Safo Kan­tanka — nick­named the “Apos­tle” be­cause he also runs a net­work of churches — has fi­nally re­alised his dream of de­vel­op­ing and mar­ket­ing cars “Made in Ghana”.

“It’s been in the pipe­line since 1971,” Kwado Safo ju­nior, one of the in­ven­tor’s sons, told AFP. “It started with the old man, so it’s been a long time com­ing.”

Kan­tanka’s range of sports util­ity ve­hi­cles and pick-up trucks have got Ghana talk­ing on so­cial me­dia, thanks in part to an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign us­ing lo­cal movie and mu­sic stars.

The sticker price of the ve­hi­cles run from $18,000 to $35,000 — out of range for most peo­ple in Ghana. But a cheaper sa­loon car is ex­pected to go on sale next year.

The lo­cally made ve­hi­cles are en­ter­ing a tough mar­ket, go­ing up against es­tab­lished brands in a coun­try that sees about 12,000 new and 100,000 se­cond-hand cars im­ported ev­ery year.

But the in­ven­tor’s son, who is chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Kan­tanka Group, is con­fi­dent the de­mand is there and the firm can hold its own in the com­pe­ti­tion.

“Al­ready we have cer­tain com­pa­nies in Ghana who haveve come to make cer­tain out­ra­geous or­ders for huge num­bers that we have to meet. So, we are work­ing,”g,” he said, with­out ut giv­ing any speci­fifics. Buy lo­cal Ghana’s Pre­sisident John Drara­mani Ma­hama ma has been push­ing ng his com­pa­tri­ots s to buy lo­cally to boost a stut­ter­ing econ­o­my­con­omy hit by in­fla­tion, a de­pre­ci­at­ing cur­rency and high­igh pub­lic sec­tor debt.

In 2014, he showed howed off a pair of Ghana-made e shoes dur­ing his an­nual Statete of the Na­tion ad­dress and crit­i­cisedti­cised the lack of ap­pre­ci­a­tion of lo­cally made goods and over-re­liance on i im­ports.t

He noted that some $1.5 bil­lion was spent in for­eign cur­rency on items such as rice, sugar, cook­ing oil, toma­toes and fish — all money “which could have gone into the pock­ets of Ghana­ian en­trepreneurs”, he said.

“Any im­port items we buy as Ghana­ians con­sti­tutes an ex­port of jobs in this coun­try, es­pe­cially in re­spect of the items for which we have com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage to pro­duce,” he said at the time.

For Kan­tanka some key com­po­nents such as glass, tyres and brake cal­lipers are imim ported, AFP was told on a visit to the com­pany’s tech­nol­ogy re­search cen­tre west of Ac­cra last year.

But lo­cal sourc­ing is a key com­po­nent of Kan­tanka’s ve­hi­cles, whose ra­di­a­tor grilles fea­ture Ghana’s five-pointed star em­blem.

Wood from Ghana­ian forests is used to make dash­boards while the cream-coloured leather seats in the black SUV were made in the coun­try’s se­cond big­gest com­mer­cial city, Ku­masi.

Akan — a lan­guage widely used in Ghana — is writ­ten along­side English on the elec­tron­ics. ‘The next Toy­ota’? Kan­tanka’s son was adamant about the unique­ness of the cars, which have all been ap­proved for safety by Ghana’s Driv­ers Ve­hi­cle Li­cens­ing Au­thor­ity.

The Made in Ghana la­bel means that “if you have any prob­lems with the ve­hi­cle, you wouldn’t have to im­port from In­dia or China or Amer­ica. All the parts are right here and we have a 24-hour ser­vice,” he said.

Six months ago, Ghana’s po­lice ser­vice re­ceived one of the pick-up trucks, po­ten­tially paving the way for other govern­ment agen­cies to place or­ders.

Kan­tanka ju­nior is up­beat about the way ahead.

“The fu­ture of Kan­tanka for the next 10 years is to try as much as pos­si­ble to in­crease our lines,” he said.

To the curent three lines, he said, “we in­tend to in­crease by next year Jan­uary, Fe­bru­ary and add two more lines to it. We in­tend to go into more lines like buses, mini-vans and all that.”

For Ghana­ians, the cars could put their West African na­tion on the map.

“We must be­lieve in the Ghana­ian just like Toy­otas and Hyundais,” said Mur­tala Mo­hammed, who lives in Ac­cra.

“They all started from scratch. Who knows? Kan­taka could be the next Toy­ota.” — AFP

A KAN­TANKA car at the Apos­tle Safo tech­nol­ogy Re­search Cen­tre in Go­moa Mpota.

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