Mercedes-Benz in Sierra Leone

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Sir,

Recent correspondence/remarks/editorials concerning Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce cars, prompts me to write and inform you that the former is very much a status symbol here in West Africa and no self-respecting businessman or government official should be seen without one.

Both in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the Mercedes and the Peugeot 404 must be the commonest cars on the roads. In Lagos I think there were about six Rolls all told and I have yet to see one in Freetown. One wonders if a medium-size Rolls-Royce selling in direct competition with the German car would have prevented the success achieved by the Daimler Benz organisation – always presuming that the Crewe people want to increase their sales. Come to think of it, if everyone had a Rolls, heads would no longer turn, and then the Rolls owner would be livid because after all the money he had spent, no one would notice him passing by!

I believe that in Africa one or two governments specified Mercedes as official transport. So many of these cars drive around with a chauffeur and a “Fats Waller” type individual in the back, that an African friend of mine who was buying a new car replied to my statement that I supposed he would get a Mercedes, by saying, “No Sir, if I go drive it, de people dey ask me who is your master!” He bought a 404 instead.

Here in Freetown, the official Mercedes bear number-plates with the initials of the Minister concerned thereon. One can enliven one’s driving around town by guessing who is in the car in front. Embassy cars are similarly designated – UK, GHA, GER, USA, USSR, etc., so that you know just who to wave to, who to pass with your nose in the air, and what language to utilise to tell the bloke in front to pull his finger out!

Finally, many thanks for the magazine – enlivens many dull minutes out here.

J. B. POTTER.

Freetown, Sierra Leone.