Amadou Diallo is CEO of DHL Global Forwarding Middle East & Africa based in Dubai. A role he is well-placed to perform with his experience in logistics and international leadership. He is responsible for the performance and long-term strategic development of the unit. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, the DHL Global Forwarding Middle East & Africa CEO speaks on the DHL’s experience in the African market, current state of the logistics sector, the biggest potentials for growth in Africa and outlined his company’s future plans in Africa. Excerpt.
Alaba: Kindly share your set goals when assuming as the CEO, and how much progress has been made?
Amadou: I’m a strong believer that there is a strong correlation between how well the organization does and how well we treat our people. In this regard, I’m very fortunate to work alongside talented individuals who are not just skilled at what they do, they do it with the utmost commitment, in the interest of our customers. I’ve taken on many roles within the organization, in various regions over the years, and I believe my diverse experience has given me a refreshing perspective to run the team here, and most importantly, I’m happy to contribute back to the community I was born and raised in. I’m proud to be African and I think Africa has a lot more to offer to the world.
My aspiration is to make our business in Africa the most attractive to talents in our industry, the most customer centric logistics company, the most efficient and profitable region in our division as well as the most socially responsible team within the next three years. We want to become the champions of logistics within our division as well as in the market.
Alaba: Can you provide some insights into DHL historical presence in Africa?
Amadou: DHL first started in Africa in 1865 under Hull Blyth in Angola, and has since built up an extensive network of offices offering end-to-end logistics services throughout the continent. It now has representation in every African country often with multiple business units covering Express shipments, Ocean Freight, Road Freight, Air & Supply Chain services.
We have over the years, built up a strong brand, and I expect us to maintain this as we operate in the diverse markets in Africa with the best of local talent who are sensitive to cultural nuances and local business practices.
Alaba: What has been DHL’s experience in the market in terms of its challenges, competition and successes?
Amadou: Having provided world-class freight services in Africa for the past few decades, we have seen the rapid economic growth and development in the region, and the opportunities which businesses here can tap into. With our long-term expertise and with the support of our extensive, global network, we at DHL Global Forwarding work every day towards offering our clients the best possible tailor-made solutions, which meet their evolving business needs. We remain committed to supporting them with timely, agile, and cost-effective global freight connections that allow them to reach their fullest potential.
As one of the fastest-growing markets for DHL Global Forwarding, Africa remains very attractive for many of our customers. Therefore, staying close to the market and being adaptable and responsive to customer needs are part of our fundamental principles. In order to provide the best to customers, DHL Global Forwarding relies not just on world-class facilities in Africa, but also places emphasis on our robust workforce in the region to build on its successful legacy.
Beyond adaptability, we are also cultural experts in our field of business – we operate in each diverse market in Africa with the best of local talents who are sensitive to cultural nuances and local business practices. We are heartened that our clients also see the value we bring to their table – in 2019; we were voted Africa’s International Freight Forwarder of the Year for the fifth consecutive year by readers of STAT Times, a leading international air freight publication.
Having said that, we also recognize that there remain challenges to navigate, given that the continent continues to see the lack of infrastructural support and connectivity. Nonetheless, we remain optimistic about the region’s prospects and are well-equipped to deal with challenges, and see them as opportunities to tap into. With our targeted investments and strategic initiatives, we are focused on megatrends in logistics, such as e-commerce, and are developing promising growth prospects.
Our approach is clear: We think global and act local. That requires us to have a global and long term view, while at the same time operating within local or regional constraints or cultural restrictions, to best maximize the situation. In order to achieve that, we have built a strong local team of experts in each of the countries in Africa – those who understand the nuances and can help us navigate through these challenges.
Alaba: In terms of reputation and performance, where would you like to see DHL Middle East and Africa in 3-5 yrs?
Amadou: Having been in the region for the last few decades, DHL has already established itself as a trusted partner to our customers, and I am sure we will maintain market leader position because of the value we bring to our customers.
In the next few years, we will also continue to invest in meeting growing market demand, amplifying the region’s transport infrastructure, and applying global innovations to the Africa context, with an especial focus on partnerships that will bolster our capabilities to deliver best results. We will also look into setting up more competency centers for verticals such as automotive, life sciences and perishables for example, to ensure we put in place highly specialized teams that know the unique contexts which customers in these sectors navigate, leading to winning partnerships. Wherever possible, we look into new or existing markets for us to enter or grow, to best enjoy first-mover advantage and anticipate our customers’ needs.
Digitalization will remain a key focus because there is potential for digital technologies to drive significant productivity improvements, transform customer service and create new revenue streams. We are looking forward to bringing customer benefits through an enhanced shipping experience and improved access to information.
On the people front, I hope to attract the brightest people to join our team, and to retain the talent we currently have. Diversity is celebrated in our organization and I am going to continue pushing this agenda – we will work toward having more women in leadership, and run programs that groom young talent for key positions in the company.
DHL is and will remain The Logistics Company for Africa.
Alaba: How would you evaluate the current state of the logistics sector in Africa?
