Kantanka Car – a Ghanaian automobile manufacturing company with a plant in Gomoa Mpota, located in the central region of the country – launched its range of vehicles in December 2015, and is already selling them to the police and the military.
The company touts the cars as specially made to survive on bad roads, a chronic hazard in Ghana and other sub-Saharan African countries. The cars also have a special feature: They can be controlled with voice commands.
The Kantanka range of cars includes both electric saloon and electric four-wheel drive vehicles, along with conventional four-wheel drive vehicles. There is also an electric pickup truck. The Kantanka electric cars are powered by 12 rechargeable batteries so the car can power up by just plugging the charger into an ordinary socket.
Ghanaian Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, who attended the company’s Technology Exhibition on Monday, said: “I am here to reiterate and emphasize that support will be provided so that we will be able to develop [at] a much higher level the work that you have started here.”
The Ghana National Police purchased one of the company’s pickup trucks after it was certified by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority and the Customs Excise and Preventive Service. With government support, other Ghanaian public services are expected to place orders.
But Kantanka not only has government support, but also that of the opposition. Nana Akufo-Addo, the head of the opposing New Patriotic Party, told the press on Dec. 16 that the party would buy a number of Kantankas for use in the party’s 2016 election campaign.
Kantanka was founded by Kwadwo Safo Kantanka, also known as African Star, a Ghanaian Christian minister and philanthropist, who runs a network of churches around the country. A self-taught engineer, Kantanka started making musical instruments in the 1970s. He then moved to the manufacturing of electronic advertising boards, voltage stabilizers, induction motors and televisions, which featured voice control technology. But all his products were made in small quantities, as neither the capital for mass production nor the components were available.
In the 1990s, he set up the company’s plant at Gomoa Mpota, and produced his first car in 1998. But he still lacked support for mass production. It was only in 2013 that Kantanka gained that support, and was able to install a full-scale automobile assembly facility.
The plant currently has the capacity to produce eight vehicles per day, but it is expected to expand to 20 per day within the year.
Cars are Ghana’s third-largest imported product, costing about $500 million per year, according to government statistics. All of the major global manufacturers are on the market in the country, with 12,000 new and 100,000 used vehicles imported every year.
Kantanka will have trouble competing with these imports. The sticker price of the Kantanka line starts at about $18,000, with the most expensive cars costing $35,000. A cheaper vehicle is projected to hit the market next year, however.