Evolution of West Africa 4x4

After a visit to Sierra Leone in 2004, Philip Dean (co-owner of West Africa 4x4) started rescuing some of the estimated 3000 war orphans that were roaming the streets after the war. Initially this was just personal but later a charity was formed (St George Foundation) and has since given a home to over 1500 children, spending over $2,000,000 in the process. After years of working only in Sierra Leone they are now turning to the war torn Congo.

Never was there an expectation to set up a charity and never a thought to set up a car business. That particular seed was sewn after hiring an absolutely clapped out 4x4 on a trip and then being presented with a bill for $100/day… A ‘You have to be joking’ moment that eventually evolved into West Africa 4x4.

Sierra Leone 4x4

After getting through over 20 vehicles over the period and realising there were some major problems with local fuel quality (only petrol cars ever survived long), lots of issues getting parts and maintenance sorted, and nowhere straightforward or supportive to approach to buy cars for projects — not to mention witnessing huge financial waste in failed vehicles and down time on projects — Sierra Leone 4x4 was created.

One of the things clearly witnessed was the large number of really dedicated, wonderful people coming to Africa to help with development: Whether it be medical, educational, construction or agricultural, most make a huge sacrifice… We would help fund all of them if we could!

West Africa 4x4

That was the thinking that West Africa 4x4 grew from. We may not be able to give all these wonderful people money, but could we do something else? They nearly all use cars, so if we could make cars more efficient we could save them money and help their projects run better.

By evolving the tiny project Sierra Leone 4x4 and bringing in experts, getting involved with companies experienced in large volumes with economies of scale and convincing investors, West Africa 4x4 is poised to become the ‘go to’ place for organisations to invest in vehicles for their projects. To buy in confidence that that vehicle will be supported and was a viable proposition in the first place. We do not want people to fundraise for a car that lasts 8 months: buying a car through West Africa 4x4 will be an investment in a project’s future.

Strategy

This involves a huge jump from a tiny business to a commercial enterprise with a professional team required. We are doing this in stages…

So first we are committed to our mission statement. Providing the most reliable, environmentally clean vehicles with the most ethical and stress free process and then working to ensure we manage that from the very first activity.

Today, West Africa 4x4 is concentrating on the supply chain, ensuring the sourcing and successful delivery of the right vehicles at a variety of budgets available in bulk to a large number of African ports. Alongside that is making sure that parts remain available for on-going maintenance. The vehicles are being quoted delivered to the port only for the customer to clear them. This in itself is a lot to get right and at this stage we are not passing that point.

We are also actively working towards being able to offer financing options on the vehicles to spread the purchase cost. This then would allow customers to upgrade the quality and age of vehicles purchased. Striving to be environmentally friendly means newer and better cars in many cases that are more fuel efficient and cleaner and this is why we are pursuing this option as hard as we can. It is surprisingly difficult though to find funding for projects in Africa.

Future evolution is to become more deeply involved in the life of the vehicle and having our own technicians and eventually technical training available so that the vehicles can be supported long term on the ground by our own team.

As we progress we will also be looking at introducing hybrid or clean vehicles as they become a realistic possibility. The problem now that is stopping hybrid or electric vehicles being introduced is the lack of highly technical support that these vehicles require.