African attempts in automobile production started way back in the day. In 1997, a Nigerian Electrical Engineer identified as Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu, designed and produced the Izuogu Z-600 prototype. He was a Lecturer at the Federal polytechnic Nekede, Imo State of Nigeria. This is the first African indigenous manufactured car.
Izuogu Z-600 was produced by the learned engineer in 1997. With a proposed selling price of $2000, it would have been the world’s most affordable car. Dr Izuogu had planned to commence the mass production of the vintage sedan. Already he had set up a car plant in Naze Owerri, in Imo State. Sadly the industrial move was halted by financial constraints.
Izuogu Z-600 was the rave of the moment in African technology as well as in the Nigerian media. It was such a record breaking invention that the then head of state, Oladipo Diya publicly endorsed it with a proposed grant of N235 million to further mass production. The car was unveiled in an official ceremony that had 20 foreign ambassadors in attendance.
According to Wikipedia the Izuogu prototype had these features:
- A self made 1.8L four cylinder engine with 18mpg. This enabled the car to attain a top speed of 140km per hour.
- A front wheel drive instead of a rear wheel drive to reduce cost
- 90% of the car’s components were locally made.
- The car used a door bell instead of a horn.
In 2005, the South African government indicated their interest in Izuogu Z-600. They expressed their desire for Dr Izuogu to produce the cars en masse for them. As much as it was a thing of joy to be contracted by the South African government, Dr. Izuogu was reluctant. His vision was to generate employment for his native home in Imo State.
Dousing this encouraging development was the robbery incident at the plant in 2006. The hoodlums made away with “molds for the engine blocks and crank shaft, mudguards and other components.” They made sure to also take with them the design book of the Z-600 prototype.
“To worsen the matter, our design notebook was also stolen”
Till date it is suspected that the loot was masterminded to cripple the manufacturing of more of the “African Dream Machine“. In all, the robbery incident cost Dr Izuogu about N1 billion. It also took away the sweat, creativity and innovation that took 10 years to make the prototype a possibility. It was a huge loss for Dr. Izuogu, Nigeria and Africa as well.
Just like Gaddafi’s Libyan Rocket, the future of this automobile was frustrated.