South Africa has a longstanding rivalry with Nigeria. The relationship between both countries is usually competitive as each nation is seemingly struggling to exclusively own the “Giant of Africa” tittle. Nigerians will always refer to themselves as the said giant, with South Africans insisting that size is the only thing giant about Nigeria. But then, Nigeria sidelined South Africa and emerged as the largest economy in Africa. A layman will argue that’s also related to the size of the nation however, economic analysts will think otherwise. It takes much more than population to be the largest economy of a continent.
That said, Nigeria is on the move to consolidate its Auto industry, and there’s panic in South Africa as many have questioned the wisdom of South Africa actively assisting Nigeria in building an auto industry that could become a rival.
Dispelling the fear of Nigeria dominating and displacing the South African auto industry, Mike Whitfield the MD of Nissan South Africa said Nigeria will have its own motor industry whether South Africa likes it or not, and as well recommended that South Africa support Nigeria as failing to do such will only create opportunity for other nations to benefit from the billions of rand of businesses that will occur afterwards.
Whitfield emphasized that the Nigerian operation wouldn’t reduce Nissan or South Africa’s auto industry activities as the African new-vehicle market is expected to expand from the estimated 1.4 million vehicles in 2014 to 2.2 million come 2020. He likened Nigeria to Brazil which grew from a tiny base to building more than 3 million vehicles yearly and inferred that ”If, over the next 10 years, the Nigerian auto industry can achieve half as much as Brazil did over the same period, it will be doing very well.” As such, the South African industry “can’t afford not to be there. If we’re not, someone else will be. If we and Nigeria co-operate, we will develop each other.”
Similarly, Alec Erwin, former South Africa minister of trade and industry who has reportedly been advising Nigeria on setting up an industry based on his experience and contribution in the South African motor sector, said the industries would complement each other and not compete. As uncovered, Nigeria’s automotive policy is based on South Africa’s 1995-2012 motor industry development program implemented by Alec Erwin.
Meanwhile, several Multinationals have already started building vehicles in Nigeria, and others waiting and scheming to join. The companies are all assembling imported kits. According to Nigerian officials, the country anticipates the industry to begin producing its own components in the next two years. This is contrary to the thoughts of motor company executives who believe it will take at least 10 years for the industry to be self-sufficient. Also, Nissan South Africa is equally sending kits to Nigeria. As reported, “NP300 one-ton bakkies are crated in pieces at the Rosslyn plant near Pretoria then shipped to Nigeria, where they are put together.” Whitfield said Nissan South Africa is expected to send more than the 3,000 vehicles it shipped to Nigeria last year.