Using tech to improve Africa's logistics industry

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Trucks driving on a road in South AfricaImage source, Getty Images

Poor infrastructure is currently holding back the growth of Africa's logistics markets.

Industries can make a variety of goods, but they struggle to transport them safely and quickly to customers without established networks.

According to global property consultancy Knight Frank, the cost of transport takes up 50-75% of the retail price of goods.

But there is hope, from both foreign investment and home-grown solutions.

For example, in Nigeria, digital start-up Kobo360 developed an app that revolutionises cargo delivery by making sure that everyone in the supply chain is connected to ensure the safety and accountability of cargo in transit.

A call centre of staff is able to monitor truck deliveries enroute in real-time and communicate directly with drivers, manufacturers and distributors, aided by GPS satellite positioning.

Kobo360 has only existed for three years, but such is the problem of getting goods safely delivered to distributors that many of the continent's conglomerates are now signed up as clients.

Logistics expert Olufemi Ransome-Kuti says that solutions like Kobo360 have a knock-on effect of benefiting other industries as well, such as agriculture.

At the moment, farmers in Nigeria only expect about 50% of their produce to be delivered to distributors or buyers in a sellable condition.

"When they are able to get similar spoilage from source to destination, it will encourage them for the next season to build more capacity into their farm," Mr Ransome-Kuti told the BBC.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Farmers in Nigeria only expect about 50% of their goods to arrive safely at the moment

Enabling transatlantic deliveries

In the Senegalese capital, Dakar, more and more people are shopping online, and getting goods delivered to your front door is a growing trend amongst shoppers.

Quicarry is a service that delivers packages in Senegal from international ecommerce websites, particularly targeting young adults.

"We were looking to start a classic logistics company but then we realised after a few months that there were a lot of people looking to buy products from [countries like] the US and France," Quicarry's co-founder Olabissi Ojohui told the BBC.

"Online shopping is available here, but these big websites - they don't ship to Africa often."

There are other start-ups in Senegal also trying to offer new solutions, such as delivery app Paps, which aims to deliver anything you want to your front door in half an hour.

But technology isn't enough to fix Africa's logistics problems - more support is also needed to help new businesses get off the ground.

Start-ups say they struggle to raise the money they need, no matter where they are on the continent - according to the African Development Bank, business loans are granted at interest rates of between 12-20%.

This means that one in four businesses are likely to fail in their first year.

However, people still want to try.

In Nigeria, three-wheeled motortaxis called Kekes are popular with customers.

When Samuel Ogundare completed his education and went out into the world of work, he couldn't find a job.

Eventually he decided to go into business for himself, running a Keke taxi firm called Corporate Keke Guy, where all the drivers are dressed smartly.

He told the BBC: "I want people to see me and not believe I am a tricycle rider.

"I want to change the look of transportation. Some people think they can't be successful - I want people to see me and know you can start something.

"You can start small and go places."