VWSA opens car plant in Rwanda

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and VWSA chief executive Thomas Schaefer with the first VW to be assembled at the new plant in Kigali.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and VWSA chief executive Thomas Schaefer with the first VW to be assembled at the new plant in Kigali.
Image: Supplied

In its latest venture into the African market, Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) yesterday launched its multimillion-dollar project to change the face of mobility in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

Hailed as a first for the continent, the automotive giant’s integrated mobility solution will function alongside a new assembly plant and dealership, both of which were unveiled by Rwandan President Paul Kagame yesterday.

Simply put, the investment will see vehicle kits being transported from South Africa to Rwanda, where they will be assembled at the plant.

Most of the vehicles will be used for mobility services such as ride-hailing and car sharing.

VWSA chief executive Thomas Schaefer said the first phase of operations – in which the company invested $20-million (R274-million) and which is expected to create 1 000 jobs – will entail app-based community car sharing, where companies would be able to use a fleet of cars owned and maintained by VWSA.

Ride-hailing would be offered later in the year, with further mobility options such as public car-sharing to follow.

The Rwanda-based CFAO Group will manage operations in partnership with VWSA.

Schaefer said Rwanda was the best possible choice for this mobility service.

“The country is young, modern and hungry for individual mobility. [It] can become the blueprint for other emerging markets.”

Though the first phase, which will see about 1,000 vehicles being assembled in Kigali this year, is “a small start”, Schaefer said VWSA planned to grow the plant.

The plant currently has an annual production capacity of 5,000 vehicles.

“In phase two, we can do up to 10,000 vehicles, and in the third [phase] we can produce MKD vehicles, which means every nut and bolt arrives separately [to be assembled].”

VWSA also hoped to expand its operations elsewhere in Africa.

Kagame said: “This facility undoubtedly represents a new chapter in Rwanda’s economic transformation, [and] it reminds us of the importance of working regionally,” he said.

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