Jonathan Kasumba

Driven by Design!

This week, we are thrilled to welcome Jonathan Kasumba, an automotive designer, and the visionary behind the African Automotive Design Association. His mission is to shape the automotive design industry with a distinctive African identity. During our conversation, he delves into the intricate process that paves the way for a car to become a reality in the production world.

Jonathan sheds light on the exciting developments happening across the continent, highlighting notable players like Kiira Motors in Uganda, BRANDT Automotive in South Africa, and the local gem, Mobius Motors in Kenya. He passionately discusses the vast opportunities for car ownership in Africa and emphasizes the importance of setting our own standards, custom-tailored to the continent's unique needs.

As we delve deeper, we discover that automotive designers in Africa are embracing innovation wholeheartedly. They're not solely fixated on traditional Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) but are also exploring electric and hydrogen solutions. Join us to explore the future of automotive design on the African landscape!

This is the sixteenth episode under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts.

*For the best experience, please use a headset/earphones.



Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Jonathan Kasumba: I believe design on the continent is gaining traction in particular industries. And the one thing is the part that is yet to be embraced and discovered to its max is industrial design. In the case of automotive design, it is a process that is from industrial design. The value that industrial design is going to add to manufacturing is going to change the whole continent overnight.


[00:00:38] Adrian Jankowiak: Jonathan, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us on the show. 

[00:00:41] Jonathan Kasumba: Thank you very much, Adrian. Glad to be here. 

[00:00:44] Adrian Jankowiak: Thank you. It's a real pleasure. We met not so long ago, we met at Nairobi Design Week or just before, I believe. 

[00:00:50] Jonathan Kasumba: Just before.

[00:00:51] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah. Every time we meet, you've been providing lots of stories about your experiences and your thoughts on, among other things, the automotive industry in Africa, something that you've got experience in.

[00:01:05] So how did you get into the industry and where did your passion for cars stem from? 

[00:01:11] Jonathan Kasumba: Thank you very much Adrian. Lovely question and in my mind, so many, I would say answers appear. The first one is the fact when I was growing up, the one thing I really loved to do was really draw and I loved images.

[00:01:26] So any kind of book I would open, I'll just look at it. I was just really mesmerized by how pictures communicated. First it was photos and then it went to drawings. Then I thought of actually drawing also. So it was a very young age art really started to appear in my eyes. That said, the car is the one image that actually mesmerized me a lot.

[00:01:52] And that's the one thing that I could say of all these pictures and images that were really shouting at me. The vehicle tended to be in each and every one of

those pictures. So when it was time for me to keep on drawing and sketching mostly cars or the things I was sketching from the very start.

[00:02:10] Adrian Jankowiak: I saw somewhere that you found you could create and draw the form of a car quite naturally as a child. 

[00:02:16] Jonathan Kasumba: Very true. Yes. And that is one thing that really, you know, inspired me and pushed me, I believe.

[00:02:22] And then it's from there that with time, I was really, really... I would say

curious to find out. Each time I was constantly observing, cars are changing. I was really inquisitive in saying, how come that car looks different? It keeps on changing. So surprisingly, I kept on looking at just one particular brand, which was Mercedes at the time, and I thought about it and said there's something behind this.

[00:02:49] There's somebody actually changing these. Surprisingly, I didn't think it was

an engineer, which was also surprising to me much later, but I kept on asking myself, okay, I have to find out, where do these ideas come from? So it stuck with me and the only thing that really tried to answer that question were magazines at the time when I was very young.

[00:03:10] So these articles that would come out mostly for car shows are the only

telltale signs that there was some form of creativity going on. They were always describing something called a concept car. That really fascinated me, big time. And that really spun it all off for me. I know. Still continuing with your same question.

[00:03:33] How did I get into this industry? 

[00:03:36] It is constant research number one and a lot of curiosity. And after completing my degree, I did an industrial design, a art and design degree that was in

Uganda and I set up an association, and it is from that association. The surprising thing came about, people started to inquire, and it's through that, that I got my first shot.

[00:04:00] Adrian Jankowiak: So this association tell us about what it did. I've done some research into what it's, and I saw some of your earlier ventures as well, and perhaps some ventures that you started some time ago that are still going as well. 

[00:04:14] Jonathan Kasumba: Yeah, very, very true. 

