Lagos — Mr. Jelani Aliyu, Director-General of National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC) in this interview, at the inauguration of the new CFAO/FUSO Truck Assembly Plant in Lagos, said the passage of the new National Automotive Industry Development Plan (NAIDP) into law last week will boost investment in the automobile sector and encourage more foreign companies to come in.
How will the inauguration of this assembly plant by CFAO and FUSO Truck boost the investment drive of the Federal Government?
The Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has the responsibility of boosting industrial development in the country and our agency specifically has the mandate of developing the automotive sector in the country. So for us it is really an incredible milestone for the automotive sector in Nigeria to have CFAO and FUSO Truck launch an assembly plant right here in the country with the capacity to assemble at least five trucks per day.
This is really an excellent development that would create jobs in Nigeria and allow the transport technology sector to grow. Also most importantly, we would now have a vehicle made in this country that is applicable to some of the challenges that we face here in the transportation sector.
Do you think the government is doing enough toward providing the atmosphere for these companies to thrive in terms of policy support?
I am also glad to say that today that NAIDP, also called the National Auto Policy, has been passed into law. This would put us in the perfect position to protect local investment and local companies such as FUSO in terms of tax haven, incentives that would support their production which would also protect them against unfair importation of competitive vehicles.
You talked about the country experiencing a new era in the automotive industry. Can you give an insight into what stakeholders should expect in the industry?
Not too long ago, we were in South Africa where we met with a number of companies - BMW, FORD that are already here, Toyota, Volkswagen - all of which expressed huge interest in coming to Nigeria. And one of the things that was needed was to make this policy a law. Now we have that. That's a great incentive to them and other companies that want to come into Nigeria.
When I talk about a new era - not just about the automotive sector, Nigeria as a whole - this is a new Nigeria where I will like to say that we have now decided to face our challenges, to grab the bull by the horns and really do what is right. Yes a lot of things that needed to be done in the past couple of decades were not done. Now this administration and a lot of people here in the country are ready for a new Nigeria. Most importantly, with respect to what we do, we are now in a position to give the right incentives and support for companies to come into the country.
We would also do all that we can to support the youth of Nigeria to be part of this new Nigeria in terms of empowering them with the necessary skills to be part of this global movement of technology that would make life easier.
Where do you see all of these cascading into in the next five to 10 years?
Now, there would be more reason, strong and very good reasons for companies to come into Nigeria and take advantage of the huge market. We have a population of over 180 million, over 50 per cent of which is under the age of 20 - virgin territory. So there would be more and more things put in place to make it easy for companies to come in. We are also looking at how we can plug into the three mega trends of the automotive sector which are electrification, autonomy and right sharing.
We also have to begin to look at how we will introduce and support the electric car technology in Nigeria; in terms of being able to produce those vehicles here. A number of the companies that are interested in Nigeria already have electric vehicle programmes in place or they are looking at going into it. We will have to work closely with them to provide these vehicles in Nigeria. We would have to work with them to transfer that technology so that our young Nigerians will be in the best position to understand the technology and be able to service it.
So it is a very exciting sector and I very much, as a Nigerian official, look forward to working very closely with all relevant stakeholders - Nigerians and friends of Nigeria - in moving the sector forward.
How will the law address the low buying capacity of Nigerians?
Yes I am glad you brought that up. We are also in very discussions with potential investors to set up an auto finance scheme so that Nigerians, like other people do around the world, will just put little money down, get a brand new vehicle and either pay over time or just lease it for some time. This is crucial in helping the capacity.
What assurance of a level playing field do companies that are willing to join this industry here have?
The most important thing is that this is 2017 and we are in a democracy. So any company that meets some minimum requirements of being given a license would be given one. It is a free market, it is a competitive market. It is up to that company or individual to prove to the Nigerian market that they have the right product.
As a democracy, we can't turn people away and tell him 'no, you have met the requirement but we won't allow you to build your vehicle here. When the automobile was invented over a 100 years ago, even in the United States, there were tens and tens of companies that all sprang up to produce vehicles but over time they were trimmed down and only the best survived. So to be healthy, we have to be a true democracy and work with all kinds of people and let the strong survive in the context of our national policy.