Features
29 Jun 18

Volkswagen opens first car factory in Rwanda

Earlier this week, Volkswagen opened a vehicle assembly facility in Rwanda as part of its push for growth on the African continent.

In a first phase, Volkswagen will produce current-generation Polos and Passats with other models planned for the future. Initially, the Rwanda facility will have an annual production capacity of 1,000 units a year but this can later increase to 5,000.

The new Volkswagen facility also includes innovative mobility services and a sales and service retail outlet.

First in Sub-Sahara region

Compared to production numbers of Volkswagen's first African plant, opened over 60 years ago in South Africa, production capacity is modest. The Uitenhage plant in South Africa equals the Rwandan factory' yearly production numbers in under two days.

Nevertheless, this new facility does reflect Volkswagen's ambition to significantly expand its engagement in Africa. In addition to Rwanda, the German carmaker is already active in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Algeria with further locations being planned.

Tech-savvy

As part of the investment, Volkswagen has launched an app-based car sharing service aimed primarily at companies in the capital Kigali. A ride hailing service will follow later this year.

"Rwanda is the ideal market for new mobility solutions because the people there are very digitally-minded and tech-savvy," commented a Volkswagen spokesperson. "Moreover, demand for mobility is growing and the present offerings can scarcely keep pace with these needs."

Thomas Schäfer, CEO of Volkswagen Group South Africa and responsible for the Sub-Sahara region, said: “Rwanda has great potential. The country is young, modern and hungry for individual mobility. With a package specifically tailored to the region comprising local vehicle production, new vehicle business and innovative mobility services, we intend to harness the opportunities for growth and create new opportunities. Rwanda can become a blueprint for other African and emerging market countries.”

A simple choice

Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, said: “Africa does not need to be a dumping ground for second hand cars, or second hand anything. In the long run, you end up paying a higher price anyway. If you can pay a high price for second hand, why not pay a high price for something new? It is a simple choice. Africans, Rwandans, we deserve better. This is one way of showing how we can afford it. For these and other reasons, this promising partnership with Volkswagen is off to a good start.”

Earlier this year, Uganda launched its own electric-vehicle project, demonstrating the growing need for individual mobility solutions on the African continent.

Image: the first Rwandan-produced Volkswagen

Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck