It’s been almost 30 years since Elon Musk left South Africa to start a new life in North America. Now, the billionaire may be about to bring his Tesla electric cars back home.
“Probably end of next year,” the chief executive officer of Tesla Inc. replied to a South African fan on Twitter, who asked him when a store would open in the country of the businessman’s birth. “Amazing — I’m first in line when it happens!” replied the individual.
Tesla has stores across the globe, including the U.S., Germany, China, and Australia. But it has none in Africa, which has been broadly left out of the electric-car revolution Tesla pioneered. Lower average incomes and poor power infrastructure mean gasoline-powered cars — often bought second hand — dominate most markets on the continent.
South Africa is Africa’s most industrialized economy, but it’s not immune to those challenges. Cash constraints and delayed power plants at state utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. have led to rolling blackouts. While it’s not unheard of to see an electric car on the road, they remain the preserve of the super-rich, and charging stations would be hard to come by.
Musk, 47, left South Africa for Canada after graduating from high school in Pretoria in 1989, still five years before the end of apartheid. But the self-made billionaire and founder of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is still well known there.
Opening a Tesla store there could be a popular move.