'Minicar Egypt' comes to life

Approximately 30-40 minicars are manufactured each month.

Outside the box. Egyptian entrepreneur Ahmed Saeed el-Feki inside a workshop in the village of Kerdasa in Cairo. (AP)

2017/08/27 Issue: 121 Page: 19

Kerdasa - In Egypt, where many suffer under economic hardship, 35-year-old entrepreneur Ahmed Saeed el-Feki has been working to make something of himself. He launched his own busi­ness building a minicar in a coun­try that relies heavily on imports of small automobiles.

In a village not far from the Giza pyramids, Feki set up a small work­shop to create the first Egyptian-made minicar.

“The idea came at the same time as the flotation of the Egyp­tian pound, so we decided to think outside the box and create a local product to replace the tuk-tuk,” Feki said, referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s move to help shore up the coun­try’s economy.

Feki’s golf-cart-looking minicar is different in design and mechani­cal efficiency from the Chinese tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled motorised vehicle used as a taxi and which is popular in Egypt. The minicar’s engine power is 300cc, while the tuk-tuk’s is 175cc. The body thick­ness is 4mm while the tuk-tuk is only 0.75mm. The minicar is much safer because it is a four-wheel car while the tuk-tuk is three-wheeled. The minicar is also more economic in fuel usage.

“The minicar is similar to the tuk-tuk but I feel it is more practi­cal when I drive it inside my vil­lage,” said 25-year-old Hossam Gamal el-Halawany, who had been the owner of a minicar for a week or so. “It can carry more passengers — around five — in addition to the driver.”

Halawany said, however, he worried the minicar would be reg­istered like the tuk-tuks, which means they could be restricted in movement. “I am hoping to get a licence for the minicar to allow me to move around the whole city and not only my village,” he said.

Millions of Egyptians, especially in rural and densely populated areas, depend on auto rickshaws because of their cheap fares and smallness that make them ideal for navigating narrow alleys. Egypt imports tuk-tuks from China, spending about $290 million a year, Feki said.

To shore up Egypt’s economy, Sisi imposed austerity measures as part of a comprehensive economic reform programme. It was set to meet the demands of the Interna­tional Monetary Fund, which se­cured a $12 billion bailout to Egypt last year.

Speaking outside his workshop in the village of Kerdasa, Feki said the number of purchase orders has grown and they were coming not only from Egyptian businessmen and companies but neighbouring countries as well.

Feki said one interested party invited him to manufacture his ve­hicle in Mozambique, which he de­clined. For him, the start-up had a nationalist dimension. He hopes to contribute to the Egyptian market, create jobs and increase the coun­try’s export capacity.

Feki said he was working on re­fining and upgrading his product from just a handmade car. He was producing 30-40 per month on his own but he plans to expand after reaching a deal with the govern­ment to have the parts manufac­tured in army-run factories. He then assembles the vehicles in sep­arate factory space, enabling him to ramp up production.

The minicar is on sale for 34,000 Egyptian pounds — less than $2,000 — significantly less expen­sive than the tuk-tuk, which costs 38,000 Egyptian pounds ($2,130).

(The Associated Press)

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