Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

11 November 2013

Tanzania: Arusha Technical College and Tanzania's Modern Cars' Syndrome

Arusha — "Why is it that all cars are women?" he asked. "Because they're fussy and demanding," answered Zee. "No! Because if they were men, they'd just sit around and complain instead of getting the job done," I told him."

THE above is a scene from 'Silver Borne,' one of the best-selling literary works by American author, Ms Patricia Briggs trying to inanimate cars, but back in Tanzania it is just dawning on motorists that new cars are no longer the traditional contraptions they were once used to.

The word is, 'They don't make them like they used to;' modern motor vehicles are miles apart from their older prototype something which has proved to be a big challenge to the local blue-collared 'under tree' mechanics.

Any motorist in Tanzania will admit that among the advices the 'spanner-in-hand' vehicle repairers keep telling them is that, new vehicles are unreliable, hard to maintain and demand expensive and tricky spare parts to service.

But the reality, according to Engineer Richard Masika the rector at the Arusha Technical College, is quite on the contrary, new cars happen to be extremely different from old clunkers and all the country's mechanics and vehicle repairs garages are not equipped to handle them. "Older vehicles were mostly mechanical parts with little, if any electronics, bit new cars are extremely automated, featuring mostly electronic and digital components with mechanical parts taking the back seat," pointed out the engineer.

The revolution of motor powered carriages apparently have been evolving from horse drawn carts and steam powered engines to petrol and diesel and now top automobile makers such as Ford, Nissan and Toyota are developing gas-free vehicles that may run entirely on electricity or solar-powered cells.

And even those that still run of the traditional petrol fuel engines have evolved to feature more streamlined bodies for improved aerodynamics while the commands, previously done manually have been digitally electrified something which baffles local mechanics who for ages have been exposed to bolts, spanners and screwdriver parts with real wires and metals in between.

New cars also come with intelligent sensors from satellite- based, GPS location locaters and direction guides, Near Field Communicators (NFC), Bluetooth and Wireless (WiFi) Radios and digital dashboard panels resembling plane cockpits. The car repairing workshops have also changed from the old, smelly, oily warehouses full of spanners and blue-coat mechanics to modern centres featuring lab-like clean interiors fitted with computers and white-clad workmen who look like doctors.

But modern garages that meet new car standards are extremely few in Tanzania, many being extension of motor vehicle dealing centres and agencies such as Toyota Tanzania, DT Dobie and CMC Motors that employ computer diagnosis to check their cars prior to any service.

Elsewhere in the streets, car repairing continue to follow the stone-age formula of bolts, spanners and screws, complete with grease and dirty mechanics and when a modern car turn up, either they claim it is not serviceable or attempt to fix it results in ultimate disaster.

It is in the milieu of this concern therefore, that the Arusha Technical College has decided to formulate a new training programme aimed at producing new-age mechanics that will be in better position to handle modern breeds of vehicles, the cars that seem to have minds of their own.

ATC through its Automotive Engineering Department has just that formed a new training cooperation with local vehicle agencies here, motor repairing centres and car fleet operators, through which the college will start grooming new-age vehicle experts to meet the demand of such digital mechanics that will eventually be in better position to handle modern vehicles' engineering.

This is so important because already the government has banned the import of cars older than ten years, which means the mechanics older than ten years in business should be thinking of new careers.

An Advisory Committee between the Arusha Technical College and Arusha-based car dealers such as Toyota Tanzania, Arusha Arts Limited, CMC Motors, Al-Saif Motors Limited, Hanspaul Automechs Limited, Abercrombie & Kent Limited and MC Automobiles held its first meeting last week, appointing the Mr Meetal Shah of Toyota as the chairman of the new cooperation.

ATC has developed tailor made automotive engineering curriculum which has been submitted to National Council for Technical Education (NACTE) for approval and in coming up with it, the college has to consult the motor vehicle industry experts to see what they specifically wanted from the workforce who will be graduating from the programme.

The Hague based, PUM Netherlands Senior experts organization is assisting ATC on the new 'Practical Training for Technicians,' programme, the organization connects entrepreneurs in developing countries and emerging markets with senior experts from the Netherlands that boasts at least 30 years of experience in a business environment.

These senior experts voluntarily devote their knowledge to the execution of short-term, solid consultancy projects. Mr Wim Hazenberg the PUM country director said here that the CCHO foundation of Netherlands is also supporting the ATC-PUM project at the tune of 60,000 Euros.

In the end vehicle experts will be produced right here in Tanzania at the Arusha college instead of having dealers send their workforce to be taught the skills in Nairobi, South-Africa and even overseas like in the past.

And since the training is more practical oriented, it means graduates will also be able to start own ventures and be self-employed. With that therefore, your typical 'under tree' mechanic will no longer use spanners and bolts, but more sophisticated equipment and cars will undergo computerized diagnosis before anybody get to open the hoods.

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