Mashudu Netsianda, senior reporter
Barely a month after enrolling at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) in 2008 to study mechanical engineering, the quick-witted Tatenda Mungofa (33) was forced to drop out of university due to economic hardship. .
Today, Mr. Mungofa is the Founder and Managing Director of Africa’s premier black-owned car manufacturing company, Mureza Auto Company. For the first time, the company exhibited at the recently concluded Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo and won the award for the best foreign exhibitor in the automotive category.
Coming from a very modest background in the sprawling suburb of Warren Park in Harare, Mr. Mungofa’s childhood dream was to become a car designer.
Very young, he developed a passion for cars, drawing inspiration from his mechanic father. Mr. Mungofa drew cars and gradually developed his skills by designing cars using sketchbooks, his laptop and the internet.
After mastering the basics, he then entered a design competition to validate his skills on the world stage.
Mr. Mungofa came third in this competition, but unfortunately due to his nationality, the organizers forbade him to travel to Croatia where the finals were being held.
This did not weigh him down, however, as he continued to develop his skills in car design.
Mr. Mungofa represents a new generation of young people who are leaving an indelible mark on the global auto industry.
Mureza Auto Company is registered in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Mr Mungofa said his vision is to become the leading car maker in Africa. The company, which has operations in South Africa and Iran, is working on arrangements to set up a manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe.
“Mureza Auto Company is originally from Zimbabwe and does business 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 design and build our own vehicles.
Our first offering to the market is Prime8, which we presented at the just concluded Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo as our new brand in the automotive industry.
The company was granted a license in South Africa in March 2021 to build and distribute its Prim8 models, based on the SAIPA Quick. It is assembled from SKD kits in the Automotive Supplier Park in Rosslyn, Pretoria.
Full specs of the top-of-the-line model include keyless entry, a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, GPS, rear view camera, cruise control, parking sensors, audio system, air conditioning, power driver’s seat, four airbags, electronic stability control, ABS brakes and tire pressure monitoring.
The Prim8 range, consisting of two models on the market, is priced at US $ 13,500 (or local currency equivalent) in Zimbabwe and Rand 196,000 in South Africa.
Other models that roll out next year include T1 pickup trucks, SUVs, sedans, EVs, and the Prime8-inspired Athlete and Tusker.
Mureza has a joint venture with the Iranian group SAIPA, the Société Anonyme Iranienne de Production Automobile, which is registered in France but based in Tehran.
The SAIPA Quick was launched in Iran in March 2017 and is now also exported to India. The compact crossover is based on the X200 platform developed for the SAIPA Tiba and Saina models, with a third generation Kia Rio architecture.
“In our Iranian factory, we have 350 workers who produce 200 units per day for Prima8 and this vehicle has two brands so that we can gain some capacity. They sell it in Iran under their name and here in Africa we sell it under our name, ”Mungofa said.
“So we are starting the African journey now and the team in South Africa is 12 people because it is mainly administrative. In Zimbabwe we have less than 20 people, but we hope that in the next few months the number will increase considerably. . “
Mr Mungofa said they were already working on setting up a local factory in Harare with future plans underway to establish another factory in Bulawayo as well.
“We want to produce these cars locally in Zimbabwe and this is one of the main reasons we showcased our product at ZITF. We intend to localize production and, through our global network, we believe we can re-capacity the industry, ”he said.
“Our team is very young and dynamic. The Prim8, which we showcased at ZITF, is powered by a 1.5-liter automatic four-cylinder petrol engine, but it will then evolve into an electric vehicle once we are done building our vehicle infrastructure network. charging, which will happen by March 2022.
Mr Mungofa said they were in talks with the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) over this concept of introducing electric cars.
“The product is priced at US $ 13,500 and we will have more units including pickup trucks as well as sedans that will cost less than US $ 10,000,” he said.
Mr. Mungofa said he was happy to have finally realized his childhood dream of producing his own vehicle.
“Cars have always been my passion. My dream was to create my own brand of vehicles that Africans could be proud of. Part of that dream was also to build an industrial empire that could employ as many people as possible, ”he said.
After completing his A-level education at Fletcher High School in Gweru, Mungofa enrolled at UZ for only two weeks before dropping out.
“I did science in high school and went to UZ for most of two weeks. It was a very difficult time and I had to give up. I then got into entrepreneurship and started selling phones, laptops, and stationery until I ended up selling cars, ”he said.
“I started to train myself in designing cars, mainly relying on internet tutorials. I used sketchbooks, my laptop, and the Internet. After mastering the basics, I took part in international design competitions and came out third.
Mr Mungofa said he was not allowed to travel to Croatia, where he was supposed to participate in the international car design competition, as he was from Zimbabwe.
Organizers of the event advised him to create his own brand, marking the start of his inspiring journey.
“Mureza started as a car sales company in 2009 which operated until 2016 in Zimbabwe and we have sold over 300 cars during this period. In 2012 I embarked on the Scuderia design challenge and after finishing third globally I was encouraged to launch my own brand of vehicles, ”said Mungofa.
He said that after doing some research online he realized there was an opportunity for an African car maker and then went to South Africa to engage suppliers on how they could work together.
By 2016, Mr. Mungofa had gathered enough information on how to make cars and then registered Mureza Auto Company, which designed concepts for manufacturing.
“We were fortunate to find an OEM partner who adopted one of our designs into a commercial product and the Prim8 was born,” he said.
Mr Mungofa said he used the country’s national anthem as his inspiration for naming his company “Mureza”, a Shona word for “the flag”
“I felt that the country was generally held in low regard with our national flag always appearing last in any Internet search. So I decided to take this as a challenge to raise the flag in the auto industry.
Mr Mungofa said they are building a dealer network that will create at least 1,000 jobs over the next few years in Africa.
“My hope is to see African automotive brands dominate global markets. I think Africans have what it takes to transform the auto market. We recently deployed PROJECT 100 which aimed to secure the orders of the first users of our brand, ”he said.
“This is the launch of a limited edition of the Prim8. There are more product lines like pickup trucks, SUVs, sedans and electric vehicles that will be rolling out soon. “
Mr Mungofa said they are also working on partnerships with SMEs among other promising entrepreneurs in Africa to grow their businesses.
“Despite what people think, Africa has sufficient financial capacity to build any project it wants if there is unity of purpose and as long as African consumers can support such initiatives. It is time for Africa to prosper and Africans should lead this investment campaign, ”he said.
“In Zimbabwe we have the challenge of importing cars and we are in fact one of the biggest importers of vehicles in Africa. So we want to help Zimbabweans and Africans as a whole to be able to own new cars and this is the main driver of our products like Prime8. “- @mashnets