There’s a sense of resignation among global motor companies trying to sell vehicles in sub-Saharan Africa. After waiting more than a century for markets to fulfill their potential, what difference does another five years make? Or 10? Or 20? In the case of General Motors, a lot. Had Africa offered a real sniff of the promise provided by over 1bn aspirational consumers, the US motor company might not be planning to disinvest from SA and abandon the entire continent at the end of 2017. When there are signs of sub-Saharan market growth, there is no guarantee of sustainability. It’s only three years since, buoyed by high oil prices and improving new-vehicle sales, Nigeria persuaded global motor companies to set up preliminary assembly operations there. By 2014, new-car sales had improved by 500% in six years, from 7,000 to 42,000. Add trucks and buses, and total industry sales since 2008 had accelerated from 12,000 to 53,900. Those numbers may be small by SA standards but in a market dom...

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