Kabelo Rabotho at helm in SA as Nissan reorganises Africa structure

Nissan Group of Africa is to reorganise its operations under a single Africa region in line with its global Nissan Next strategy.

Kabelo Rabotho

This follows Nissan Motor Company in May 2020 unveiling its global new four-year transformation plan to achieve sustainable growth, financial stability and profitability.

The new Africa region structure has resulted in several leadership announcements, with Mike Whitfield appointed managing director of the Africa regional business unit. Whitfield, an experienced Nissan leader with more than 40 years with the brand, was previously chairman of Africa South and managing director of Nissan Egypt and Nissan South Africa.

Whitfield said in June this year the Africa Free Trade Agreement has been postponed by a year because of COVID-19 but automotive is a key section of the agreement.

Whitfield said there are only two auto manufacturing bases in Africa in Morocco and South Africa, which means there is a big opportunity once the Africa Free Trade Agreement and the automotive aspect of it is concluded.

Kabelo Rabotho, previously marketing director for Nissan Group of Africa, has been appointed Nissan South Africa Country Director

Whitfield’s comments coincided with Nissan Motor Company announcing its four-year business plan for the Africa, Middle East and India (AMI) region.

Nissan South Africa said the intention is for South Africa to become a special utility vehicle (SUV) and light commercial vehicle hub for the region and it will be increasing domestic and export volumes from South Africa.

Nissan in April 2019 announced a R3 billion investment in its Rosslyn plant in Pretoria to prepare the facility for the production of the next generation Nissan Navara pickup, which is scheduled to commence in the first quarter of 2021.

Nissan also has a semi knocked down (SKD) assembly plant in Nigeria with its local partner, the Stallion Group, and in November 2020 announced the appointment of long-time partner Japan Motors Trading Co. as its local partner in an all-new vehicle assembly facility in Accra in Ghana, also for the production of the new Nissan Navara.

This appointment resulted from a 2018 memorandum of understanding between Nissan and the government of Ghana to lay the foundation for a sustainable automotive manufacturing industry in that country.

Nissan made two further important leadership announcements on Tuesday.

Kabelo Rabotho, previously marketing director for Nissan Group of Africa, has been appointed Nissan South Africa Country Director and will be responsible for revenue functions and be the market lead for Nissan in South Africa reporting to Whitfield.

Nissan on Tuesday did not provide any details about the future role of Shinkichi Izumi, the managing director of Nissan South Africa and Sub Sahara Africa, who was appointed to this position in June 2019 when Whitfield was appointed managing director of Nissan Egypt and chairman of Africa South.

Mike Whitfield will divide his time between South Africa and Egypt.

Sherief Eldessouky, who joined Nissan Egypt as Director of Plant, Total Customer Satisfaction and Purchasing in March 2020, has been appointed Nissan Egypt Country Director.

Nissan said the three leadership announcements are a natural progression in line with the Nissan Next principles and will enable the business to drive forward its strategy in Africa.

“This includes enhancing its focus on the customer with increased authority and autonomy, continuing development of manufacturing capabilities across the continent, streamlining our shared services for operational excellence, and finally, giving employees more room for growth,” the company said.

Nissan added that beyond internal operating enhancements, this also positions Nissan to focus on the massive opportunity that Africa presents to the organisation globally.

“With the accelerating demand for vehicles and growth potential for market share combined with the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, this new structure will help Nissan capitalise and deliver on its Nissan Next ambition,” it said.

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