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China turns to Africa to offload used petrol cars as it continues aggressive push for zero-emission vehicles

According to a Chinese automobile strategic advisory services firm, ZoZo Go, China has shelled out about $60 billion worth of subsidies since 2012 to attract automakers focused on electric or self-driving cars.

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A used car shipment at sea

Last week, China joined the league of used car exporters to Africa, shipping its first batch of 300 used cars to Nigeria alone, a historic move that could disrupt the booming used-car market on the continent, but with foreseeable consequences for Nigeria’s environmental crisis.

According to a statement from the Chinese ministry of commerce, the country has shed its inhibition to explore the huge potential in the global used-car market with a few countries with high demand for used vehicles from Europe and North America.

These countries included Nigeria in Africa and the South-East Asian nations of Cambodia and Myanmar. Some shipments also went to Russia.

Compared to its over 3 billion population, China’s car ownership is still below 500 million vehicles at 340 million, according to China’s Ministry of Public Security report in July 2019, but the global giant has successfully pioneered a major shift from fossil-fuel-powered-vehicles since 2012, that it now must find a profitable market for its used petrol cars.




Chinese authorities plan to ban petrol cars on its road but haven't set a date yet

According to a Chinese automobile strategic advisory services firm, ZoZo Go, China has shelled out about $60 billion worth of subsidies since 2012 to attract automakers focused on electric or self-driving cars.

This has made China currently the largest player in the global zero-emission market, and the industry minister predicts that annual “new energy vehicle” output will spike to 2 million in 2020 and sales will rise to 7 million by 2025, according to theHustle.

These incentives have left domestic and foreign automakers battling for ground in China. American automotive and energy company Tesla has been hard at work revving up its Shanghai Gigafactory, speeding to seize upon subsidies while they last.



Tesla is building a Gigafactory in China

In April, auto giant Volkswagen announced in Shanghai that it will begin building a fully electric SUV in 2021 while unveiling its new electric SUV concept, the ID ROOMZZ, according to a CNBC reports.

VW also plans to merge its China-based R&D operations with those of its premium brand, Audi.

What does it mean for Nigeria auto industry?

The Nigerian automotive industry has lingered in its nascent stage for decades. Although a lot of noise has been made in the recent past about an automotive policy which will drive Nigeria's auto industry, not much progress has been seen.

Without stable electricity and other necessary infrastructure to support auto manufacturing, the local automotive industry has lagged, forcing the country to depend on used-car imports from North America and Europe and pockets of assembly plants for brand new locally assembled vehicles which less than one per cent of the population can afford.

This has created a fertile ground for the dumping of environmentally unsuitable used vehicles, with all its attendant consequences.



Used cars in a traffic jam in Lagos Nigeria road (Image: Guardian Nig.)

Also, Read Nigeria's Coscharis Group Partners French Car Maker, Renault To Assemble Cars In Nigeria

For instance, Nigeria’s annual car imports are estimated at over 1 million units worth about $8 billion. 80 per cent of these is used vehicles which cannot pass the emission test in markets of origin. With China getting into the mix, this can only get complicated.

A Lagos-based car dealer, Kolawole, told Nigeria Today that it was about time that Nigeria implemented regulations on used-car imports.

"There is no mechanism for the regulation of these cars that are coming into the country as all the customs does is to collect their accrued levies.

"We know that most of these cars coming into the country have been deemed unfit to drive in European and American roads. How many of them can pass the emission test? And it appears that the authorities don’t know any better," he said.

Kola said that if care is not taken, Nigeria will be turned into a dumping ground by the rest of the world.

"These people know that we can't produce our own cars, and regulations are almost non-existent, so the market is conducive for them," he added.

Nigeria’s un-started journey to electric vehicles

Currently, Nigeria has no strategic or deliberate plan to shift from fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

Earlier this year, Nigeria parliament rejected a proposed law to ban the importation of petrol cars, saying it wasn’t a priority. Lawmakers also argued that Nigeria could not, in good conscience, outlaw petrol cars when it is a major crude oil producer.

The sponsor of the bill, senator Ben Murray-Bruce frustrated by his rejection took his campaign for the zero-emission vehicle to his private enterprise, a media conglomerate, announcing last week that all companies’ vehicles would henceforth be electric, and that staff will get a car loan only if they intend to buy electric cars.


I have just given a company-wide directive that all new vehicles purchased on behalf of Silverbird Group will be electric vehicles. We are going to be the first company to go all green. Also, we will not issue any car-loan to any staff except they want to buy an electric car.

— Ben Murray-Bruce (@benmurraybruce) July 27, 2019

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