Hyundai Chief Executive Won Hee Lee said the Korean firm was drawn by Ethiopia’s growth which has emerged as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies in the last decade.
“We have good opportunities in Ethiopia. We believe the economic growth in Ethiopia will be faster than any other country in middle Africa,” he told reporters at the inauguration ceremony.
Passenger hatchback cars and trucks are some of the vehicles that will roll off the assembly line at the plant, which was established at a cost of half a billion Birr, located just outside of the capital.
Some of the cars will also be exported to the larger East Africa.
“This plant is big enough (to assemble) for Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan,” said Haile Gebrselassie, the former Olympian-turned businessman who has partnered with the South Korean firm.
The Marathon Motor Engineering, Plc. Is a joint venture between Hyundai Motor Company and the renowned athlete Haile Gebreselassie.
The plant is expected to create employment opportunities for 200 people initially, and has the possibility to create 1,000 jobs once it goes fully operational.
While second-hand vehicles dominate sales in the Horn of Africa country just like in most countries on the continent, Hyundai hopes locally-assembled cars could prove attractive given the cost of imports due to high taxes.
Ethiopia produces around 10,000 commercial and other vehicles a year for its home market. It imported more than 40,000 cars in 2017, automobile traders say.
Assemblers in the country include Chinese brands Geely, FAW and BYD, as well as Lifan.