Are cars common in Africa?
Cars are not as common in African countries as in the United Sates, since not everybody can easily afford a car. These are very expensive foreign imports as of now because of the heavy-duty taxes levied on these commodities. This notwithstanding, even the very best cars around the world which are popular in different Western countries are found in most of Africa. Luxury cars, like the Mercedes Benz, are found all over the nations of Africa in disturbingly large numbers, given the unhealthy nature of most of these economies along with the number of people living in poverty. Cars can be said to be common, but not as in the United States with kids barely sixteen owning cars.
Is it true that Africans cannot afford cars?
This question can be understood and tolerated, like much else about Africa, because it certainly stems from the fact that not as many Africans have cars, unlike in the United States, for example, where even teenagers drive their own cars. But to claim that Africans cannot afford cars would be an unfortunate twist and exaggeration of the fact. The truth is that Africans can afford cars and do own cars, some of the most expensive models even, but like in other parts of the world, say parts of Asia and Europe, cars, generally speaking, are considered a luxury since not just anyone in society can afford to buy one. This is the case in Africa because, besides the fact that cars are imported, and so are more expensive because of the heavy taxes African governments impose on foreign goods, the method of paying for a car in Africa is different from what obtains in the United States for example. In the United States, on the one hand, all one needs is a good credit record, a steady job and salary so as to make agreed upon payments in a timely manner, and he can drive a good car. This is made possible by the established credit system within the culture. So with a steady job and a good credit record (nowadays even, a bad credit score is no longer a deterrent factor) anyone can go to a car dealership and get a car on hire purchase. All that is required is that certain terms such as method of payment, the amount for each payment, taxes included, and the frequency of payment, be agreed upon and the "buyer" has a new or fairly used car of his choice in which to begin driving around. One cannot help questioning, therefore, why virtually everyone will not be able to have a car under such a system. In Africa, on the other hand, because of the political instability, which makes it hard for an established economic system to prevail, the one in need of a car has to pay for his car in cash before leaving the dealership with the vehicle—used or brand new. The idea of establishing a loan, which will take years to re-pay like in the U.S., is out of the question. If an African were to take a loan to buy a car based on his/her ability to make monthly payments, as is the case in the United States, for example, then owning a car would not be that big of a deal. After all, how many Americans, in contrast, can go to a dealership and put down complete payment for their cars before driving them out of the dealership? Because Africans pay in cash for their cars, except for the rich, buying a car becomes quite a feat; even then, cars are still all over the place, such that it would be ridiculous for anyone to claim that Africans cannot afford cars. Noteworthy is the fact that in every society, there are the haves and have-nots. Given the established circumstances surrounding purchasing a car in Africa, one should be wondering instead, how it is Africans can afford all the expensive luxury cars they own.
Worthy of note is the fact that Africans are brought up to live within their means and, at all cost, to avoid being in debt, whereas being in debt is, today, a sine qua non for survival in the United States. Take an African's house, for example, or hut if you will, if it is his, and he is, most likely, not owing any person or organization for the building. At the best, he might owe a bank some money, which he borrowed when he ran out while building, and not some mortgage which he will continue to pay for the better part of his/ her life. This is the case because Africans take some time to raise the money for their homes and then they begin building it slowly until completion. In the process, should the need arise, they may take small loans here and there, which loan is immediately repaid within a year or thereabouts but the bulk of the money is from their private savings. It is the same with cars and other belongings.
One is left then to wonder what the situation in the United States would be like were citizens expected to pay cash for their cars or anything else they buy?