The evolution of Chinese automobiles in Ghana

The relationship between Ghana and China dates back to 1960 when the first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, had to lobby for the People’s Republic of China’s reinstatement in the United Nations (UN). Both countries have had growing diplomatic and economic relations ever since. For much of the last century, Ghana relied heavily on commodities for foreign exchange, but it was until from the year 2000 that China’s interest in Ghana in terms of investments and trade grew stronger.

Most past and present governments of Ghana have one way or the other had some economic or diplomatic support from China. Inferences of events from the Rawlings administration to the Nana Addo administration show that, both Ghana and China’s relationship will forever remain strong and there is the need for more collaboration of economic ties for mutual benefits.

The growth of China’s trade interest in Ghana for the past decades has improved so significantly in goods and services which include textiles, commodities and automobiles. Huawei, one of the giant mobile service providers of China is doing very well in Ghana and many more Chinese vehicle and motorcycles are all over Ghana helping in diverse ways for the growth of the  economy.


The automobile market

Ghana Automobile Industry is well-known with Europeans and Japanese brands such as Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz, Isuzu, Ford and Volvo. With some South Korean brands such as: Kia, Hyndai, Ssangyong. These brands have dominated the Ghanaian market over decades as a result of brand power and high images in the eyes of the Ghanaian Automobile consumers.

In time past, the Chinese brands were perceived as substandard and low-quality vehicles due to some technical challenges automobile consumers experienced whiles using them. However, globalization and technological innovations has now made these Chinese manufacturers to improve on their product designs, quality and specifications to compete so closely with some of these European, Japanese and South Korean Brands in the Automobile Industry.

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Foton,one of the leading Chinese brands in the world for example, has adapted a strategic alliance with renewed automobile giants in the world such as: Cummins from America, Diamiler from Mercedes – Benz, Germany and Isuzu from Japan where they pick Engines, Transmissions, Gearboxes and Axels from these renowned automobile companies to manufacture their vehicles. It is of no doubt, Foton is now one of the leading brands in sales volume of Heavy Duty Trucks in the world and tipped as the number two brand in the Light Duty Commercial Trucks segment in Ghana(source: GADA).

Historically, The Kalmoni Group has been very instrumental and consistent in promoting and marketing Chinese Automobiles in the Ghanaian market over decades now. The first Chinese vehicle introduced into the Ghanaian market was the Great Wall, which dates back to the late 90s and early 2000s by the Kalmoni Group under its sister company called Enyidado Industries later changed to Modern Auto Services Limited.

After testing this Brand for a period of time, the Ghanaian automobile consumers did not acceptthe brand due to some technical and design challenges. This they had to let go of andexplored other Chinese Brands such as: Geely, Cherry QQ, Changan, Lifan. These Brands were introduced and tested the Ghanaian market but eventually could not also stand the test of time in the eyes of Ghanaian automobile consumers. Foton one of the flagship brand of Chinese vehicles, including othersnow doing very well in complementingto the Ghanaian Economy.

Many SME’s in Ghana today such as:  Mobile Water producers, Beverages distributors, wholesalers and multinational companies now rely greatly on these Chines Light Duty Trucks for their distributions and retails operations. This is mainly due to their Quality, Reliability, Affordability, and good after sales support by their local distributors.

The Construction and Real Estate developers can now boast of a more reliable Foton Auman Heavy Duty Tipper Truck with bucket sizes of: 18, 20, 32 & 45 cubic and equally the Oil & Gas sector can also boast of high quality

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Foton Auman Tractor Heads as the only Chinese Truck in Ghana today with the ADR specification whichis a mandatory requirementsby European standard for transporting Oil & Gas. New Chinese vehicles importation to Ghana has significantly grown as per data below.

Over the last three years, about 40,181 units of new vehicles have been imported into Ghana with the Chinese vehicles contributing about 9.9% of these total imports. Even though, in the year 2017 there was a 7% declined in the total imports of new vehicles into Ghana as against the previous year, but the Chinese vehicles witnessed about 8% growth over the preceding year which is quite significant and shows a promising future for the growth of Chinese automobiles in Ghana.

There should be a deliberate effort between governments and authorized Automobile distributors in Ghana to partner with the Chinese companies for a possible establishment of some vehicle assembling plants in Ghana. Even though, the current government has entered into some negotiations with SINOTRUCKfor possible of establishing an assembling plant for which over 1,500 trucks are to be assembled annually for the West Africa market, more of such needs to be work on.

The fact of the matter is that, these Chinese vehicles have come to stay in Ghana Automobile Industry and we as a nation must start to develop and strengthen our technical institutions so that we can train more youth to feed into this sector. Else we will eventually be purchasing and use these Chinese vehicles and have to resort to these foreigners to provide service for them.

Chinese Brands such as: Foton, Howo Sinotruck, Shackman, Jac, Jmc, Yujein, Dongfing etc. are now all over the Ghana Automobile Industry and credit must be alluded to the pioneers for paving the way.

The writer is the Brand Sales Manager of Japan Motors Trading Company Ltd.


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