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Edward T. Hightower

Kiira Motors hires American business executive Edward Hightower with an eye on global market

“I will use my experience and vast networks to help KMC forge the right technical partnerships, leverage the local resources (minerals) to develop and produce a whole range of vehicle components and work on the company’s product strategy and planning,” he said
posted onNovember 4, 2020

By Moses Paul Sserwanga

As Uganda’s automotive flagship Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) readies for the global car market entry, it has signed on a celebrated global automotive engineering and business executive Edward T. Hightower as the company’s automotive industry advisor.

The American automotive industry expert, acclaimed for his crusade “trade with Africa –manufacturing in Africa”, is the managing director of Motoring Ventures LLC, an investment, growth, strategy, and operations advisory firm focused on driving value plus impact in automotive and manufacturing businesses around the world.

He also serves on the boards of directors of Tempel Steel – a global manufacturer of precision components for electric motors and HEVO Power -- a designer, developer, and manufacturer of wireless charging systems for electric vehicles.

Addressing the media in Uganda from Michigan via a zoom press conference this past Friday, a visibly excited Hightower said that he made the decision to work with Uganda’s pioneer car manufacturer because he believes there is a big local market for the automotive industry in Uganda and Africa.

“I will use my experience and vast networks to help KMC forge the right technical partnerships, leverage the local resources (minerals) to develop and produce a whole range of vehicle components and work on the company’s product strategy and planning,” he said.

“There are many opportunities for Kiira Motors to work out public and private partnerships that will help the company to participate in the automotive global markets.”

In a press release issued by the management of Kiira Motors, it was stated that Hightower comes with a wealth of automotive industry expertise and experience having served in several new-product design and engineering, strategy, brand marketing, and senior executive roles between Ford, BMW, and GM.

“He led GM’s $15 billion global crossovers business as the Executive Chief Engineer and Vehicle Line Executive, where he led the team that planned and developed the Cadillac XT5, GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Traverse and Blazer, Buick Enclave, Holden Acadia, and other platform variants. These vehicles are sold in over 150 markets around the world,” the statement says.

Hightower also served as chief engineer for Ford’s full-size SUVs – Excursion, Expedition and Navigator, and BMW’s Brand Manager for the 5, 6, & 7 Series models in the U.S.

He authored the book Motoring Africa: Sustainable Automotive Industrialization – published in 2018, based on his industry experiences in China, India, South Korea, Mexico and Brazil.

According to the statement, Hightower will provide technical advice, expertise, coach and mentor the Kiira Motors Corporation Team to define, develop and implement the most appropriate strategy to identify and address Regional and African Continental Market Opportunities; Commercial and Product Strategies; Supply Chain Localization; and Investor Attraction and Sounding.

“The Automotive Industry Advisor will work closely with the Kiira Motors Corporation Team to build capacity in the 4+1 key pillars of People, Product, Plant, and Mobility Infrastructure, plus Policy with the ultimate goal of growing KMC into a sustainably profitable business and create new opportunities while building the indigenous Motor Vehicle Industry in Uganda,” adds the statement.

Hightower’s appointment comes at a time when industrialization is one of the government’s top priorities to transform Uganda into a middle-income economy through import substitution and export-oriented production to enhance household incomes and improve the quality of life of all Ugandans.

This economic strategy is conceptualised around harnessing Uganda’s demographic dividend, the second youngest nation in the world.

Streamlined skilling and upskilling of the youth coupled with opening domestic and regional markets to guarantee demand is key to deepening value addition, and supporting the mineral-led industrialisation agenda for import substitution and export promotion.

“H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the President of the Republic of Uganda is an ardent champion of building the indigenous Motor Vehicle Industry. With H.E’s Visionary leadership,the Government recognises that building the indigenous Motor Vehicle Industry has great potential to contribute towards the desired economic and social transformation. It provides an unprecedented opportunity for promoting value addition to Uganda’s mineral and other natural resources with the view of import substitution and export promotion of vehicles, parts, components and systems,” KMC officials said.

The government has since approved a roadmap and allocated resources for the establishment of the Kiira Vehicle Plant on 100 Acres of land at the Jinja Industrial and Business Park with the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation ,providing policy guidance and oversight to the nascent Motor Vehicle Industry.

Once completed next year ,the Kiira Vehicle Plant start-up facility will produce up to 22 vehicles (Buses & Trucks including pickups) a day and 5,000 vehicles a year.

Construction of the Kiira Vehicle Plant started in February 2019 and is being , undertaken by the UPDF Engineering Brigade through the National Enterprise Corporation (NEC).

The progress of the construction work now stands at 60% as of September 2020.

Through technology transfer with China and utilizing production facilities at the Luweero Industries in Nakasongola, Kiira Motors, Africa’s pioneer green mobility champion has built the Kayoola EVS, fully electric city buses with premium zero-emissions covering a distance of 300km on a single charge .

The buses are now offering shuttle services to Uganda Civil Aviation Authority staff between Kampala and Entebbe.

"The Kayoola EVS speaks to improved public transport, operational and fuel efficiency within our cities coupled with enhanced environmental stewardship,” managers at KMC stated .

The officials said that the Kiira Vehicle Plant investment is expected to create over 14,000 jobs and catalyze investment by small and medium enterprises in the manufacture of vehicle parts, components and autonomy systems (brake pads, seats, bolts and nuts, bumpers, vehicle electronics, navigation system, digital mobility solutions such as ticketing and cashless payments management, among others).

It is also projected to increase demand for the utilization of Uganda’s mineral resources such as iron ore for automotive steel; silica sand for glass; rare earth elements for glass glazing, catalytic converters, batteries and electronics; graphite for brake pads; oil for plastics; cobalt & lithium for batteries; kaolin, marble and vermiculite for paint; tungsten, columbite, tantalite, chromite and titanium for metal alloys; copper for auto electric conductors and motors, among others.

The writer is a media and development communications consultant and Advocate of the High Court of Uganda

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