My Dad would be so Proud!
If you love cars then Nigeria is for you! Every make, model and brand of car found in the United States and Europe can be found in Nigeria. Nigerians love cars – all types of cars – new, old, used, it does not matter. Any conversation I have with my Nigerian friends/coworkers end with a discussion about how much it will cost to purchase a car in the United States and have it sent to Nigeria. Nigerians think of themselves as the U.S.A. of Africa. Because my organization is primarily funded by USAID, we are required to adhere to U.S. regulations which requires us to purchase goods made in the U.S. So we are the proud owners of three Ford Explorers. They are actually really nice Ford Explorers but in Nigeria, the three vehicles are difficult to fix. Toyota is the most popular car in Nigeria because it is easy to find a spare parts. While I understand the regulation and the desire to support American brands, the reality is much different when you are on the ground. And not to mention the cost to U.S. funded programs.
I will be the first to confess that I know very little about cars. I can proudly say that I have changed flat tires, assisted my dad when he changed the oil in my car and replaced my car’s headlamps. Despite the fact that my father and brother can take a car apart and re-assemble it, my knowledge is pretty limited. But my limited knowledge of cars recently came in handy in Nigeria.
I was being picked up from home this week when the SUV would not start. I told the driver that I thought it was the battery because each time he tried starting the car, the sound of the car starting diminished. He got out the car and poked around under the hood. Eventually, men sitting nearby walked over to help my colleague. Each one of them poked and prodded under the hood to no avail. Finally, one of the men suggested the car needed to be “jumped off.” He parked his car in front of our Explorer and got out with two wires – I call them wires because the only similarity they had to jumper cables was the color. The wires were thin with no clip on the end. To connect the wires to the battery, he removed the cable attached to the battery with no tools. A light bulb went off in my head. The reason the SUV would not start was because the cables were not properly connected to the battery. That was a lesson I learned from my dad. When I suggested that the cables needed to be properly secured for the car to start, the men ignored my comments and continued to try and start the car with the wires. After another 15 minutes of fidgeting with the battery, the men followed my advice and found a unique way of securing the cable – especially since we didn’t have the proper tools. My dad would be so disappointed that we were not prepared for this situation.
I have repeatedly told my brother that he needs to quit his job at Hyundai and move to Africa to open up a garage. The few mechanics around charge astronomical rates, especially to NGOs. He could come in, provide superior quality at a reasonable rate and still make a pretty penny (or Naira) at the end of the day. I would be his business manager…no reason I shouldn’t make a cut of the profits. Of all the places I have visited in Africa, Nigeria is one of the most developed places on the continent. However, there are still a few services related issues the country needs to work out…