(June 01, 2016, (Reuters))--Ethiopia has grand ambitions for its tiny auto industry, seeking to transform a handful of assemblers that bolt together imported kits into a network of factories that can make the country Africa's biggest car manufacturer over the next two decades.It is part of a vision to turn a nation that is among the poorest in Africa into an industrial centre that no longer relies on fickle weather patterns that periodically devastate the agrarian economy and leave its people hungry.
Plans are taking shape in industrial zones around Addis Ababa and the northern city of Mekelle, where Ethiopian firms and Chinese partners assemble the vehicle kits.
Ethiopia produces about 8,000 commercial and other vehicles a year for the home market, about a quarter of which are cars. But executives say they have capacity to make more if they could obtain extra foreign exchange to import kits in greater numbers. The nation imported more than 38,000 assembled cars in 2015, a more than 50 percent increase on 2014.
"There is a lot of potential for growth," said Ma Qun, deputy manager of China's Lifan auto group in Ethiopia, which has the capacity to assemble 5,000 cars a year but whose output is less than a fifth of that. "We want to start exporting from Ethiopia by 2018, or a year later," he said. Read more from Reuters »