[00:04:16] To start off with the association itself, the association was birthed with the

understanding that they must be people with a similar curiosity as myself, and I try to describe it basically like how I would know in my case being African. Then at the same time being interested in automotive design. So the association is called the African Automotive Design Association. The first of its kind, actually, I got to find out.

[00:04:47] It was registered in 2006. And that was when I had just finished my university. And it's from that time I thought about it. The power of the internet is an

opportunity to connect with others and I was trying to connect with people like me, and it's through that, that I slowly started to get people noticing this online and I started to connect with them.

[00:05:10] So it's through that. Yes, the opportunity slowly appeared, but more importantly, I started to see others like me, those who are actually in the industry, which was so surprising to me, and they gave me loads, loads of ideas and direction

of how to approach, how to actually get to an answer and a solution. 

[00:05:34] That said, this association is all about creating, I would say the human

resource that is required in a budding industry. That is actually at its early stages as we speak. 

[00:05:49] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:05:50] Jonathan Kasumba: Right now, across Africa, we do have a lot of assembly plants that are starting to take root, but it's interesting because you can assemble anything but ownership is back to the person who sent you the things to assemble.

[00:06:06] And at the end of the day, to own a product, there will be a requirement for

intellectual property, just to put it in another way, to have their own kind of spin to it. They need to have creators on the ground. And I'm glad to say, initially as I started the association, I never actually believed or thought that I would actually be practicing it on the continent, and I was glad to do so.

[00:06:31] Adrian Jankowiak: How have you seen the industry on the continent develop then? Through, maybe that's a two-part question. Let's start with that one. How have you seen the industry develop on the continent since you've started the association? 

[00:06:44] Jonathan Kasumba: Okay. I'd like to say the one thing that has changed the automotive industry is the fact that branding really put a spin on everything. As assembly plants started to emerge on the continent, many were really tagged the product that they were actually going to assemble like Toyota or other players like more recently, it's more of the Chinese products that do appear to, but the realization that ownership is an important thing and connecting to our market.

[00:07:17] A market has to understand something that they can relate with. So you have companies even starting here in Nairobi. A good example is Mobius. Mobius had a

very interesting story because there was a gentleman who had a fantastic solution through a need that he observed. He was miles away outside Nairobi in a very rough condition. But at the end of the day, he birthed an idea that can actually, you know, move up and down. But the idea is this that, let me just not say it's a Toyota. No. He thought about it. He required an ownership of some sort, and that was a brand. So the term Mobius came about, and Mobius Motors as we speak today, I'm glad to say, is a brand on its own.

[00:08:06] And slowly by slowly this brand took its own shape and they were able to

actually craft that in the product. Glad to say they had a first iteration or a first vehicle that they developed. And it really started to echo with the country itself. Everybody started to own it. And say, no, this is home ground.

[00:08:26] This is coming from Kenya. Mobius Motors. The same goes for another outfit just across the border. I'm glad to say I was part of, it's called Kira Motors. So Kira Motors has quite a story to it, but the fact is also just the name itself. Really it's an indigenous name for the River Nile. And once again, the country also started to really come behind it because they understood and they could understand that brand. 

[00:08:55] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:08:55] Jonathan Kasumba: And it's from that opportunity of branding that then a product was birthed. In the same way going to Ghana, there's another company it's called Kantanka, which is the name of the founder of that particular company, and it is from Ghana.

[00:09:09] If you'll notice, each and every one of these vehicle startups started to

understand that power, of just ownership and the closest they could get was branding. And then it's from that brand that they've been able to actually evolve a product. 

[00:09:22] And that's how I slowly started to see these things evolve. And it's interesting because a lot of this was happening all at the same time, but more importantly, it was being brought to light through the internet, I believe. 

[00:09:37] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm. So when it comes to a lot of these products... I've seen you run a blog as well. 

[00:09:43] Jonathan Kasumba: Yes, I do. 

[00:09:43] Adrian Jankowiak: About African cars? 

[00:09:45] Jonathan Kasumba: Absolutely. Yes. 

[00:09:46] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah. And that, that's quite active.

[00:09:48] It's got quite a few interesting things on there, and I saw a lot of concepts

that you've talked about, and of course car designers often tend to start with that concept side, right? Beautiful sketches and then turning them into a model. And we see, and you've just talked about the branding being really important because that's a way to get people behind something and start it.

[00:10:10] Jonathan Kasumba: Correct. 

[00:10:10] Adrian Jankowiak: So what happens then? And how does that product become a reality in the circumstances? And maybe you've got some examples of successes as well. 

[00:10:20] Jonathan Kasumba: Okay. Glad to say that the biggest example I could actually bring right now still comes back home too in Nairobi, actually Kenya, as a vehicle that has been completed. Ground all the way up.

[00:10:35] That is Mobius One. Mobius One took to heart simplicity, getting its whole

shape coming from a structure that would be the basic structure that would maintain the roof and all the pillars required for the doors to be attached. Also the bonnet in the back. And all of this really to make it into production is a very difficult thing.

[00:10:59] But I'm glad to say that Mobius was the first to actually run to the racing,

literally to the finish block by introducing that very vehicle and selling it. To get a product from sketch to ground is very expensive. But I believe Mobius brought an interesting example by saying that we shouldn't just follow a hundred percent the standard that would be for a different continent, rather let us try to set the standard.

[00:11:29] So they try to set the standard by saying, okay, let us position ourselves to

have a vehicle that actually moves and delivers what is required. So it is context based. And they did it, which was pretty surprising. But also, I would say insightful for so many year around. 

[00:11:48] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:11:49] Jonathan Kasumba: Also underlying them is the fact that this product at least had a run, meaning it was sold and it was experienced. And the users who actually use it at this moment. For the other makers, vehicle makers, they have also done amazing work. I go back down to some that I've worked with, like, for example, Mureza in South Africa. They did a prototype. It was pretty impressive.

[00:12:16] Okay. We could just define it more as a prototype because at the moment it

hasn't really hit full production. In the case of all the people getting their vehicles immediately, which they will, but it takes a long time and the standards that they're utilizing are a bit higher and it's very, very difficult to enter. 

[00:12:37] In the same way I could echo that for other players that yes, they do have

product, fantastic, but at the same time they have technical partners that they have to actually work with in order that they can get their product out. 

[00:12:49] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that seems the really tricky part in automotive, right? Once you've got the concept, even if you've got a full scale model or a prototype that's nowhere near production ready? 

[00:12:59] Jonathan Kasumba: Correct. Cause it has to be tested and the testing game is the interesting part because, for example how many times will one be able to open a door and close it? And hopefully it won't fall off. So there are particular tests that we call validation and yeah, if you're able to actually maintain that and have that done for what we call cycles maybe 1000 times for each and every single part.

[00:13:26] So imagine a door hinges. They need to be tested. Then at the same time,

imagine a seal that's around the door at the same time. Imagine a seat, the wear and tear, how many times and how long will it actually maintain its shape and also the fabric to maintain its strength. So all of that is factored in.

[00:13:44] So by the time we see a car on the road, I mean, it's a technical fanfare, but

more importantly, it has met all the requirements to actually be on the road and quite a massive project. 

[00:13:59] Adrian Jankowiak: And we actually see products and development going through the same process. Stress testing, whether it's a mattress or a mobile phone or a hinge on a phone, for example. 

[00:14:09] We talked about all these concept cars and these things that appear and the

difficulty of bringing them to market. So, where are we with the market in terms of, you've mentioned Mobius as an example of something that's already now I think Mobius Three is about to come out. 

[00:14:28] Jonathan Kasumba: Correct.

[00:14:29] And what I would echo is the fact that Mobius is learning as all other partners on the continent. And right now in their Mobius Three, they have also

understood that to get a product to look a certain way and respond a certain way in a given context or in this given area, the demands are hard because they're already competitors. To look like these competitors, there is a demand to now partner with others. 

[00:14:59] So I believe they have technical partners as we speak, because the fact of the matter is to do all the testing required is so expensive. The only way to do it, to break even fast enough, is to have a partner. So it's like you can't really complete and say that, okay, I'm gonna make the whole engine assembly and everything. And it has to actually compete with the best of the best of vehicles on the road of 2020 or 2021, 2022. You'd need at least a supporting partner to address those things. 

[00:15:32] Just to go back and to define exactly the meat of the question that you defined for me, where do we find ourselves?

[00:15:40] The association right now is trying to address this gap. As an association, we

are looking at the potential of creating a standard. When we create a standard, we can slightly define, no doubt, what we can actually create and what we can actually bring to market. And the demands are different if you can say, because in Africa our infrastructure is different, and that is one.

[00:16:08] Another one is the fact that materials are something to reconsider. We have

been playing catch up, but more importantly we just utilize catalogs that are already made. But what about creating the catalog, which might favor our context? 

[00:16:25] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:16:26] Jonathan Kasumba: That's where the association sits and positions itself to change that game.

[00:16:31] We are working very closely. I'm glad to say that the association is connected

to one particular vehicle partner on the continent. 

[00:16:38] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:16:38] Jonathan Kasumba: And addressing this through that company to actually bring forth a product literally into the market in record time. We do hope. And change the game in that way. And as we can speak right now, automotive design in the continent is being looked at also from without. For example, we have a European company that is setting shop out in Morocco as we speak, doing automotive design for products that are going to be directed to Africa. Africa, I would say is, let's say the last market. Everybody wants to be in Africa but the fact of the matter is this, we have already tested the best, meaning we have the secondhand car market, at least many of these vehicles that are already used come here. 

[00:17:29] People have at least utilized them and seen the positives and the flaws and

everything. These are things that we can learn from and now bring a product that actually addresses the real needs on the ground which I see as a great opportunity.

[00:17:46] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. Is that a product? Is there a particular product category that you're referring to? 

[00:17:53] Jonathan Kasumba: Very good. Yes. The number one product is utility. It's a utility vehicle underlined. 

[00:17:59] Adrian Jankowiak: So it's the Probox. 

[00:18:01] Jonathan Kasumba: The Probox. I like that a hundred percent. The pro box is, I would say, a benchmark that can be utilized.

[00:18:10] Another one I would bring forward is also the CV Renault. 

[00:18:16] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm.  

[00:18:17] Jonathan Kasumba: CV One is why I would say it is the automotive toolbox of the world. 

[00:18:25] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:18:25] Jonathan Kasumba: It can drive anywhere. 

[00:18:27] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:18:27] Jonathan Kasumba: You can fix it with a screwdriver and you're good to go. A screwdriver, not even pliers, a screwdriver. So there are many vehicles that play the part that can address what actually we are looking for as a utility vehicle. It's now up to, for example, associations just like the African Automotive Design Association to point out and say, hey, these are learning points or what we would call benchmarks or under studies that will allow us to reach that particular product, elusive product.

[00:19:04] I can say. 

[00:19:05] Adrian Jankowiak: When I was growing up in Poland, it was full of Fiats one two fives and one two sixes. 

[00:19:11] Jonathan Kasumba: Oh amazing. 

[00:19:12] Adrian Jankowiak: And you always heard that they could be fixed with a screwdriver as well. 

[00:19:15] Jonathan Kasumba: Correct. 

[00:19:17] Adrian Jankowiak: Very simple mechanically and yeah, just run. When I was growing up, 80% of the cars on the road was a fiat and it was one of those two and it was always those, the little ones.

[00:19:28] Jonathan Kasumba: Exactly. 

[00:19:29] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah. 

[00:19:30] Jonathan Kasumba: I would like to say, is there a possibility it was worked with the Lada? The Lada has a very similar vehicle exactly like that. 

[00:19:37] Adrian Jankowiak: Yes, it was, it was like it. I dunno how that development process went because the Lada was the, the Soviet version, right? 

[00:19:45] Jonathan Kasumba: Exactly. 

[00:19:46] Adrian Jankowiak: And then we had fiat, but it looked so similar.

[00:19:49] The one five and the, the Lada. I'm not sure. Yeah. It's a very interesting

thing. We always knew they looked the same, but... 

[00:19:56] Jonathan Kasumba: It's very same. And another interesting thing about it is Ethiopia actually embraced that vehicle. So much it had it as their main taxi of choice. I was glad to have a ride in it.

[00:20:09] Oh my goodness. It's comfortable. 

[00:20:11] Adrian Jankowiak: I did see, I did go. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:20:12] Jonathan Kasumba: It's very impressive. 

[00:20:13] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:20:13] Jonathan Kasumba: I have to say, of all vehicles, I mean, it's... 

[00:20:17] Adrian Jankowiak: you can still find them running around and... 

[00:20:19] Jonathan Kasumba: a hundred percent Yeah. But they're very comfortable cars. 

