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Call for Expression of Interest - Research on new investments in the automotive sector in Sub-Saharan Africa

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15 June, 2020How can trade unions trigger/initiate and support the creation of decent jobs based on sustainable industrial structures in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Country studies for Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Republic of South Africa and Rwanda (one researcher per country study)

One leading / coordinating researcher, based in South Africa


A number of multinational vehicle manufacturers (BMW, BYD, Ford, Geely, Honda, Hyundai/Kia, Nissan, PSA, Renault, Tata, Toyota, VW and others) have announced major investments into automotive manufacturing in Sub-Saharan Africa. The countries targeted for these investments are in particular Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Republic of South Africa and Rwanda.

These investments are mainly based on the assumption that there is and will be a significant and sustainable growth of income and therefore of the middle class, hence, an ever-increasing market opportunity. The investments have the potential to significantly increase industrial manufacturing in the region and to create urgently required new jobs. Since jobs are urgently required almost everywhere in Sub-Saharan Africa most if not all governments will engage themselves in fierce competition around FDI and therefore, a race-to-the-bottom with regards to working conditions and tax incentives is very likely.

As there is not yet a stable and sufficient number of customers, the companies will implement their projects at the lowest economic risk possible. In most of the cases, this means to avoid the construction of proper full-scale production facilities and to focus on the assembly of SKD and CKD kits by African contract manufacturers first. Such production patterns also help the companies to circumvent high import duties for finished vehicles. The required skills of the workers to assemble the kits are rather low. There are numerous examples for larger scale automotive investments that have failed to bring about sustainable industrial structures and decent jobs (e.g. India, Malaysia, some countries in Latin America and in the Middle East).

In SSA one notable past attempts to resuscitate the auto industry has been in Nigeria. The depreciation of the Naira, poor performing economy and cheap vehicles entering the Nigerian economy stifled these attempts. The recent attempt was through the Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan which aimed at providing incentives including fiscal incentives to grow assembly plants and attract new investments of other OEMs (original equipment manufacturer).

The Republic of South Africa (RSA) is today the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa with a significant automotive industry, decent jobs and sustainable industrial relations. The successful development of such structures in the past two decades can be partly used as blue print for the other African countries. The new investments in other countries of Sub-Saharan Africa can easily put competitive pressure on the well-established sector in the RSA.

Some OEMs are making progress in growing their business in SSA. VW recently signed memorandums of understanding (MOU) in Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria to establish vehicle assembly facilities, assess the mobility concepts and establish training academies for production and after sales. Toyota has operations in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and in various other parts of SSA. Companies such as Uber and taxify use Toyota vehicles to ferry customers and this increases the market for the OEM. The VW business in Rwanda is structured around tapping from the Uber and taxify and government business too and build the mobility industry from these platforms (VW Mobility solutions).

In a nutshell: How can trade unions trigger/initiate and support the creation of decent jobs based on sustainable industrial structures in the automotive sector in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Application procedure

Step 1

Review the attached document “Background information and Terms of Reference” and select the country research (Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia or Rwanda) you would like to undertake / select the position of lead researcher (must be based in South Africa).

Step 2

Write a cover letter that provides a brief outline of your competencies and experiences in doing similar work / provide your CV.

Step 3

Provide a proposed work plan and an indicative budget for doing the research – including the research methodology (please stick to the timeline outlined in the TORs).

Step 4

Email the Cover letter, CV, proposed work plan budget to undertake the research and submit to:

IndustriALL Global Union, Geneva/Johannesburg
Mr. Kenneth Mogane, Regional Officer, Sub-Saharan Africa Office,

Copied to:
FES TUCC, Johannesburg
Dr. Iris Nothofer, Junior Expert, FES TUCC


The deadline for submitting the expression of interest is Friday, 3 July 2020. Applications must be received by IndustriAll not later than 5pm Pretoria time. Any application after this deadline will not be considered.


The expression of interest, including related documents, shall be prepared in English. Applications in other languages will not be accepted.

For further information, please contact Kenneth Mogane or Iris Nothofer

Selection criteria

All applications that have submitted all required documentation will be reviewed by a joint committee of IndustriAll and FES-TUCC. Both organisations, IndustriAll Global Union as well as FES TUCC are striven to increase the number of female researchers/activist in academia, science, trade union education and activism. Applications from female researchers are therefore explicitly welcome. Applicants will be notified accordingly.