Challenged by a lack of capacity and rising prices, air cargo stakeholders are adapting to the new normal in a bid to keep supply chains operational and economies running.
This is according to industry stakeholders who were participating in a webinar on the state of Africa’s air cargo sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar, hosted by Messe Muenchen South Africa, the organisers of air cargo Africa Exhibition and Conference assessed the role and challenges of the air cargo sector as restrictions on movement play havoc with operations at airports, airlines, freight forwarders and supply chains.
With many countries on lockdown or restricting movement, cargo capacity has been slashed, creating a challenge for a sector seeking to fulfil its critical role in transporting essential medical supplies and keep import and export goods moving. Panellists in the webinar said stakeholders had to adapt to the new normal, as restrictions would likely continue for months to come. “The current situation requires agility and innovation,” noted Moderator Reji John of STAT Media Group.
Fitsum Abadi, Managing Director of Ethiopian Cargo & Logistics said the airline had adapted quickly, pivoting to a cargo-only carrier and converting many of its passenger airlines to carry cargo. “I never expected to see cargo reclining on seats, but this is in fact what happened at first. We have now adapted by removing the seats of several passenger aircraft to repurpose them for freight, as well as optimising capacity, making Addis Ababa and Lome key regional hubs, and deploying narrow body aircraft to serve regional routes to meet demand.”
Stakeholders reported an increase of chartered flights carrying repatriated citizens, medical supplies or humanitarian aid, which often arrived with little notice. Due to a lack of capacity, costs on scheduled cargo flights, was challenging for producers of perishables for export – such as flowers.
Fabio Weiss, VP, Head of Air Freight Middle East & Africa at DHL Global Forwarding MEA said stakeholders were working together to adapt to the changed environment. “Capacity has declined, but demand is still there. There has been an imbalance of volumes coming into Africa that allow exports going out, and we need to get the mix right for the necessary yields and revenues. The current situation is not sustainable for anyone in the long term. However, we have been working with airports, airlines and customers to find solutions that work for everyone.”
“We are trying to adapt to the new normal as fast as possible,” said Max Conrady, Senior Vice President Cargo at Fraport AG. “We were used to stable, fixed flight plans, and the changes we are experiencing, with many chartered flights, have demanded flexibility from airports, cargo handlers and supply chains. The many operational issues to be solved have demanded a new type of agility. But we are adapting to the new kind of normal, establishing contingency groups within our community to address congestion,” he said.
Nina Engelbrecht-Malherbe, Senior Specialist Cargo at Airports Company South Africa, noted that airports served as a point of regional integration for people and products to connect to the globe. “Airports play an important role in underpinning the economy, getting products to markets, and bringing in essential supplies. We need to be agile, work together with industry stakeholders, understand customers and demands, and link them to the routes they need. We need to work together to help get people back to work. We need to come together as a community to do the best we can; but it is also important that the authorities keep citizens safe without restricting growth and development.”
“It is an unprecedented situation, which demands innovation and cooperation,” said Suzette Scheepers, CEO of Messe Muenchen South Africa. “Fortunately, as we have seen at air cargo Africa shows, this sector is one that can be agile and cooperative, so we are optimistic stakeholders will be able to work together to get imports and exports back on track and support the timeout distribution of medical supplies and humanitarian aid.”
Air cargo, logistics crucial in mitigating pandemic impacts
Stakeholders urge collaboration, technology to keep essential goods supply chains moving
The COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdowns have challenged Africa’s air cargo and logistics stakeholders in recent weeks, but through collaboration, agility and the use of digital technologies, they are ably delivering on their mandate to supply critical goods.
This is according to industry players who participated in a webinar hosted by Logistics Update Africa, partners of air cargo Africa, the sector’s leading industry exhibition and conference, on how last-mile delivery services can keep up with Covid-19 demand for critical medical and food shipments.
Speakers from airports authorities, logistics solutions providers and e-commerce companies in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa noted that adapting to the new realities of closed air lanes and new logistics restrictions had demanded agility and collaboration. However, the same collaboration and agility would serve the industry well when normalcy returns, they said.
