Out of Africa comes a new car

20 April 2016

A Ghanaian entrepreneur must overcome scepticism to sell his vehicles to the country’s consumers

Al Jazeera has hailed Kwadwo Safo Kantanka as a “genius”. Not to be outdone, Africa Redemption magazine describes him as the “most mysterious man on earth” and says: “It is practically impossible to comprehend his level of wisdom.”

Which is lucky, as the Ghanaian – variously a preacher, inventor, agriculturalist and philanthropist – is behind the launch of a homegrown car brand, Kantanka, with his son, Kwadwo Safo Jnr, chief executive.

The challenge of breaking into this crowded marketplace isn’t lost on either of them. Ghana is known for producing gold, cocoa and oil, not cars. They are the country’s third-largest imported product with 12,000 new and 100,000 used vehicles imported every year.

“The biggest challenge is people having faith in the car,” says Safo Jr. “People think the doors will come o or the tyres will blow off. Ghanaians tend to have the perception that once it is from Ghana it is not good – durability is not assured, safety is not guaranteed.”

Yet early reports are favourable, especially since the police tested a pick-up truck. “They rough handle cars a lot,” says Safo Jnr. “They took the car, chased criminals and made it appeal to the masses. Our cars are made for Ghana. We know how the roads are, and we built them to cope.”

While some components are imported, such as glass, tyres and brake callipers, local sourcing is a key element of Kantanka’s vehicles. AFP reports that “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.” The 10-year plan is to manufacture entirely in Ghana.

Kantanka has headquarters in Kumasi, the capital of Ashanti City State, with an assembly plant in Gomoa Mpota that turns out around 100 vehicles a month. The company has long manufactured light aircraft, televisions and hand dryers, so it could well succeed as a car maker.

Three models are on sale with prices starting from US$18,000, the Onantefo (SUV), Omama (pickup truck) and K71 (a mini-SUV). Solar powered electric cars are also in development.

“We’ve gotten this far because we believe in the possibilities,” says Safo Jnr. “One day we will be all over the world.

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