China's Beijing Automotive Works (BAW), in partnership with the South African Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), on Monday launched a joint venture to expand the production of minibus taxis.
The two sides will invest 250 million rand (19 million U.S. dollars) in the expansion and upgrade of the New Era Assembly Facility in Springs, Gauteng Province.
The facility currently assembles semi knock-down kits of the popular BAW Sasuka taxi for the South and Southern African market. The investment and subsequent expansion of the facility will see it change to a full assembly facility of complete knock-down kits (CKD) of the Sasuka and widen its export reach to more countries in Africa.
Preparations for the new facility have already started and it is expected to be completed by March 2018, when the first South African produced Sasuka taxis will roll off the production line, said Zhang Wei, CEO of BAW South Africa.
He said the investment creates fertile soil for the further localization of parts and components, which can be sourced from South Africa's well established component manufacturers.
BAW South Africa is also investigating the option of exporting certain parts and completed components to other BAW manufacturing facilities, including BAW China, according to Zhang.
Apart from a general upgrade of the plant and facilities, the investment will enable the construction of a new body assembly plant, paint plant, trim plant, a larger component warehouse to support full production, and a brand-new parts and accessory warehouse, said Zhang.
He said the expansion is expected to add an additional 100 permanent jobs, in positions ranging from production to quality assurance, logistics, after sales, marketing, management, and supervision.
The design and construction of the facilities will be done by South African companies, all of whom are in the final tender phase. These include AG Consulting SA and MCB Consulting Engineers. Equipment will be sourced from Chinese plant manufacturers and from BAW in China, according to Zhang.
IDC CEO Geoffrey Qhena lauded the project as proof of successful cooperation between the IDC and BAW.
Qhena said Sasuka taxis made by BAW will make it more convenient for South African commuters and contribute to the development of the local economy.
The BAW New Era assembly facility was established in 2012 with an initial investment of 196 million rand (15 million dollars). The facility produces the BAW Sasuka, a government-approved 16-seater taxi that is renowned for its high specification level.