After a self-imposed painstaking survey of most bus stops or commuters bus boarding points in some parts of Accra, I shudder to say that access to commercial transportation remains one of the most dreaded activities in the life of the ordinary Ghanaian.
Anyone who does not have the luxury of a private car dreads the several minutes he/she has to spend struggling, shoving and pushing for space in what is called in Ghanaian parlance, Trotro, not to mention the traffic situation on the road before reaching his/her destination.
Obviously, there will always be people who will struggle over commercial vehicles and those who will sit in the luxury of their vehicles but I seek to say that the percentile of the strugglers should be reduced.
As a young man triggered by the call for the entrepreneurial approach to securing a stable economic footing rather than relying on public sector employment, I have been dreaming of venturing into the automobile industry to create jobs. But finding a local vibrant automobile industry to look to in Ghana, has remained a mirage. Sad to say Ghana is not a country that has such an industry.
Anyone who has travelled from the northern region through Kintampo and Nkawkaw would have seen the fleet of small cars popularly called “Tico” or “Akwalaa”. They are the main means of transport for the people around there. They are used as taxi cabs by the youth of these towns. These cars used to be the lowest priced cars in Ghana and were very well patronized even in Accra. Anytime I pass by these two towns, I question myself if no engineer in Ghana can do mass production of these vehicles and put a Ghanaian brand on them. Then the Star of Africa, Apostle Kwadwo Safo, came to mind.
I have observed intently the modest lifestyle exhibited by our Indian friends who are living in Ghana. They own and manage chains of businesses in the country’s capital and big cities, from groceries to pharmaceuticals. Amazingly, the Directors, Managers and Families of these businesses ride in small cars manufactured from their home country, India. Not too long ago, our Senior High Schools were flooded with Mahindra pick-ups – I just loved the way they pushed their products on us.
In recent years, India has emerged as a leading center for the manufacture of small cars. Hyundai, the biggest export from the country, now ships more than 250,000 cars annually from India. Apart from Maruti Exports' shipments to Suzuki's other markets, Maruti Suzuki also manufactures small cars for Nissan, which sells them in Europe.
India's automobile exports have grown consistently and reached $4.5 billion in 2009, with the United Kingdom being India's largest export market, followed by Italy, Germany, Netherlands, and South Africa.
According to the New York Times, India's strong engineering base and expertise in the manufacturing of low-cost, fuel-efficient cars has resulted in the expansion of manufacturing facilities of several automobile companies like Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Maruti Suzuki.
Apostle Kwadwo Sarfo has started and the horizon looks bright. The Kantanka Automobile has begun the sale of Ghana made cars. In 1998, Apostle Kwadwo Safo built his first ever complete-vehicle, the Kantanka saloon, a five-seater saloon car powered by the previously manufactured Kantanka petrol engine. Since then, he has built:
- Kantanka Odeneho I : a two-seater electric car that does not have a combustion engine but moves with the aid of solar rechargeable batteries. The batteries can also be recharged with electricity.
- Kantanka Odeneho II: An updated model of Kantanka Odeneho I. It is a five-seater electric car. Like the Odeneho I, it is engineless and it’s powered by solar energy and electricity.
Four wheel drives
- Kantanka Onantefo I: first ever four-wheel drive manufactured by the company
- Kantanka Onantefo II: an advance version of Kantanka Onantefo I
- Kantanka Okunini : Another 5-seater four-wheel drive with different design and more features.
- Kantanka Omama: A four wheel drive that would not start if the driver is drunk or wearing bathroom sandals. It has in-built Kantanka sensors that picks these signals. The aim was to ensure that drivers obey the driving laws of the country.
- Kantanka Daasebre: SUV that is started and steering controlled with the Kantanka gold watch
- Kantanka Nsoromma : SUV that is powered by the Kantanka Classic Vest Ignition Technology.
- Kantanka Otumfuo: SUV that is powered by the Kantanka Royal Staff ignition Technology.
- Kantanka Obrempong I : The first ever limousine manufactured by the company
- Kantanka Obrempong II: An advance model of Kantanka Obrempong I. In addition to its inbuilt Kantanka CCTV to enable the driver see as far as 200m ahead and behind, it also has the features of the Kantanka Omama.
Heavyweight personalities in the country have visited and purchased some of the vehicles in recent times. Former Vice President, Kwesi Bekoe Amissah Arthur, took delivery of two locally made Sports Utility Vehicles as part of efforts to boost the local automobile industry. I guess the latest high profile personality to secure the Kantanka vehicles is the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.
To help me realize my dream that I mentioned early on, I wonder if the Kantanka Automobile team can attempt to answer most of the following nagging questions on my mind:
- Why do you manufacture exotic and expensive four wheel drives that can only be procured by the affluent?
- Can’t you build low-cost, fuel-efficient cars that even the graduate who has just worked for one year can buy (I do not think the youth of today will like the engineless cum solar powered odeneho car)?
- Will you consider approaching government to at least make you build cars for high purchase for public sector workers especially health workers (this was the case until the erstwhile government cancelled the high purchase scheme)?
I believe the Kantanka Automobile team must look beyond the profit margin for now and build a solid brand that will resonate with every Ghanaian. Imagine most young men and women driving on every street of Ghana in a “kantanka picanto”.
Let us begin the automobile industrialisation now!