[00:20:22] Adrian Jankowiak: Nice. So talking about these development, you've mentioned that there's like a utility vehicle that people are aiming to create that would be most useful. 

[00:20:34] If we look at the market infamously, automotive development is always very

difficult, like you've said. 

[00:20:40] Jonathan Kasumba: Yes. 

[00:20:40] Adrian Jankowiak: And late as we see announcements all the time for things that are four years away and it's still another four years after that, perhaps. 

[00:20:49] Jonathan Kasumba: I mean, the Cybertruck. 

[00:20:51] Adrian Jankowiak: There you go. 

[00:20:52] So where are we right now in that timeline of things coming out?

[00:20:58] Are things moving? Have we got things in the market or are we in that time just before people are starting to produce things and launch things? 

[00:21:06] Jonathan Kasumba: I'm glad to say that we are at the right time, and as we speak, real product is on the ground. The first example comes out also from South Africa.

[00:21:17] There's a company called Brandt that is, if you spell the word brand and then

put a T on it. This is a very small vehicle outfit. They actually build their whole body. And they still utilize a different engine, but the fact of utility, they make a robust utility vehicle. And this vehicle, is not being exported as much on everything.

[00:21:42] But the fact is this, that the makers wanted to really just produce for just

their area. A limited kind of build of sorts. I mean, it's humbling at the same time that they have already a solution that could actually populate the whole of the continent, but they feel it's best kept for now in a particular locale.

[00:22:04] I'm glad to see that they are indeed communicating that they do have some very good solutions, but the reality is this that with time, they are actually going to respond and export. A good example is this, they partnered together with a group that's connected with their Wildlife Authority in South Africa, and they made an electric version of their utility vehicle.

[00:22:26] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:22:27] Jonathan Kasumba: And it's pretty impressive, pretty impressive. That said, at the same time, we do have also an outfit coming from Nigeria who actually puts together vehicles to another level. But their market right now is for armored vehicles and looking at military style vehicles.

[00:22:46] But the fact is this, they build an amazing utility machine. 

[00:22:50] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:22:51] Jonathan Kasumba: So right now, everybody, I would say, as we speak on the continent, have solved the question. It's all a matter of identifying how best to position their solution in the market, in the right space, I'd say in the right time. 

[00:23:11] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm.

[00:23:12] Jonathan Kasumba: Because right now, as we speak we have so many opportunities and gaps. For example, getting produce literally from the garden that is from the farms all the way to to market, there's a humongous gap right there. There's a demand. 

[00:23:30] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:23:30] Jonathan Kasumba: We're still using very old utility vehicles that come from Japan.

[00:23:34] These are all the workhorse, but they're doing the job but they still need no

doubt, they need a vehicle. They're shouting for it. Another one is urban transport. That's where I would say companies just like Kiira Motors have really strategized themselves and said, okay, we're looking into urban transport.

[00:23:51] Which is very interesting. That's a huge gap. And that's where they decided and said, let's, let's look at the opportunity of what electrical vehicles can do for us. In the same way also here in Nairobi, we do have BasiGo. We also do have ROAM Motors, former Opibus. Really impressive. The fact is they're seeing the gap and they're starting to close in.

[00:24:12] And I think the number one gap that would be the biggest and validated aspect is probably the two wheel space because in our urban setting, our urban space

is filled a lot with motorbikes. In South Africa, the whole, I would say infrastructure is different.

[00:24:34] So, vehicles are more leisure. The two wheel space is more leisure. But here in East Africa, the two wheel space is indeed for courier service. It's there for transportation. It's so, so, so strong in pushing. It's almost like the Asian agent space. So imagine turning those vehicles into electric.

[00:24:55] It's a massive, massive opportunity. These are gaps. That I believe need to be addressed.

[00:25:00] Adrian Jankowiak: That was gonna be my next question to follow up. First of all, you did a, a bus concept for Kiira, didn't you? 

[00:25:06] Jonathan Kasumba: I'm glad to say I was part of the team. 

[00:25:08] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:25:08] Jonathan Kasumba: Wonderful team. Yep. 

[00:25:09] Adrian Jankowiak: And, so is that a focus that they have now or? 

[00:25:14] Jonathan Kasumba: Oh, yes.

