Meet Mustapha Gajibo and other young African prodigies manufacturing their own vehicles

Vanessa Calys-Tagoe October 28, 2022
Photo credit: Punch newspapers

The continent is home to all natural resources and nature reserves. From food to minerals to beautiful cities, Africa is known for these and more, but one thing it wasn’t known for is the manufacturing of vehicles.

That changed with the influx of young people all over the continent beginning to manufacture cars from just about anything: scraps, cardboard. One such young person is Mustapha Gajibo who now produces electric buses, the first of their kind in his home country, Nigeria.

Despite failing to complete his studies at the University of Maiduguri in Borno State, Nigeria, Gajibo, 30, has joined the list of incredible young people who are helping to create the continent’s car manufacturing industry. He joins a group of young individuals who are creating something meaningful that is impacting society and the world at large.

In 2012, he was admitted to the University of Maiduguri, but instead of the Electrical Engineering course he desired, he was assigned to General Agricultural Science. He requested a course change and was given Mechanical Engineering instead of his preferred Electrical Engineering, which he accepted. However, he decided to drop out of his mechanical engineering degree program in his third year. His family was outraged. Excluding his father, who believed he knew what he was doing, some of his family members disagreed with his decision. Everyone thought he was insane because he was almost done. Some of his friends despised him, and some lecturers, including the head of his department.

Insurgent activity in Borno state hampered transportation causing the state capital, Maiduguri, to become overcrowded. People from the villages who were unable to flee to neighboring countries fled to the city. The transit system had grown insufficient. This situation inspired Gajibo to start his electric buses. He would have continued to expand the coverage of electric buses in Nigeria, but Boko Haram’s activities in the Northeast, particularly in Borno State, where his factory is located, were a hindrance, which inspired him to manufacture electric cars.

His inventions had given him the confidence he needed to fully commit to the renewable energy plan. He took the risky step of having to register his company with the Corporate Affairs Commission (C.A.C.) in 2014. Today, the buses he designed can travel 200 kilometers before needing to be recharged. The buses are already in use in Maiduguri, and he hopes to expand his service area soon, making them the first homemade electric vehicle in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Gajibo is not the only young person making strides in the car manufacturing industry. He may be the first to have manufactured an electric bus in Nigeria and is still fully operating his factory, but in South Africa and Ghana, teenagers are making their vehicles from scraps and cards.

In Ghana, 18-year-old Kelvin Odartei in 2020 became famous after assembling his car out of scrap materials. The young student, who had just finished junior high school, had begun building cars three years before using everyday materials such as scrap, signboards, and plastic gallons, among others. Premier universities in the country approached him to offer auto engineering training.

Then in South Africa, 17-year-old Obakeng Thetele, from Bloemfontein, the capital city of South Africa’s Free State Province, built an innovative car out of scrap metal and spare parts in 2021. Thetele loved cars and desired one for him, but his father told him that he had to complete school and save money before purchasing a new vehicle. The young adolescent couldn’t wait until after school to get a car, so he set about building one.

These African youngsters are not the only ones on the list. Many other young Africans are manufacturing their vehicles showing proof of promise that the continent would one day soon join the auto engineering continents of the world.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 29, 2022


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