News / Economy

    Chinese Factory Tries to Sell Trucks to Wary Ugandans

    A truck on display at Foton's showroom in Kampala, Uganda, where the Chinese company plans to open a manufacturing plant, June 20, 2013. (VOA News - H. Heuler)
    A truck on display at Foton's showroom in Kampala, Uganda, where the Chinese company plans to open a manufacturing plant, June 20, 2013. (VOA News - H. Heuler)
    A Chinese company has plans to build Uganda's first auto manufacturing plant, a move that could boost industry in a country that has always relied on more expensive imports. But carmaker Foton must first overcome Ugandans' profound suspicion of Chinese products.

    African roads have traditionally been plied by second-hand cars, some in appalling condition. But a Chinese company, Foton, has set out to change that. Earlier this month, the company announced that it would be building a new manufacturing plant in Uganda, with plans to export Ugandan-made cars to neighboring countries.

    Foton already operates a similar plant in Kenya, but for Uganda this would be a first. Until now, Ugandans have always relied on expensive imported brands like Toyota. The Chinese plant would focus on producing light industrial vehicles like pickup trucks, churning out around 300 per month. According to Foton, they would be up to $6,000 cheaper than imports.

    Such vehicles have the potential to stimulate Ugandan businesses, said Denis Dokoria of the Uganda Industrial Research Institute.

    “Transport has always been a very big challenge," he said. "You may have your product, but how do you get it down to the consumer? So if there are affordable vehicles, then I think it would do fine.”

    But the question is, will they sell? Uganda is already awash in Chinese products, and not all have proven popular. Some, like the Chinese Jincheng motorbike, are significantly cheaper than their competitors. But many Ugandans do not trust them.

    Victor Apuwle drives a boda-boda, or motorbike taxi, in Kampala. He explained why most Ugandan boda-boda drivers scorn the Chinese bikes, buying more expensive Indian models instead.

    “They are not trusting them because of their durability," he said. "Here in Uganda, if you tell someone the products are coming from China, they say, ‘ah, that one is the fake one.’ There are those good things which come from China, but for now, they can say they have spoiled their name.”

    Justin Hu, a manager at Foton East Africa, is well aware that his customers are likely to be wary. He said, “First they are afraid to buy Chinese products, because they don’t understand most of them. That’s why many companies they need to try [them] first.”

    But Hu admited that unfamiliarity is not the only problem.  In terms of quality, Foton cannot compete with Japanese or European imports, he says.  To compensate, the company is offering to service vehicles when they break down.

    Employees assemble a bus at the production line of Foton Motor Corporation in Beijing, China, June 16, 2009.Employees assemble a bus at the production line of Foton Motor Corporation in Beijing, China, June 16, 2009.
    x
    Employees assemble a bus at the production line of Foton Motor Corporation in Beijing, China, June 16, 2009.
    Employees assemble a bus at the production line of Foton Motor Corporation in Beijing, China, June 16, 2009.
    “We don’t say our vehicle is stronger than German Mercedes Benz or Toyota," he said. "We cannot, because we’re still developing.  But one thing we guarantee is, we bring you a new concept of after-sale service, to help you to solve your problems.”

    Foton is still negotiating with the Ugandan government, and it could be several years before the plant is up and running. But Hu is confident that it will get the political support it needs, for the sake of Ugandan industry.

    “For a country to develop, industry is very important," Hu said. "For Uganda, the government wants their country to progress. After we are established here, we are sure most of the local companies will accept the new concept from our company to progress, to compete with the international market.”

    But, Dokoria said, Uganda business owners are discriminating customers, and price is not their only consideration.

    “If the vehicles are not working well, if they are not durable, then definitely people will shun them," he said. "Why would I buy a something like a vehicle, and it breaks down within one year?  Why not spend a little more, and have something that will last a little longer?”

    Ultimately it is the vehicles themselves, he says, that will determine whether or not the Chinese investment pays off.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8916
    JPY
    USD
    109.40
    GBP
    USD
    0.6905
    CAD
    USD
    1.3147
    INR
    USD
    67.522

    Rates may not be current.