Cars made in Ghana

West African en­tre­pre­neur re­alises fa­ther’s1971 vi­sion to build, sell and ser­vice ve­hi­cles lo­cally

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

AC­CRA ( Ghana) — Ja­panese Toy­otas, Ger­man MercedesBenz and BMWs, GM cars and trucks from the U. S. are driven in coun­tries around the world.

But in Ghana an in­ven­tor and church leader who started out try­ing to make voice- con­trolled 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.”

Range of ve­hi­cles

Kan­tanka’s range of sports util­ity ve­hi­cles, bakkies and trucks are be­ing no­ticed on Ghana so­cial me­dia sites, thanks in part to an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign us­ing lo­cal movie and mu­sic stars.

The sticker prices of the ve­hi­cles run from $ 18 000 to $ 35 000 — out of range for most peo­ple in Ghana. But a cheaper sedan is ex­pected to go on sale in 2016.

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 against the com­pe­ti­tion.

He said, with­out giv­ing any specifics: “Al­ready we have cer­tain com­pa­nies in Ghana who have come to make cer­tain out­ra­geous or­ders for huge num­bers that we have to meet. So, we are work­ing.”

Buy lo­cal

Ghana’s Pres­i­dent John Dra­mani Ma­hama has been push­ing his com­pa­tri­ots to buy lo­cally to boost a stut­ter­ing econ­omy hit by in­fla­tion, a de­pre­ci­at­ing cur­rency and high pub­lic sec­tor debt.

In 2014, he showed off a pair of Ghana- made shoes dur­ing his an­nual State of the Na­tion ad- dress and crit­i­cised the lack of ap­pre­ci­a­tion of lo­cally made goods and over- reliance on im­ports.

Ma­hama 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,” Ma­hama said at the time.

For Kan­tanka some key com­po­nents such as glass, tyres and brake cal­lipers are im­ported, AFP was told on a visit to the compa- ny’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 cur­rent 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.”

PHO­TOS: VIMEO SCREEN GRABS

GHANA CARS: Self- styled apos­tle Kwadwo Kan­tanka is sell­ing cars as­sem­bled in Ghana and hopes to get as big as Toy­ota.

The in­te­rior of the Katanga SUV sports in­dige­nous woods and seats that are up­hol­stered in Ghana to suit the lo­cal de­mand for a bit more bling.

While the rear- end de­sign of the Ghana- built Katanga SUV does not push any bound­aries, there is noth­ing much to fault ei­ther.

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