With passenger flights grounded and only limited cargo flights landing, airports authorities in South Africa and Kenya said they were seeing a dramatic drop in activity at airports.
Nina Engelbrecht-Malherbe, Senior Specialist – Cargo at Airports Company South Africa, said traffic at OR Tambo international airport had dropped from around 650 movements per day to around 30 – 40 per day. “What’s keeping us busy is the essentials, and we are even seeing passenger aircraft now transporting essential goods in and out of airports, so the cargo precincts are still abuzz.”
Jacob Bwana, Commercial Manager – Cargo at the Kenya Airports Authority, said the pandemic had illustrated that air cargo and its associated logistics network was critical for both commercial and humanitarian purposes. “A key lesson in this time has been the need for solid business continuity plans to mitigate risk and support stakeholders,” he said. On the question of increasing costs, he noted: “Scarcity creates increasing prices, and increases the risk of spoilage, so this is unavoidable. However, we hope to see demand and supply coming back to equilibrium when we return to normalcy. A crisis is not a time to compete, but to collaborate to save lives.”
With reports indicating that air cargo capacity remains 35% lower than last year across all trade lanes around the world, global stakeholders and industry bodies have also emphasized the need for industry collaboration and communication. The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) has urged the air cargo industry to collaborate to keep fueling trade and ensuring the supply of critical goods, while the International Air Transport Association (Iata) has called for greater coordination between governments to ensure that air freight can continue to flow.
Overcoming last mile challenges
While fewer flights mean the potential for increased efficiency in offloading and distribution of goods, lockdowns and restriction of movement have created bottlenecks and challenges for road freight and last mile players, the speakers said. Among these challenges were compliance with new regulations that restrict movement across borders or during certain hours of the day. However, close collaboration and consultation with governments and value chains had helped to overcome last mile challenges.
Kagure Wamunyu, Chief Strategy Officer at Kobo360, said digital collaboration via Kobo360’s aggregation platform had enabled logistics services to maximize capacity and avoid delays that could have increased costs and slowed the delivery of essential goods. “For example, truck drivers could be required to go into quarantine for 14 days when crossing a border, so by sharing information and working together, companies can arrange for a local driver to take over at the border, to avoid the delay.”
Tolulope George-Yanwah, Country Manager – Nigeria at Jumia Services, said the current crisis was underlining the critical role e-commerce plays, and logistics has been its enabler. “Technologies offer a solution in times like these. As a tech-enabled company, the biggest changes for us have been the need to introduce contactless delivery and enhance precautionary measures. But because we already had the capacity to scale up for special promotional events, we are able to meet growing demand for essential goods. The lesson for everyone is the need to be flexible and react quickly to new situations.”
Suzette Scheepers, CEO of Messe Muenchen South Africa, organisers of air cargo Africa, says supply chains are more important than ever before. “We’re seeing just how important air cargo and the entire logistics chain is, as we strive to take essential medical supplies and food to countries battling the COVID-19 pandemic. They will be increasingly important in bolstering fragile economies in the months to come. We agree that collaboration and communication, as well as harnessing the most advanced models and technologies, will help the sector manage costs and improve efficiencies to keep it sustainable through this difficult time.”
air cargo Africa, to be staged in Johannesburg from February 9 – 11, 2021, will bring together industry stakeholders from across the value chain to discuss the challenges, solutions and opportunities in a fast changing market.
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How DHL Express Scoops 24 Top Employer Awards for the Sixth Consecutive Year
DHL Express received 24 certifications across 23 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa this year
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, November 22, 2019- DHL Express has been recognized as a Top Employer in Africa for the sixth consecutive year by the prestigious Top Employer Africa Institute, highlighting the company’s ongoing commitment to being an employer of choice.
Paul Clegg, VP Human Resources for DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa, said that being recognised as a Top Employer yet again is a massive point of pride for the company, especially in a year where DHL celebrates its 50th anniversary.
“Having been in business for 50 years is a huge milestone, and we could not have reached our current success without the scores of passionate employees that have dedicated their time and energy to the company over the last half century. With this in mind, we remain committed to investing in our employees, helping them unlock their highest potential well into the future.”
