At a factory in southeast Nigeria, dozens of new white buses stand at the end of the production line, apparently ready to take on some of Africa’s toughest roads.
Unfortunately for Nigeria’s main domestic vehicle assembly firm, they are going nowhere for now.
In an economy starved of dollars because of the slump in oil prices, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) cannot buy imported components, leaving the buses without engines – a metaphor for the problems afflicting Africa’s most populous nation – Nigeria.
GDP figures on Wednesday confirmed that the continent’s biggest economy slid into its first recession in 25 years in the second quarter, shrinking by 2.06 percent after a 0.36 percent contraction in the first three months of the year.
The poor state of the manufacturing sector in particular is a blow to President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been pushing hard to wean Nigeria off its dependence on crude oil sales, which make up 70 percent of government revenues.
At IVM, whose products are intended to show Nigeria can export more than oil, workers have already been sent home because of a lack of parts from Japan, China and Germany, which account for much of the content of the vehicles they produce.
Production had stopped “as we are waiting for the imported items for which there is a forex issue,” chairman Innocent Chukwuma said at the firm’s plant at Nnewi, in southern Nigeria.
Launched in 2010, IVM last year raised its annual production target for 2016 from 4,000 to 6,000 vehicles due to a “Made in Nigeria” campaign that generated strong sales to the police, state agencies and churches.
Those ambitions are now looking shaky if promises of government assistance fail to materialise, Chukwuma said.
“I believe they are doing something but if they can’t do anything we’ll lay off some workers,” Chukwuma said.
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