[00:25:15] The good thing that Kiira Motors has pushed, there was product development. I'm glad to say was done quite a while back, 2015. Then from there, an initial prototype was developed and designed. Glad to have been on the team, literally

from paper all the way built to the whole vehicle, literally from ground up.

[00:25:35] People did not really see the process that all structure was done chassis.

Everything was created. That was impressive by the fact that it still needed loads of, you know, requirements to make sure that it gets onto the road. That prototype was done, it was tested. It validated so many things, and I believe it addressed so many questions for opportunities for suppliers to actually think of coming into this space for electric vehicles.

[00:26:02] I'm glad lessons learned from that prototype have allowed Kiira Motors to now build and partly assemble their new vehicles. They call them the Kayoola EVS.

And I'm glad to say the term are built because they actually, you know, build the whole frame, the whole chassis. Locally. 

[00:26:26] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:26:26] Jonathan Kasumba: Or with local materials, literally it is localized very well.

[00:26:30] So the only things that might come through are just items like lights, batteries, motors and everything like that. But the rest they actually build, which is

hats off to them. They also do have another bus. So they got two particular buses. One is a low floor bus that is for the city and from, I guess town to town.

[00:26:53] That particular vehicle is fully electric and they do have another bus, which

is a diesel bus. Which is for very long distances. 

[00:27:03] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:27:03] Jonathan Kasumba: So they've already done a trip that is all the way from Kampala across to Kenya. Not too sure how far into Kenya, but it's done a good job and they're pushing, for that space.

[00:27:15] They're actively running with it very well. 

[00:27:18] Adrian Jankowiak: So you've talked about electric vehicles. Going into the future, that might be a really good place for us to go. You've mentioned a few different players in the market. What's the state of the market and where can we expect the market to be in three, five or 10 years?

[00:27:32] Jonathan Kasumba: Alright, very good question. One thing I could say is that you have companies that are willing and ready to invest in value addition. That is making sure vehicles are I'd say changed from what we could call ICE, which is internal combustion engines into electric vehicles. So that is a conversion.

[00:27:59] So there are companies that are on the continent as we speak that are trying to make sure that there's an adoption. So right now as we're speaking in Tanzania, there is a company that is actively just changing many of these tour vehicles. A similar prospect had been done with ROAM Motors as we speak here in Nairobi, and that is one set of players that are trying to bring the value proposition of people.

[00:28:28] You can use that number of vehicles that are on the ground. 

[00:28:32] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:28:32] Jonathan Kasumba: And all you just have to do is change the engine that you have. Put in the motor and batteries. That is one particular value proposition that we see coming in and taking hold because that is the easiest way of entering into the market because you're not reinventing the wheel.

[00:28:49] The next one that we are also going to see are full outfits coming into the

country fully designed. A good example of this is a company called NAMX, N A M X. They are a French company, but the owner is half French, half Moroccan, and he's looking at bringing a full new spin to vehicles and coming into the region and first of all, coming to the North African space, and that is with a hydrogen powered vehicle.

[00:29:22] It's a very, I would say, Interesting departure from the usual, but those are

the kind of examples of players who can come out of the blue and introduce themselves with a new image, a new way of actually doing things. Hydrogen might obviously be very, very, I can't say so hard to attain, but the infrastructure itself might be something to work around.

[00:29:45] It requires a lot of investment. But that's one kind of player that is trying

to enter into the market. I would say as a Chinese market, because they're electric vehicles, motorbikes, and everything are second to none. I mean, they are amazing, the stuff that we haven't seen yet but they're coming extremely fast. So in three years, yeah, there'll be full outfits that will appear on the ground. And the good thing I would say that they have as an opportunity is that they can partner with also local stakeholders.

[00:30:19] And these local stakeholders don't have to really do all the crazy expensive product development. But have the Chinese opportunity to support them with those very heavy lifting products and literally bring them into the country. Just rebranded. 

[00:30:35] Adrian Jankowiak: And I, I guess a new drive train method like electric is maybe another opportunity for Africa to leapfrog or at least not go with internal combustion engines.

[00:30:47] Right. Not be producing that and directly go to the new methods. 

[00:30:51] Jonathan Kasumba: That is a great opportunity. Yes. And I think it would be something that we could consider. 100%, but once again, it just has to have the right value proposition. 

