Joy News’ Benjamin Tetteh is a finalist in the African Story Challenge, a Pan-African initiative that supports best story ideas across the continent. Benjamin’s story on Africa’s drive at producing its own cars, focuses on the Kantanka Automobile project in the Central region of Ghana. Below is his first blog for the African Story Challenge.
What comes to mind first when Ghana is mentioned?
To some people Ghana is about playing beautiful football, as a taxi driver told me in his broken English while in Marrakech, Morocco. To soccer lovers, names like Michael Essien, Sully Muntari, and Abedi Pele easily come up each time you introduce yourself as a Ghanaian.
Boxing fans will mention Azumah Nelson and Ike (Bazooka) Quartey, among others. Statesmen like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, founding father of the Republic of Ghana, and former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan are other names that come up when speaking about Ghana.
Over the years, many things have helped project Ghana to the rest of the world. From its stable democracy and relative good governance, Ghana has been a shining example to the rest of the world.
In the field of production, Ghana has relied mainly on raw materials such as Gold and Cocoa. The country is the second largest producer of Cocoa, after its neighbor- Ivory Coast. Attempts to improve and diversify the economy have been daunting so far, in spite of several attempts. Lately, however, various individuals are coming up with local innovations which are competing for attention on the international stage.
One such innovation is the basis of my story, and won me a place as a finalist in the African Story Challenge competition. It is the Great Akosa Automobile Company.
For about a decade, one man, Apostle Kwadwo Sarfo Kantanka, a religious leader cum entrepreneur, has been experimenting with the manufacture of a range of products- from simple farm implements to complex 4x4 vehicles. Even though none of the cars is out for sale yet, the euphoria greeting news of the company going commercial with its range of Kantanka cars, is overwhelming. A few high profile test drives have been carried out so far, and public expectations are high.
Over the last month, I have been on the trail of this story, touring the company's new facility. It is located in a rural village in the Central Region of Ghana, called Gomoa Mpota. What welcomes you to the factory premises is the image of what Great Akosa Automobile seeks to represent- the Star of Africa. In the middle of the compound, stands a giant statue of the map of Africa with an image of Apostle Sarfo Kantanka embossed in the map. Stars surround the map painted in golden colours. The Apostle has always reiterated what Ghana’s founding Father, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah once said, that “The Black man is capable of managing his own affairs.”
Photo: Workers at the factory that strives to make 100% Ghanaian products
Behind the statue sits a wooden helicopter. It is one of the Apostle’s attempts at manufacturing what he terms wholly African products. Young men and women are seen busy using simple machines and producing complex car engines. The Apostle has been spotted several times in town driving in Four-Wheeled vehicles that can look just like a Ford Expedition or any classic SUV one can think of, all manufactured right here in Gomoa Mpota. At the factory, several SUVs are parked outside, an intriguing sight to behold.
Photo: A Kantanka ride
What is generating national and international attention is the news that the company plans to begin large-scale commercial production. While visiting the factory I had hoped to meet Apostle Sarfo Kantanka, the man behind the vision. That hope is dashed for now. He was not available. Rather, his son, Sarfo Kantanka Junior, a pilot, who is now CEO of the company, was on hand to meet me. He seems to share a lot of his father’s dreams. He believes the company will start large-scale production by the first quarter of next year, with an estimated 200 cars each month.
How does Great Akosa Automobile plan to do this? For details, look out for the full story which I will be publishing before the January 14th deadline of the African Story Challenge Business and Technology cycle competition.