DHL Express received 24 certifications across 23 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa this year, including the coveted Intercontinental Award for having the most Top Employer certifications on the continent. Countries for which DHL Express received certifications include
Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Reunion, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Additionally, DHL Express South Africa has been recognised as the industry leader in South Africa, in the Transport and Logistics sector.
“We view effective employee engagement programs that drive motivation and employee engagement as an integral part of business operations. Not only does it enable us to provide great client service, it helps us to maintain our customer-focused culture across the globe,” he says.
According to Clegg, the business’ use of employee initiatives and programs, including the company’s Certified International Specialist (CIS) cultural change program, has helped to unlock the potential of the company’s employees across Sub-Saharan Africa. “We made the decision some time ago to put strong emphasis on up-skilling and empowering our middle-managers and supervisors, as this rung of leadership is crucial to supporting our growth in the coming years.”
To be certified as a Top Employer in Africa, a company needs to operate in four or more countries and have exceptional employee conditions. The Top Employers Institute conducts comprehensive and independent research by completing HR best practice surveys amongst employees of the relevant companies.
Also Read: Interview With Amadou Diallo, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding Middle East & Africa
The Top Employers Institute survey assesses human resource strategy, policy implementation, practices and employee offerings to reveal whether the company provides exceptional employee conditions, develops talent on all levels and demonstrates leadership through optimizing the development of its employees and employee practices.
“We are beyond honored and thankful to have achieved this huge milestone once again and we look forward to ensuring that we maintain our focus on attracting, retaining and developing our people across the sub-Saharan Africa region,” concluded Clegg.
Saloodo, the logistics start-up becomes the first international digital road freight platform in Africa
Cologne, 11th of November 2019- The logistics start-up Saloodo! today launched its platform for shippers and transport providers in South Africa, bringing the first digital road freight platform to the region. The intuitive and simple-to-use digital solution was first launched in 2017 in Germany and is now also represented in the Netherlands and Poland.
Moving swiftly into emerging markets outside of Europe, the subsidiary of Deutsche Post DHL Group was introduced in the Middle East just six months ago and continues now on its growth path by offering its digital services in Africa.
An efficient road freight network is a key conduit of trade within a geographically wide-spread country such as South Africa but also with 16 landlocked countries within Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, much of the region’s road freight operations remain fragmented and highly traditional, missing out on the visibility, efficiency and security that technology offers.
“After successfully entering the Middle East we have taken the decision to continue on our growth path by expanding to the African continent,” said Thomas Grunau, CEO of Saloodo! “As the world’s youngest continent with 60% of the population below 25 economic decisions and growth are increasingly driven by a dynamic generation of digitally-minded young adults. These are ideal conditions for offering and further developing our smart solution.”
With South Africa as its launch pad into Sub-Saharan Africa, Saloodo! is the first digital platform available in the region that offers a single, simple and reliable interface for shippers and transport providers to best optimize cost, routes, cargo and transit times. Backed by DHL’s global and regional footprint and expertise, all contractual relationships on the platform are organized via the existing local DHL entity, providing trust and peace of mind to carriers and shippers alike.
“With real-time visibility, Saloodo! will inject greater transparency and efficiency to the road network in the region, enabling shippers – from small enterprises and start-ups to large multinational groups – to find trusted and reliable freight carriers in South Africa. This will in turn help carriers manage existing fleets and optimize capacity with full truckload shipments,” added Tobias Maier, CEO of Saloodo! Middle East and Africa.
With a market value of R 121.1 billion (~€7.5 billion) in 2018, road freight volumes in South Africa have been increasing steadily, exhibiting a growth of 5.6% in June 2019 when compared to the previous corresponding period. Equally, intra-Africa exports already accounted for 26 per cent and 12 per cent of South Africa’s 2018 total exports and imports respectively – almost 50% of which are with neighbouring countries in this landlocked region.
Collectively, the service has grown to more than 30,000 shippers and over 12,000 carriers covering 35 countries