[00:31:01] Let me give you an example. People did not know exactly how Africa would

respond to the mobile phone, but Africa is the number one market for handsets. Literally, we eat them up for breakfast. In the case of we are a market that really take on this mobile phone, we see the value even in places which don't even have the infrastructure for charging a battery. People actually look for that. 

[00:31:27] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. 

[00:31:28] Jonathan Kasumba: And they manage to charge that. So looking forward, especially for the electric vehicle, all we just need is the right example, a right product that shows the value to an extent that everybody's going to adopt it overnight and they will factor it in their budgets. They will position themselves and say, yes, we need this product. Because number one, it saves us money in the case of fuel, it saves us the opportunity of maintenance and it gives us the opportunity of, I would say, free thinking in the way of, oh, we just need to do is, you know, change the battery and we get more out of this.

[00:32:12] So, I'm actually going to get to a particular point I wanted to raise a little

bit earlier and identify a car that I believe is literally this answer to Africa. Even though it is positioned in a different country and it is marketed in a different country, I believe it addresses what Africa's looking for.

[00:32:33] This is the Ford Lightning. I don't want to be an advertiser or anything but

this. This vehicle addresses amazing things. It gives you the opportunity of going 400 kilometers if I got it correct or miles on a full charge. Or instead of using that for driving up and down, you have the capacity of actually charging your home for 48 hours.

[00:32:58] So imagine this value proposition, and it is a pickup truck. So can you imagine a pickup truck that you can use? It takes you literally over 400, let's put it at kilometers, 400 kilometers when you really need. So you actually imagine a person who's working. And I'm like, oh, okay. I get paid by hauling stuff, moving stuff, so I can decide I get paid that way.

[00:33:22] And all I just did was just charge my vehicle. Another thing is this, oh, maybe

I could actually, you know, offer to charge somebody's home or maybe charge somebody's small shop and look at that. The vehicle is actually a power station and it's also an opportunity of making goods so, If that product shows its value proposition in the right way with the right brand, I think it's an opportunity waiting to be explored.

[00:33:53] Not only explored, but to be captured. 

[00:33:55] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. That's really interesting. It's your own power banks for everything that you need. 

[00:34:01] Jonathan Kasumba: Technically. 

[00:34:02] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah. 

[00:34:03] I can understand the need for a Probox, you know, something, the utility vehicle, I would've definitely, I had an understanding that either the motorbikes that you see lots of, or passenger vehicles may be easier to scale into, easier to get into those markets. Cause it doesn't rely so much on consumers and I guess we're seeing some organizations already going into business of fleets. 

[00:34:29] Right? 

[00:34:29] Jonathan Kasumba: That's very true. The commercial space is so important because at the end of the day, theirs is about the logistics of probably the goods moving from A to B, and at the end of the day, that reduces the price of things. It can actually just be that one vehicle or at the same time, as I said before retrofitting or changing literally what we have on the ground from ICE to electric, cuz we do have a lot of vehicles that can still do the work but all they just need is just tweaking.

[00:35:02] Or we could just get a proper, you know, workhorse that could actually do the job.

[00:35:06] Adrian Jankowiak: Great. 

[00:35:07] It's a really insightful overview that you've given me. I wonder if there's

anything you wanted to add, any anecdotal story you have?

[00:35:16] Jonathan Kasumba: Oh, okay.

[00:35:18] Very interesting. Value addition through design. I'd like to say that design

has been understood in business, for example, in banks. Banks have understood that there's a requirement for a branding department. This is the appreciation of design, be it in graphics, be it in typography and the rest, and be it also in, for example, fashion in the case of what particular materials and colors and everything.

[00:35:44] I believe design on the continent is gaining traction in particular industries.

And the one thing is the part that is yet to be embraced and discovered to its max is industrial design. And industrial design really is part and parcel of what we've discussed in the case of automotive design which I practice. 

[00:36:11] And also at the end of the day, it is a process that is from industrial design.

The value that industrial design is going to add to manufacturing is going to change the whole continent overnight. And at the moment, if we talk to heads of many of the manufacturing companies, for those who are assembling, they very well know the value and they're ready to pay for it.

[00:36:41] But only to companies or particular places they believe that understand how to do it. So for example, we have many companies in Africa that pay a good amount

of money to Europe, US and Asia for the industrial design. 

