IMG_6881 CCAMinisters, media and business leaders gathered around the massive triangular-shaped wooden table in a conference room of open wood and minimalist modern design typical of a United Nations building. Glass translation booths overlooked the table (which has identical sides to convey neutrality and reinforce that all are equal) dotted with long skinny microphones and retro earphones.

CNN’s International Anchor Zain Asher opened the session welcoming Jim Benintende, president of Ford Middle East and Africa (MEA) as well as the other ministers and participants, beginning a discussion on the challenges and opportunities of the automotive industry in Africa.

As part of Ford’s sponsorship of the 10th U.S.-Africa business summit, held at the Corporate Council of Africa’s Ethiopia operations, Ford participated in a roundtable with government and policy leaders on the future of mobility on the continent. Ethiopia’s capital city is typical of many smaller Sub-Saharan markets with roads filled with mostly used cars and construction seemingly on every corner. Ford’s distributor there sells about 400 vehicles annually out of about a 6,000 vehicle market. White Toyota Land Cruisers festooned with UN logos dart throughout the traffic near the UN’s Africa HQ.

Back inside, Asher, who is Nigerian, and also anchor for CNN’s marketplace Africa, asked Benintende about the criteria for Ford making investments in emerging markets.

“When we look to invest in new markets, we evaluate several criteria, including good infrastructure, pro-business environment, access to ports, trained workforce and a good supplier ecosystem,” said Benintende. “We’ve been building cars and trucks in South Africa for 90 years and just started assembling Ford Rangers in Nigeria in a semi-knocked down or SKD operation.”

When asked how a company like Ford deals with protectionism and high tariffs in some markets, Benintende replied, “At Ford we believe in free and fair trade, and at the same time we understand the need for markets to balance easy access to vehicle imports with the desire to build up their own automotive industries.” He also referenced the fact that globally the automotive industry today has about $2.3 trillion in revenues and that moving forward, Ford would continue looking for opportunities to also be a mobility services company.

“Our goal is not to simply build and sell more cars and trucks in Africa, but to be part of the mobility solution in these emerging markets. When families transition from two wheels to four, it changes their lives. When we look to the future of mobility, we see it holistically, as the combination of public transportation, taxis, and ride-sharing services,” he said.

“Expanding and improving mobility in Africa represents an incredible opportunity to help transform the continent. One of our priorities is to contribute to communities where we operate, but there is a business reason as well.”

According to IHS, Africa remains the final frontier for major automotive sales, with a market forecast for car sales to rise from 1.34 million units in 2010 to more than two million units in 2020 – a 50 per cent increase.

Driving age population will increase by 55 per cent in Africa over the next six to seven years (2023) to 840 million people (from 540 million).

Original source: Ford