African used heavy equipment market: A region of opportunity

Paul Williamson, sales director Africa at IronPlanet.

Paul Williamson, sales director Africa at IronPlanet, explains the varying demand across the African region for used heavy equipment, and why it must be considered a region of immense opportunity by global, online auction platforms.

The demand for used heavy equipment in Africa has grown exponentially in recent years, a demand which second-hand dealers and global online auction platforms have eagerly tapped into. African buyers are not new to the concept of used goods, considering their appetite for used equipment from Europe, Dubai and Japan. However, Africa is an incredibly vast region, meaning the demand varies hugely from country to country.

Market overview

Demand for this type of equipment can be impacted by a number of factors such as the political governance of an area, the level of investment, the exploitation of resources or the number of new infrastructure projects. For example, Ethiopia is a country which has experienced better political governance in recent years, coupled with the completion of large-scale infrastructure projects which are having a positive impact.

Ethiopia was once a landlocked country, however recently a 700km railway was built to provide a link between Addis Ababa and the port of Djibouti, providing railroad access to the sea. This project, which received investment from China, inevitably brought heavy construction machinery to the area, as well as jobs, business and ongoing investment. Large amounts of Chinese investment have also grown the used heavy equipment market in countries such as Mozambique, Botswana, Uganda and Kenya.

It has also been reported by Global Construction Perspectives that Nigeria’s construction growth will be the fastest of all global markets by 2018 – beating the construction growth of the often impassable India.

North African countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya were all areas where the demand for construction equipment was high, and the market was vibrant, however due to unrest in these countries, their markets have become unstable, impacting tourism and investment. Investors are less likely to want to take long-term risks in these countries. However, the future is beginning to look brighter for Egypt, following their decision to widen the Suez Canal – which hopes to revive the country’s market and bring an influx of used heavy equipment to the country’s shores.


The outlook for African used heavy equipment is looking up, thanks to the introduction of global, online auction platforms into the market.

Shift in reputation

The need to improve infrastructure and exploit natural resources such as oil and gold have led to an increase in the buying and selling of used heavy equipment in Africa. However, Africa’s used heavy machinery hasn’t always had a great reputation. Widely renowned as being a graveyard for used equipment, African regions were the last stop for these types of machines. They would fail to be sold on because they were often in a poorly maintained condition.

Often in African regions, the simpler the machine, the higher the demand. Technicians prefer to deal with machines with simple configurations, and have the basic set up of a simple engine and gearbox. The pool of used machinery available in these countries is fairly low due to the desire for simplicity, but this will hopefully expand as various African countries diversify.

However, the outlook for African used heavy equipment is looking up, thanks to the introduction of global, online auction platforms into the market. African buyers would traditionally have travelled to purchase used equipment from locations such as Europe, Dubai and the Far East. Now with online platforms such as IronPlanet and their detailed inspections, African buyers can buy with confidence, without needing to travel. This trend only looks to gain momentum over time as younger generations embrace the internet.


With online platforms such as IronPlanet and their detailed inspections, African buyers can buy with confidence, without needing to travel.

High-quality inspection reports increase trust

In order for the used heavy equipment market to truly flourish in emerging African nations, the buyer and seller relationship must be fine-tuned, which can be offered via global online auction platforms. Each machine that is listed on IronPlanet is listed alongside a bank of images and videos of the machine on offer, as well as detailed inspection reports which provide exact descriptions of the machine.

By having access to such a wide range of preliminary information, buyers are reassured that when the machine is delivered, it will be exactly as promised. This way, both buyers and sellers have complete transparency of the transaction, increasing trust in their purchase. This is incredibly important for African nations where the level of trust is low and corruption is rife.

The African used equipment market is incredibly difficult to predict, even now, as certain regions rely so heavily on foreign investment and the availability of capital – factors which can’t be guaranteed. However, by introducing global online auction platforms to the African region, it will ensure that buyers and sellers of used heavy equipment are served with a reliable service where transactions are secure. A select number of African nations provide the most promising growth opportunities that the global market has ever witnessed – it is imperative that this potential is utilised.

Review overview