Rwanda took a big step forward in its quest for industrialisation on Monday when the first “Made in Rwanda” Volkswagen Polo rolled off the assembly line in the Kigali Special Economic Zone.
President Paul Kagame, personally graced the “historic moment” and he expressed his delight to see German vehicles produced in his country. He described the event as “a pride for Africa”.
Volkswagen launched the car assembly facility, the first automotive manufacturing investment in the country, in June as Europe’s biggest automaker expands its presence in the East African region. The German company said it initially plans to build up to 5,000 cars per year, beginning with the Polo and Passat models.
Car ownership remains low in Rwanda, a nation of 12 million people with just over 200,000 private cars registered since 1997, according to the country’s tax authorities.
But Volkswagen, which already builds vehicles in nearby Kenya, hopes not just to sell vehicles but for them to also be used in an Uber-like car-sharing system where people will use their smartphones to book rides.
Rwanda is presently diversifying its economy from primary commodity export and has been wooing manufacturers of consumer goods to the country under its Made-in-Rwanda (MIR) initiative which was launched in 2015.