Kwadwo Safo Kantanka, nicknamed “The Apostle” because he also runs a network of churches, has finally realized his dream of developing and marketing cars made in Ghana.
It’s a dream in the making since 1971.
Kantanka’s range of sports utility vehicles and pickup trucks have Ghanaians talking on social media, thanks in part to an advertising campaign using local movie and music stars.
The sticker price of the vehicles run from $18,000 to $35,000 — out of range for most people in Ghana. But a cheaper model is expected to go on sale next year.
The locally made vehicles are entering a tough market, going up against established brands in a country that sees about 12,000 new and 100,000 second-hand cars imported every year.
Kantanka Jr. is the inventor’s son and CEO of the Kantanka Group. He said he’s confident the demand is there and the firm can hold its own in the competition.
“Already we have certain companies in Ghana who have come to make certain outrageous orders for huge numbers that we have to meet. So, we are working,” he said, without giving any specifics.
Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama has been pushing to buy local and boost a stuttering economy hit by inflation, a depreciating currency and high public sector debt.
In 2014, Mahama showed off a pair of Ghana-made shoes during his annual State of the Nation address and criticized the lack of appreciation of locally made goods and over-reliance on imports.
He said some $1.5 billion was spent in foreign currency on items such as rice, sugar, cooking oil, tomatoes and fish — all money “which could have gone into the pockets of Ghanaian entrepreneurs.”
Kantanka imports glass, tires and brake calipers, we learned on a visit to the company’s tech research centre west of Accra.
But local sourcing is a key component of Kantanka’s vehicles, whose radiator grilles feature Ghana’s five-pointed star emblem.
Wood from Ghanaian forests is used to make dashboards, the cream-colored leather seats in the black SUV were made in the country’s second biggest commercial city, Kumasi.
Akan — a language widely used in Ghana — is written alongside English on the electronic parts.
The “made in Ghana” label means that “if you have any problems with the vehicle, you wouldn’t have to import from India or China or America,” said Kantanka Jr. “All the parts are right here and we have a 24-hour service.”
Kantanka gave a pickup truck to the Ghanaian police, potentially paving the way for other government agencies to place orders.
“We must believe in the Ghanaian just like Toyotas and Hyundais,” said Murtala Mohammed, who lives in Accra. “They all started from scratch. Who knows? Kantaka could be the next Toyota.”
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