Can the sub-Saharan Africa new-car market become bigger than the sum of its parts? Volkswagen SA (VWSA) MD Thomas Schaefer believes so, and now he’s been given the opportunity to prove it. VWSA has already launched a joint venture with Kenyan partners for its cars to be reassembled near Nairobi, and is in advanced talks with the Rwandan government on a project there. Now marketers are undertaking a country-by-country assessment across the rest of the 49-market region. After decades of trying to manage its sub-Saharan interests from Germany, VW has passed control to VWSA. "We have an opportunity to make a real business of it," says Schaefer. "Africa is a mystery to most overseas marketers. You need local knowledge to succeed." The decision puts sub-Saharan Africa on the same footing as VW operations in North America, South America and China — giving Schaefer and his team management autonomy in the region. "It gets rid of a lot of red tape," he says. Like other global vehicle manufact...

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