If Nigerians drove on the left you’d not find a cheap Corolla in Liverpool
An Ivorian who owns a few taxis told me that more than 95% of taxis in Abidjan are Toyotas, and especially Toyota Corolla. He said that since everybody uses Toyotas, spare parts are cheaper than for other brands, and that Toyotas last longer. I’m thinking, yeah sure Toyotas are reliable, but if that 95% figure is correct, there is something more going on here. It sounds a bit like group-think, that there is one established way of doing things that people follow without questioning.
I’ve looked around for used cars in Europe, and it turns out you can easily find a cheap four-door Toyota Corolla in the UK and Ireland, but in the rest of Europe it’s very difficult to find such taxi-suitable cars. And the reason is, they are all sought by Africans intending to send them to Africa.
The other day a friend wrote:
Heard a long story of a man whose mother had a Corolla in Stockholm, and who got calls almost every day from africans wanting to buy it. They are clearly fixated about Toyotas down there.
As for the UK and Ireland, for some reason the ex-British colonies in West Africa drive on the right side of the road, making a right hand driven car sub-optimal.
Good car, bad sign
Another thing with cars in Africa is that they are darn expensive. I recall a professional car dealer looking at Ivorian online car ads and also visiting pre-election Abidjan. He said that there were 1/40 as many cars for sale in the Ivory Coast as one would expect from a European country with the same population, that they were very expensive, and that the luxury segment was surprisingly large and active.
The luxury car segment is explained by the existance of a wealthy elite often with political connections comprising maybe 0.1% of the population, as mentioned in the No Grunge post. With the fall of Gbagbo things are probably changing around a bit here. We’ll see if one can start spotting mistresses of top RHDP politicians driving around in Infiniti cars soon. I’d guess there’s inverse correlation between such occurrences and the accountability of the Ouattara government.
Another reason to cross the Sahara desert
As to why used cars are expensive, the obvious reason are the tolls (and sometimes bribes) that have to be paid to get a car through a West African ports. It says it all that there are people who have as a job to drive other people’s cars from Europe to West Africa:
From a Malian webforum:
Sinon je connais des personnes dont le boulot est de conduire les voitures d’Europe au Mali. Tu fais la route en passant pas l’Espagne, le Sahara occidental, la Mauritanie et tu arrives au Mali. C’est long mais ça peut être intéressant financièrement.
Again, I think there is more to cars being expensive than the cost of getting them to West Africa. In Europe, and especially in countries where it’s more important for 18 year old guys to get their own car than their own home – Italy springs to mind – old used cars are pretty cheap. When a car is a way of signalling one’s social status, nobody wants to drive a 1993 Toyota Corolla.
In Africa people aren’t much different, and cars are definitely status symbols, maybe even more than in Europe. The difference is though, that with so many people not having cars, just having any old car is pretty good, and thus used cars are in demand.