Mashudu Netsianda, senior reporter
Less than a month after she enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) to study mechanical engineering in 2008, the astute Tatenda Mungofa (33) had to drop out of college for economic reasons.
Today, Mr. Mungofa is the founder and chief executive officer of Africa’s first black-owned automaker, the Mureza Auto Company. For the first time, the company exhibited at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo, which has just ended, and was recognized as the best foreign exhibitor in the automotive category.
Coming from a very humble background in the sprawling Warren Park suburb of Harare, Mr Mungofa’s childhood dream was to become a car designer.
He was fascinated by cars from a young age and was inspired by his father, who was a mechanic. Mr. Mungofa drew cars and gradually developed his skills by designing cars with sketch pads, his laptop, and the internet.
After mastering the basic principles, he entered a design competition to prove his skills on the world stage.
Mr Mungofa came third in this competition, but unfortunately the organizers forbade him, due to his nationality, to travel to Croatia, where the final round was being held.
However, this did not bother him as he continued to develop his car design skills.
Mr. Mungofa represents a new generation of young people who are making an indelible mark on the global automotive industry.
Mureza Auto Company is registered in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Mr Mungofa said his vision is to become the leading automaker in Africa. The company, which operates in South Africa and Iran, is working on modalities to set up a production facility in Zimbabwe.
“The Mureza Auto Company comes from Zimbabwe and has offices in South Africa and Iran. I’m actually the founder and CEO of the company as well as the head of design, ”he said. “We develop and produce our own vehicles.
Our first offering on the market is Prime8, which we presented as our new brand in the automotive industry at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo, which has just ended. “
In March 2021, the company received the license to build and sell its Prim8 models based on the SAIPA Quick in South Africa. It is assembled from SKD kits in the Automotive Supplier Park in Rosslyn, Pretoria.
The extensive equipment of the top model includes keyless entry, seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, navigation system, reversing camera, cruise control, parking sensors, audio system, air conditioning, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, four airbags, electronic stability control, ABS brakes and tire pressure monitoring.
The Prim8 range, consisting of two models currently on the market, costs 13,500 US dollars (or the equivalent in local currency) in Zimbabwe and 196,000 rand in South Africa.
Other models slated to hit the market next year include the Prime8-inspired T1 pickups, SUVs, sedans, EVs, and the Athlete and Tusker.
Mureza has a joint venture with the Iranian SAIPA group, Société Anonyme Iranienne de Production Automobile, which is registered in France but is based in Tehran.
The SAIPA Quick was released in Iran in March 2017 and is now also being exported to India. The compact crossover is based on the X200 platform developed for the SAIPA Tiba and Saina models with the architecture of the third generation Kia Rio.
“In our factory in Iran we have 350 workers who produce 200 units per day for Prima8, and this vehicle has two brand names so that we can gain some capacity. They sell it under their name in Iran and here in Africa we sell it under our name, ”Mungofa said.
“So now we’re starting the Africa trip and the team in South Africa has 12 people because it’s mainly administrative. In Zimbabwe we have fewer than 20 people, but we hope that the number will increase significantly in the next few months. “
Mr. Mungofa said they are already working on building a local factory in Harare with future plans to build another one in Bulawayo.
“We want to produce these cars locally in Zimbabwe and that is one of the main reasons why we presented our product at ZITF. We intend to localize production and believe that through our global network we can recapitulate the industry, ”he said.
“Our team is very young and lively. The Prim8, which we presented at the ZITF, is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder automatic petrol engine, but will develop into an electric vehicle by March 2022 after the development of our electric charging vehicle infrastructure network has been completed. “
Mr Mungofa said they were in talks with the Zimbabwean Energy Regulatory Agency (Zera) about this electric car introduction concept.
“The price of the product is $ 13,500 and we will have more units, including pick-up trucks and sedans, that will cost less than $ 10,000,” he said.
Mr Mungofa said he was happy that he had finally achieved his childhood dream of producing his own vehicle.
“Cars have always been my passion. My dream was to build my own brand of vehicles that Africans can be proud of. Part of that dream was also building an industrial empire that could employ as many people as possible, ”he said.
After graduating from Fletcher High School in Gweru, Mungofa enrolled at UZ for just two weeks before dropping out.
“I studied science in grammar school and went to UZ for the greater part of two weeks. It was a very difficult time and I was forced to quit. Then I went into entrepreneurship and started selling phones, laptops and stationery until I ended up selling cars, ”he said.
“I started training myself in car design, mainly relying on internet tutorials. I would use sketch pads, my laptop, and the internet. After mastering the basic principles, I took part in international design competitions and came third. “
Mr Mungofa said he was prevented from traveling to Croatia to compete in the international automobile competition because he was from Zimbabwe.
The organizers of the event advised him to set up his own brand, marking the beginning of his inspiring journey.
“Mureza started out as a car sales company in 2009 and operated in Zimbabwe until 2016, and we have sold more than 300 cars during that period. In 2012 I took part in the Scuderia Design Challenge and after finishing third in the world I was encouraged to start my own vehicle brand, ”said Mr. Mungofa.
He said after doing research online he realized there was an opportunity for an African automaker and then traveled to South Africa to interview suppliers on how they could work together.
By 2016, Mr. Mungofa had gathered enough information about the manufacture of automobiles and then registered the Mureza Auto Company, which designed concepts for the manufacture.
“We were fortunate enough to find an OEM partner who turned one of our designs into a commercial product and the Prim8 was born,” he said.
Mr Mungofa said he was inspired by the country’s national anthem to name his company “Mureza,” a Shona word for “the flag”.
“I had the feeling that the country is generally not valued as our national flag is always the last one to appear in any internet search. I then decided to take this as a challenge to show my colors in the automotive industry. “
Mr Mungofa said they are building a dealer network that will create at least 1,000 jobs in Africa over the next few years.
“My hope is that African car brands will dominate global markets. I believe that Africans have what it takes to change the automotive market. We recently launched PROJECT 100, which was aimed at securing orders from our brand’s early adopters, ”he said.
“This is the introduction of a limited edition Prim8. There are other product ranges such as pickups, SUVs, sedans and EVs that will be introduced shortly. “
Mr Mungofa said they are also working on partnering with SMEs among other promising entrepreneurs in Africa to grow their business.
“Despite what people think, Africa has enough financial capacity to bring about any project it wants, if there is a common purpose, and as long as African consumers can support such initiatives. It is time for Africa to flourish and Africans should lead this investment plan, ”he said.
“In Zimbabwe we have the challenge of importing cars and we are actually one of the largest importers of vehicles in Africa. So we want to help Zimbabweans and Africans at large to own brand new cars and that is the main driver behind our products like Prime8. ”- @mashnets