Africa lags several parts of the world in basic infrastructure like roads, but most cars driven on the continent were not made with African roads — especially those in peri-urban rares — in mind. They are also largely too expensive for many Africans. Hence, Kenyan car manufacturer Mobius Motors manufactures and sells vehicles built specifically for the African mass market.
According to Mobius Motors, “Since the vast majority of vehicles in Africa are imported, they are not designed for local usage. High import duties compound the problem, typically doubling the price of a car.”
In 2014, the company secured an undisclosed capital from American billionaire Ronald Lauder, as it worked towards delivering on its promise to produce Africa’s cheapest car. The funding enabled Mobius Motors on the development of its second prototype Mobius II which eventually became its first production model. The funding, which Lauder made available through his New York-based Pan African Investment Company (PIC), was given in the form of a convertible debt (a type of loan issued by a company that can later be converted into equity or stock).
Despite employing a minimalistic design and lacking basic functionalities of modern cars, such as power steering, door handles, GPS navigation, and glass windows, Mobius II, produced in partnership with the Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers sold out by June 2016.
Earlier in the year, Mobius Motors closed its Series A equity financing and raised additional funding of Ksh 500 million from the United States Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which has allowed the company to set up a new factory in an industrial part of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. The new Mobius factory will be the only one in East Africa doing complete assembly of passenger vehicles with capabilities in fabrication, body shop, paint shop, general assembly, and final line testing. The new Mobius II, scheduled for release in 2019, will be the first car to be produced at the new factory.
Mobius Motors was founded by British entrepreneur Joel Jackson in 2011 to build a vehicle in Africa, for Africa. The company’s vision is to weave built-for-purpose vehicles into the fabric of the growing African economy and become the mass market car of Africa. The Mobius II was sold at Sh1.58 million ($15,645). Buyers can also decide to a large extent, what they want in their Mobius.
Meanwhile, the East African Community is paving way for more local assembly points and manufacturing pants of affordable vehicles in the region. As part of discussions at a session of the Permanent /Principal Secretaries of the EAC, the officials considered the Automotive Industry Action Plan and Draft Concept note on the local assembly/ manufacture of affordable vehicles; Establishment of a Regional Automotive Industry Council/Platform of East Africa (AICEA); Concept Note on the manufacture/production of Low Cost Vehicles (Affordable Vehicles) in the Region and Age Limit for imported Used Vehicles.