[00:37:05] Let me give you an example. 

[00:37:06] The sole of a shoe. Many people go ahead and yes, they invest.

[00:37:12] Usually just for one particular design of the sole of a shoe. It requires...

let's call it a tool. And the mold literally, that allows for replication of this design. Usually 10,000 US dollars per design. They're ready to actually pay that out in China, out in other places but not on the continent because they're just not sure that our human resource or the resource is actually available on the continent.

[00:37:41] I believe this is about to change, and I'm glad to see it's slowly start to being

echoed in places like Nairobi Design Week was a great example of showing that design isn't just limited to particular areas. But also it has a huge impact for manufacturing. A good example is also as we have indeed Sandstorm here that does bags and everything, but they actually literally show the value add because of design and they're scaling it and it is industrial.

[00:38:14] At the same time as people are slowly getting the awareness as we speak out here if I got it correct in Lamu, they're building a boat. And that boat is so impressive because we're looking at literally naval architecture or the naval architecture is really the more engineering side.

[00:38:33] The boat design is the industrial design, and I'm glad to see that they're

really pushing it in the way of utilizing new materials, embracing the fact that they want to teach people by people come together, let us make a boat. They've made a boat, they've sailed it. It works amazingly. But look at the materials.

[00:38:53] The materials are done from what we would call garbage, but now it is recycled into a product that shows the value add of design and I would say industrial

design is being unveiled right now as we speak, and it's making a massive change. 

[00:39:09] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah, and it's often the case that we see you mentioned the lack of... it's kind of, you know, the chicken and the egg because people don't bring in manufacturing or even design skills into a place unless there's a market. 

[00:39:24] Jonathan Kasumba: Correct. 

[00:39:25] Adrian Jankowiak: And the market tends to skew towards foreign things because that's what's imported and that's what's available to people.

[00:39:32] And then it promotes bringing things in from abroad rather than making things locally. Flip floppy, who made the boat in Lamu. That dhow is a really incredible showcase and they've made a smaller version and a bigger version. It's a really incredible showcase of the local knowledge as well to create the boat making knowledge.

[00:39:53] And what they've started doing now, which is a really effective way of bringing in a manufacturing method, is to bring in a resource, which for them is they're

making plastic timber, so they're extruding sections of plastic. 

[00:40:08] Jonathan Kasumba: Brilliant. 

[00:40:09] Adrian Jankowiak: And once you have that capability, you have that machine, you can then start thinking, what can we do with that resource?

[00:40:17] What can we do with plastic timber specifically? Rather than saying, Hey, we

need an injection molder to do this, and we need this and we need this. We can look at the problems and then look at what's available to us. And maybe that plastic timber is just more durable than some timber in the area. They've also been applying it with local sculptors. They showcased, which was almost using traditional techniques. It was sculpted, it looked like a normal chair from Lamu but it was made outta solid plastic. 

[00:40:49] Jonathan Kasumba: Exactly. Those are the opportunities I'm glad to say that we are seeing and all it takes is the creative mind to express themselves and have that in their hands. And I would say the narrative will be changed instantly. 

[00:41:05] Adrian Jankowiak: Amazing. Thank you, Jonathan. I've got a couple quick ones. We got straight into conversations, so it's always at the beginning or at the end.

[00:41:13] Has your name got a meaning or a reason, do you know? 

[00:41:17] Jonathan Kasumba: I know one of the examples. Jonathan is a gift from God. That's the only meaning that I know, and my other name is more of a regional name. Kasumba in Zambia is known.

[00:41:33] There's a bird that shares the same name. There's a whole town that is named Kasumba that is near the border of Uganda and Tanzania. And Kasumba is

traditional name in the Buganda culture in Uganda. 

[00:41:48] Adrian Jankowiak: Does it have a meaning in any of those spaces that you're aware of? 

[00:41:52] Jonathan Kasumba: Not that I'm aware of. 

[00:41:54] Adrian Jankowiak: Interesting. 

[00:41:55] Jonathan, thank you so much. 

[00:41:57] Jonathan Kasumba: Thank you very much, Adrian.

[00:41:57] Adrian Jankowiak: Cheers.

[00:41:58] Jonathan Kasumba: Brilliant.

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design

Host: Adrian Jankowiak

Producer: David King'ori

Shorts & Artwork: David King'ori

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)

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