Traffic congestion is a routine in Africa's capitals due to the fact that most cities were centrally planned during the colonial era, with office blocks in the city center and workers residing in the suburbs. This literally means everyone pours into the inner city centers in the mornings and out again in the evenings.
The roads are narrow, often with only a single lane and potholes the size of craters. There are few street lights or traffic management systems.
For example, a typical traffic jam in Rwanda's capital Kigali in the morning and evening rush hours is witnessed. Cars, buses, bicycles, humans, and motorcycle taxis push forward bumper to bumper yet at a snail's pace.
Other than Rwanda’s Kigali, cities such as Kenya's capital Nairobi, Nigeria’s capital Lagos, and Uganda's capital Kampala are notorious for mobility congestion, where nothing often moves for hours at a time during peak hours. As a result, pollution in African cities is nearly as high as that in the Asian mega cities of Mumbai and Beijing.
Where is the Volkswagen operating so far in Africa?
Volkswagen opened its first plant in Rwanda on Wednesday, the 27th of June, 2018. It is the German car maker's fourth plant in Africa, after South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.
The goal is that soon Rwanda's motorists will also be driving its Polo, Passat and off-road Teramont models. To begin with, the car parts will arrive in Kigali via sea and road for assembly at the new Volkswagen plant in Rwanda.
Résumé: Pour un continent (l'Afrique) fortement dépendant des voitures d'occasion, la décision de Volkswagen d'assembler de nouvelles voitures dans des pays tels que le Rwanda, le Kenya, le Nigeria et l'Afrique du Sud pourrait changer la donne. sur les taux de pollution incontrôlables ainsi que la réduction de la congestion dans les centres-villes en encourageant les initiatives de covoiturage.
How is Volkswagen working to achieve such a goal in Africa?
In the theme dabbed “Volkswagen for mobility instead of private cars”, German car maker Volkswagen is investing over U.S.$18 million aimed at the assembly of the company's first cars that are intended for "community car-sharing" and not private clients, according to Thomas Schäfer, Volkswagen chief in South Africa, responsible for Africa too. The move aims to reduce the surge of privately owned cars that increase traffic congestion in Kigali.
Firms, embassies and ministries have already registered to acquire a specific number of cars ready for use. The next 150 vehicles will be for "ride-tailing" used as taxis linked to a smartphone mobile app developed for car-sharing by a Rwandan startup, Awesomity. 2019 will see car-sharing for private users as well as 500 to 600 vehicles assembled at the Volkswagen plant in Rwanda including cars for private or business clients.
Volkswagen Future Expectations in Rwanda
Officials announced earlier that Volkswagen Group South Africa is making an initial investment of US$20 million in its Rwanda operations. The Rwandan plant will have the capacity to assemble up to 5,000 cars per year. This investment is expected to create up to 1,000 jobs.
What has been happening in Rwanda before?
Rwanda as a country has witnessed steady growth in the population of Kigali, the national economy, and the middle class with which the number of privately-owned cars on the roads has also increased. About 105,000 cars were registered countrywide in 2011, according to the national statistics bureau. In 2017, the number stood at 187,000 Vehicles.
According to economic analyst Teddy Kaberuka, she says: "All these countries import their cars (second hand) either from Dubai or, mainly from Japan." Yet used cars are expensive for families in Africa, due to import duties of up to 100%. With a car that costs $10,000 (€8,600), the client would pay almost an equal amount to import it to Africa.
"It's crazy," says Kaberuka, that in theory, locally produced cars would be cheaper. "You then have a lifespan of 20 years, not just 5 years as with used cars," she stated. Financing models such as leasing are also interesting for African clients. In Rwanda, banks charge interest of 18% on credit, she continued.
In the sense seeking to prevent a total collapse of the traffic system, The government of Rwanda also came up with the "Smart City 2040" plan starting in 2013 that envisages intelligent traffic management systems, underground bus terminals, and a sophisticated public transport network. The government also included environment-friendly concepts such as bicycle lanes. A walkway with underground parking is already a feature of the financial district. At the start of the year, authorities introduced a law that makes provision for one car-free Sunday each month.
As African Mobilities Observatory - AMO, we strongly believe that for a continent that heavily relies on used cars, there is hope that the Volkswagen's decision to assemble new cars in countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa would shift the trend from importing used cars to impact on the uncontrollable pollution rates as well as reducing on the congestion in the city centers by encouraging car sharing initiatives.
What do you have to say about car sharing initiatives in Africa?
By Joseph Semuju
Community Manager - AMO
African Mobilities Observatory - AMO, MICHELIN.
Message was edited by: Joseph Semuju