Obtaining vehicle spare parts in Ghana presents multiple options based on two key choices - brand new or second-hand parts. New parts carry the risk of being either faked or pirated , or costly and difficult to obtain. Genuine parts are mostly found at accredited vehicle garages or dealerships representing the car manufacturer.

John Mahama
Vice President, Ghana

On the other side of the continuum, the so-called imported "home-use" or "second-hand" spares, may be factory rejects or recycled from broken down or accident-damaged vehicles. These second-hand parts are popular because they are usually cheaper.

There is a third slightly bizarre option. Ingenious local mechanics are known to swap parts of different vehicle models and designs, using spare parts from one vehicle type to fix another. This type of "appropriate technology" extends to engines, shock absorbers, shafts, auto-electrical parts and many other conceivable car components. Sometimes machine shops are used to re-engineer such altered parts to assume their new functions. Though exact figures on the gross value of available spare parts are scarce, the industry is undeniably big with imports of brand new and second-hand spare parts, running into millions of Ghana cedis.

The industry employs hundreds of thousands of artisans, shopkeepers, fitters, mechanics, transporters, food and hospitality workers, and property owners, who lease out shops and land spaces for the trade. Some importers conscript local mechanics to travel abroad just to dismantle broken down or outmoded vehicles for shipment. Large or small-scale garages and industrial plants are found in most cities and towns and have become institutions; some operate and network under a loose cartel.

Places like Abbosey Okai, Agbobloshie, and Kokompe in Accra, Suame-Tafo Magazine in Kumasi, Kokompe in Takoradi, Swido in Cape Coast, Magazine in Sunyani, are considered hubs of mechanical and spare-parts supply. Other stakeholders include financial market operators, traders (wholesale and retail), trade associations like the Korea Vehicles Importers Association in Kumasi, or the Association of Spare Parts Dealers at Sunyani Magazine, represent varied interests in the area of business.


The business of spare parts has its roots in the type of vehicles that are imported into the country from various sources in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. Most vehicles that come into the country are second-hand, and require a regular import of spare parts to maintain them.

Such is the craving for low cost second-hand spares among motorists that a political minefield was ignited in February when the Ghanaian Times reported that, due to a rise in road accidents, the Vice-President, John Mahama, had called for a national debate on importation of second hand parts. This came barely two weeks after Mahama made a passionate appeal to the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies to deal sternly with reckless drivers. Bloggers leapt into action. There were tweets on www.myjoyonline.com insinuating that while the vice president (VEEP) could easily afford new tyres, the man earning GH¢200 a month could not afford to pay GH¢200-250.

Other tweets pleaded on behalf of "Ghanaians and their families, who make a living through the sale and purchases of used car parts. In banning the used spare parts, the government would have to offer alternative employment to all these people, who would otherwise become armed robbers to survive."

According to the same blogger: "The road transport sector is controlled by private individuals not the government. Banning used spare parts will result in a disruption of transportation, which would significantly affect productivity."

The importation of used spare parts generates government revenue through import duties and income taxes.  While some bloggers pointed out the revenue government would lose through a ban, others kept the focus on employment.

"At Abossey Okai, it is possible to get the parts of almost all cars in the country. It would be very difficult to get new spare parts for all cars. All our mechanics would be thrown out of jobs", one contributor to the online debate said.

A visit to Abossey Okai in Accra or Suame Magazine In Kumasi leaves the impression that vehicle parts can be procured and assembled into a full vehicle complete with electrical, electronic and mechanical parts. The only reason that such transformations are rarely done is that the chassis number will not be registered in the Customs clearance system and therefore duty must be paid on the "new" vehicle. In mainstream media too, the challenge was embraced with vigour. The Association of Spare Parts Dealers at Sunyani Magazine immediately registered its displeasure at the proposed ban of second-hand spare parts imports, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) reported.

In an interview with the GNA, in Sunyani, the secretary of the association, Mr. James Agyei, said his association did not support a ban on second-hand spare parts, because a ban meant loss of jobs.

Mr. Agyei reiterated that the high incidence of road accidents in the country could not be attributed to the use of second-hand spare parts, but rather, non-maintenance of vehicles, and careless driving.

However, Mr. Agyei supported the ban on third grade second-hand tyres, and urged the Ghana Standards Board to verify the quality of all imported second-hand products before allowing them onto the market. A member of the association, Mr. Kwaku Akoto, said the second-hand or "home used" spare parts were of the best quality, adding that those produced for the African market were of sub-standard quality.

Major car dealers, some of whom hold franchises for major vehicle firms abroad, also entered the fray.

Toyota Ghana for instance, organised an education forum for the public on how to identify authentic spare parts. The GNA reported an event to educate the public and users of Toyota spare parts dubbed, "Anti-Counterfeit Educational Campaign - One Mistake, Big Trouble" aimed at educating  customers on the dangers of the influx of non-genuine Toyota parts in the country.

