Automotive Industry, News

Why We Must Not Reinvent The Wheel to Create Jobs in Automotive Sector

I just returned from Munich Ger­many after attend­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Motor Show (IAA). I was part of a del­e­ga­tion from the Kenya Asso­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers (KAM) and the Ger­man Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Coop­er­a­tion (GIZ). Also in atten­dance at the annu­al Fair was the Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel.

This near­ly sev­en­ty years show was pre­vi­ous­ly about automak­ers show­cas­ing their lat­est cars. But things are dif­fer­ent now. Orga­nized by the Ger­man Asso­ci­a­tion of the Auto­mo­tive Indus­try (VDA), the event now focus­es on mobil­i­ty as a whole and not just cars. Such is the holis­tic focus that we also need here in Kenya.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing in this show was akin to being immersed in sights and sounds of a dif­fer­ent new world. Clear­ly cars are no longer dom­i­nant in the mobil­i­ty space how­ev­er their show­case was mind-boggling.

Volk­swa­gen pre­sent­ed a small, ful­ly elec­tric city car called the ID.LIFE. It is per­fect for urban trans­porta­tion and will be launched in 2025. The all-elec­tric, BMW iX SUV offers almost 500 kilo­me­ters of bat­tery range, which means that after you charge it in Nairo­bi, you can trav­el all the way to Mom­basa with­out need­ing a recharge 

On its part, Mer­cedes show­cased a big­ger elec­tric car known as May­bach EQS. Inci­den­tal­ly, the elec­tric ver­sion of the Mer­cedes S class is already avail­able. In addi­tion, from 2025, all of Mercedes-Benz’s new vehi­cles will be 100% elec­tric. In the same vein, Audi has com­mit­ted to mak­ing all new vehi­cles elec­tric from 2026 onward.

Kenya must fol­low in the path of “Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recy­cle” as stat­ed by BMW’s top exec­u­tive Oliv­er Zipse. This is the phi­los­o­phy that auto man­u­fac­tur­ers are increas­ing­ly work­ing from as they man­u­fac­ture elec­tric cars.

Unmis­tak­ably, the future of cars is elec­tric. As such, Kenya’s gov­ern­ment is best advised to sway investors who will invest in the local assem­bly of elec­tric vehi­cles and micro-mobil­i­ty infrastructure.

It was clear dur­ing the show that micro-mobil­i­ty is a crit­i­cal cog in the mobil­i­ty wheel. This was evi­denced by the fact that there were over 70 bikes on show. Among them were elec­tric moped bikes whose max­i­mum speed is 25 kilo­me­ters per hour. Beyond that, one would have to ped­al man­u­al­ly. I could­n’t resist the temp­ta­tion of grab­bing one of these.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, only a hand­ful of these machines can be found in Kenya today which presents a huge oppor­tu­ni­ty for mobil­i­ty investors and manufacturers.

Elec­tric mobil­i­ty isn’t just good for the envi­ron­ment – it is great for the econ­o­my. By 2040, Ger­many will be pro­duc­ing 3.4 mil­lion elec­tric cars annu­al­ly, which puts them at the very heart of the auto indus­try. Accord­ing to the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, 13.8 mil­lion Euro­peans are direct­ly and indi­rect­ly employed in the auto­mo­tive sec­tor. This rep­re­sents 6.1% of total EU employment. 

Kenya can cre­ate thou­sands of well-pay­ing jobs by revi­tal­iz­ing the auto­mo­tive sec­tor. The start­ing point is that our Par­lia­ment quick­ly and care­ful­ly enacts the draft Nation­al Auto­mo­tive Pol­i­cy as an enabling pol­i­cy frame­work that will attract investors to assem­ble these cars local­ly. As part of this con­ducive pol­i­cy envi­ron­ment, we must acti­vate the Spe­cial Eco­nom­ic Zones because they will great­ly incen­tivize mobil­i­ty man­u­fac­tur­ers. Towards this end, I sug­gest that the Gov­ern­ment urgent­ly and suf­fi­cient­ly funds the Spe­cial Eco­nom­ic Zones Authority.

I should also note that the glob­al mobil­i­ty con­sumers are no longer exclu­sive­ly enthralled by cars. They want to move in an afford­able, clean, and effi­cient man­ner. Indeed, green­er modes of trans­port are becom­ing increas­ing­ly popular.

Accord­ing­ly, I sug­gest that the Gov­ern­ment strate­gi­cal­ly entices Orig­i­nal Equip­ment Man­u­fac­tur­ers (OEMs) to sup­port Kenyan insti­tu­tions through tech­nol­o­gy trans­fer. This will under­pin the local man­u­fac­ture of these new forms of mobil­i­ty into Kenya. We should no longer have to wait for years before we can tap into mobil­i­ty tech­nol­o­gy because this is already mature exper­tise among our exist­ing glob­al trade partners. 

Ulti­mate­ly, hid­den at the core of Europe’s suc­cess of the mobil­i­ty indus­try is the uni­ty in diver­si­ty amongst all play­ers which unfor­tu­nate­ly seems to be lack­ing in Kenya hence inhibit­ing the nat­ur­al growth of this most trans­for­ma­tive sec­tor. We must Think and act green for us to change the narrative.

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About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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