‘How Nigeria can become a force in the auto industry’

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Nigeria’s 4.1 million middle-class households and a projected 7.6 million upsurge by 2030 may turn the country to a major force in the auto industry if current efforts in the automotive sector are sustained.

Indeed, considering the over 350 million population of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the potentials of the region’s Common External Tariff, Managing Director, Nissan South Africa, who also doubles as President, National Association of Automobile Manufacturers South Africa (NAAMSA) and Vice President African Association of Automobile Manufacturers (AAAM), Mike Whitefield said government must see the automotive sector as the best avenue to industrialise and diversify the nation’s economy.

While players lamented that the sector is currently suffering a somewhat standstill, Whitefield told journalists recently that government must build a legislative frame work that allows stability and gives certainty to distance over a long period of time to move the industry forward.

Lamenting that only 40,000 of the 800,000 vehicles imported to Nigeria last year were new vehicles, he stated that Nigeria must grow the size of its new market by offering affordable solution.

“The size of the market can only happen if we can offer affordable solution. Affordable solution doesn’t only mean cheap car, but we have to find ways of creating access to finance for people to be able to buy cars. If you are lucky you would get vehicle finance at 24 per cent in Nigeria and quite frankly at 24 per cent you can’t do finance scheme,” Whitefield said.

Underscoring the need to get rid of importation of second hand vehicles in Nigeria, he stressed that “to stop used vehicles and not instantaneously offer solution for an alternative wouldn’t make any sense”.

Citing prevailing situation in South Africa, where the auto industry creates sustainable jobs and employs directly more than 83,000 people, the NAAMSA president said Nigeria must look at long term plans to make meaningful development in the sector.

Whitefield, who was part of a delegation that met with Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari recently said, “there are only two countries with a population of more than 100million people that doesn’t have functional motor industry – Bangladesh and Nigeria.”

Currently, there is no downstream in the automotive sector in Nigeria, Whitefield noted, adding that the AAAM has offered support to the country in an attempt to develop a robust automotive sector.

He said: “We have always deliberated on the local content issue and that was why we had with us as part of the delegation that met President Buhari the President of the South African Component Manufacturers Association. As manufacturers, we fully understand we can’t establish a sustainable modern industry without component manufacturers, so in the very early days as we developed the programme with Nigerian stakeholders, we realised components and part suppliers are key stakeholders we need to bring along. We are aware of it and we are working on it”.

Speaking on the organisation’s operation in Nigeria, Whitefield said Nissan has not been disappointed but frustrated because things haven’t moved as projected.

Whitefield said: “This isn’t due to policy but lack of foreign currency. But having done business in many developing countries, we realise you don’t go into any country and expect a short-term success.

“We intend finding solution to affordability first. Indeed, we recognise one element, that what we do need to bring to the market is affordable transport solution and surely we will.

“The best route is that we make vehicles in Nigeria within a very solid policy frame work that is enforced and implemented.”



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