Launching the campaign, the managing director of Toyota Ghana, Takahiko Takabayashi, urged participants to purchase all their Toyota parts from the designated importers and outlets to guarantee the safety of their vehicles. Mr. Wilfred Atuobi, national parts manager, Toyota Ghana, in a presentation on the anti-counterfeit campaign said the dangers of using fake Toyota parts were numerous including short lifespan of the engine, high maintenance cost, uncomfortable driving conditions, safety, security of passengers and vehicle. "Some of the key products imitated include: oil filters, fuel filters, air filters, brake pads, drive belts, spark plugs and shock absorbers", he added.

Meanwhile, the government has reinforced its "no tax incentive for spare part dealers" policy. Another report from the GNA cites the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms. Hannah Tetteh, as stating during question time in Parliament that, an integrated foundry, metal working and machine tool would be established.

Responding to a question asked by Mr. Theophilus Tetteh Chaie, MP for Ablekuma Central, who wanted to know whether the Ministry had avenues of tax incentives for spare part dealers at Abossey Okai, and other areas to enhance their trade, Ms. Tetteh stated that, small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) would have the opportunity to undergo training and rent facilities to produce spare parts, which the existing facilities could not allow.

"The centre will produce precision parts and components of machinery and equipment and assemble the (same type of parts) for subsectors such as food processing and automobile spare parts among others," she said.

In terms of the individual items, the following spare parts
recorded the highest progressive levels of imports each year:

Ms. Tetteh further stated that in Ghana, incentives were mostly aimed at attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and also for exports to accelerate the pace of the country's development. To process spare parts, the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority relies on the Kyoto Convention's standard system of classification and valuation, whereby "accessories, spare parts and tools for use with a machine, appliance, apparatus or vehicle shall be deemed to have the same origin as the machine, appliance, apparatus or vehicle, provided that they are imported and normally sold therewith and correspond, in kind and number, to the normal equipment thereof".

The Customs Division is criticised for granting tax concessions to spare part dealers that are meant for the strategic or major investment sector areas. These are the benefits and incentives that have been negotiated by the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Board, with the approval of the President. In special cases, spare parts in pre-approved quantities of knocked-down parts and components, are allowed as zero duty-rated imports. These include parts for the accommodation, catering, travel and tours, conferences and conventions, recreation and entertainment, as well as extractive industries.

As noted, the government generates substantial revenue from the imports of spare parts based on the cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value. Taking into consideration the heterogeneous mix of spares and metal-ware that come into the country, Customs has introduced a common tariff classification to describe most of the second-hand spares that hit our shores. The import duty rate is 10% of the CIF.

Gross weight of spare parts imported into Ghana (2008-10)

Generally, the trend of imports of spare parts increased from 13,781,903 metric tonnes in 2008, to 15,242,660 metric tonnes in 2009, and up to 16,695,853 the following year. This resulted in a total of 45,720,416 over the three year period.

The highest number of spare part imports include car body parts, parts and accessories for tractors, station wagons and pick-ups, vans, buses with passenger seating of 30 or more persons, trucks for conveyance of goods and saloon cars. Suspension shock absorbers imports were very high, illustrating the poor nature of most roads in the country and the need for sustained replacements. Most of these imported vehicles are already 'over-aged' and  require regular replacement of parts.

Tax revenue for the three years from 2008 to 2010 amounted to GH¢ 34,560,851.15.

Research shows that vehicles from South Korea and Japan were the most popular imports. These include Toyota, KIA, and Mitsubishi.

Other major sources of vehicle importation are from within the European Union (Germany, France) and the United States, with brands such as Mercedes Benz, Peugeot, BMW, and Ford.  As expected, few imports originate from African countries with Nigeria and South Africa barely making any exports. In a rare case is one "import' from Ghana suggesting the temporary exportation of an engine for refurbishment and subsequent re-import of what had previously been imported as part of a vehicle and duty already paid. Any duties on such a case will only be based on the extra cost of repairs and components replaced or newly fitted.

With 28% of the total share of imports, Korea tops the list, sending in 2,634 engine pieces from 2008 to 2010. Italy also proves as steady source of such second-hand engines with 1,291 pieces or 14%, during the same period. Belgium, the United States, the Netherlands and Denmark follow with about seven to ten per cent of market share.

The United Kingdom, despite its right-hand steering wheel vehicles, features prominently as a source of discarded engines, since these easily fit into local left-handed vehicles. The quantities and resultant import revenues suggest that for now, the country will have to cope with the phenomena of second-hand spare parts retrieved from far and wide.

Now that the VEEP has twitched the tail of a sleeping, yet vibrant, tiger, the country needs to re-examine the Trade and Industry Ministry's plans for local production of spare parts. Only then will it be possible to embark on the gradual phasing-out of imported second-hand engines and spares, which, after all, carry immense environmental and road risks.