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 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 reporters. “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 have come to make certain outrageous orders for huge numbers that we have to meet. So, we are working,” he said, without giving any specifics.
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 address and criticised the lack of appreciation of locally made goods and over-reliance on imports.
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.