The Saipa Automotive Manufacturing Group has signed a deal to set up a factory in Sudan to produce 35,000 cars over the next five years, the Iranian news agency Mehr is reporting.
The new plant in Sudan will produce a variety of car models.
“Saipa’s successful presence in the Sudanese market in the past persuaded us to build a factory to produce our cars there,” Nematollah Poustindouz, CEO of Saipa told Mehr. “Our plan is to sell cars in Sudan and eventually launch our products in its nine neighboring countries.”
Both Iran and Sudan are considered pariah states by large portions of the international community, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regularly calling for the destruction of Israel and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir facing an international arrest warrant over alleged genocide and war crimes in the western Sudanese province of Darfur.
Both countries also face a range of U.S. sanctions over their alleged sponsoring of terrorist groups and, in the case of Iran, over the nature of its nuclear program.
“I think this is purely a business decision and not a political arrangement,” Dr. Safwat Fanous, Professor of Political Science at University of Khartoum told The Media Line. “Iran usually does not support large investments in countries that the ruler is not a Shiite Islamic faction and in Sudan the elite is Sunni.”
“Iranian investment in Sudan is small compared to, for example, Turkey, Syria and the Gulf countries,” he said. “Sudan is of course aware of the tension between Iran and the Gulf countries and Sudan has more to gain by being an ally of Egypt and the Gulf countries.”
Saipa produces a number of models from the French carmaker Citroen, ranging from the midsized C5 and Xantia to a MPV, in addition to its two domestic compact models Saba and Nasim.
The Iranian government owns 48 percent of Saipa. Iran is also home to the Iran Khodro Car Company, making it the only country in the Middle East that has any domestic car manufacturers.
Iran-based columnist Kourosh Ziabari said that Iranian cars are popular at home and are starting to become so abroad.
“Iran cars are good and popular especially in the Gulf and in Eastern Europe,” Ziabari told The Media Line. “Iranian car production is very advanced.”
The new plant in Sudan is the second plant that Saipa has announced in less than a year. In May the company opened up the largest car factory in the Middle East, with an annual production capacity of 150,000 cars, at the cost of $350 million.
Sudan in the third largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, with output of about 490,000 barrels per day, a relatively small level production when compared to the Gulf states, where production capacity varies between 3 to 10 million barrels per day.