Amadou: I see the logistics sector as the best enabler for Africa’s transformation towards a manufacturing platform for the world and we are seeing various forms of changes, similar to what we witnessed in Asia ten years ago. According to the World Economic Forum, the continent’s growth is projected to reach 4% in 2019 and 4.1% in 2020. An enabler of trade, logistics will play an instrumental role to facilitate the movement of goods intra-regionally and in/out of Africa.
However, despite the optimistic outlook thanks to rising urbanization and a growing middle class, the region’s growth opportunities are tapered by political risk factors, infrastructure and a fragmented market typical of an emerging region where each country has its own unique economic and cultural environment. While there is limited influence we can have on government policies on trade, logistics providers should work with customers to help them navigate through complex customs regulations and be accountable for customers’ entire end-to-end operations.
We can expect more competition among logistics providers in this region, but I’m confident that DHL, with our global expertise and local talent, will best value add and meet our customers’ expectations.
Alaba: Where are the biggest potentials for growth in Africa now and beyond?
Amadou: Africa is one of our network’s fastest growing markets. The business and socio-political climate in the region has definitely stabilized as compared to what we have experienced in the last few years – that bodes well for the economy as a whole. For example, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Morocco are heavily working to improve on policies as well as infrastructure towards becoming important logistics hubs.
According to the World Economic Forum, the continent’s growth is projected to reach 4% in 2019 and 4.1% in 2020. With the region’s economic landscape growth attributed to a young urbanizing population, we are anticipating that digitization, digitalization and the adoption of new technologies in our services and solutions will be crucial to cater to Africa’s mobile-first consumer and business preferences.
Equally, a boost in intra-regional trade will be critical to growing the economy further, and there is room for logistics providers such as DHL to scale up our operations to support our customers’ needs.
Alaba: What’s your view on the African Continental Free Trade Area?
Amadou: Currently, Africa has the lowest intra-regional trade in the world as compared to Europe and Asia, so greater integration of African economies will accelerate growth by removing barriers to trade and investment, hence sharpening Africa’s edge in global trade and value chains. Logistics as an enabler of trade will also grow to support the region’s logistics needs, so wherever possible, we will look into new or existing markets to enter or grow, to best enjoy first-mover advantage and anticipate our customers’ needs.
Like ASEAN and the EU, ACFTA will enable stellar growth and job creation within the continent whilst making it more attractive for foreign investors.
Alaba: How would you describe your leadership style, and monitor the performance of the people you lead?
Amadou: I believe in our people as they are the cornerstone of the company’s success. They are the best we can find in the continent – in addition to being extremely skillful in their respective fields, they also wear their hearts on their sleeves, know Africa inside-out and are fiercely passionate about giving their best to our customers. Rather than monitor or micro-manage, I prefer to trust my senior management team to set clear goals, which their teams can align to, and make available the needed resources to help them do their work well.
It is important to set our people up for success, and celebrate little wins along the way, to keep our morale high. In essence, positivity, enthusiasm, hard work and determination are the best combinations I put to play in order to lead with head, heart and guts. I have zero tolerance for corruption and disrespect.
Alaba: What inspires you and keeps you going? What books do you read?
Amadou: I work alongside a great team of colleagues in the region – every single individual comes ready each day to do our best for our customers, and this keeps the passion and fire in me going. It is especially rewarding to know that we have the best team for our customers, made up of experts in their fields and raring to go.
The sparkle in the eyes of my colleagues, customers, friends and family keeps me going! My grandmother, Aissatou Labe is still my greatest source of inspiration, and she has not written any books. I read a lot on technology, innovation but also historical books detailing the stories of different entrepreneurs.
Alaba: What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and investors in Africa?
Amadou: Be bold in your endeavors and place your customers’ interest at the heart of everything you do, without compromising on the welfare of your team. It will be tough at the get-go but keep your eye on the prize, and keep pushing your limits. Sacrifice for your teams and build their success, and they will be with you for the long run.
B I O G R A P H Y
Amadou Diallo is CEO of DHL Global Forwarding Middle East & Africa. Based in Dubai, he is responsible for the performance and long-term strategic development of the unit, a role he is well-placed to perform with his experience in logistics and international leadership. Mr. Diallo has more than 30 years of experience in the tourism, banking, express and logistics industries.
He is also the founder of Saloodo!, DHL’s first logistics online platform. Prior to this role, he took on various senior roles within the organization – CEO of DHL Freight, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding South Asia Pacific, Chief Financial Officer of DPDHL Logistics Division and Managing Director for the integration of Exel and DHL. Mr. Diallo has worked across all geographies in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Renowned for his expertise and forward-thinking approach towards corporate integrations, Mr. Diallo played a lead role in shaping the development and structure of the DHL Logistics Division through the Exel integration, which remains the largest corporate integration in the transportation and logistics industry to date. Mr. Diallo is Chairman of Amref Health Africa in Germany, a member of the boards of Welthungerhilfe, Global Business School Network and the Universal Business School of Mumbai.
He is Senegalese and fluent in several languages including English, German, French, Fulani, Wolof and Spanish. As of February 2019
Neya Kalu, the new Chairman of The Sun Nigeria
Neya Kalu (Image supplied: Her Network)
Neya Kalu is the Chairman and Publisher of The Sun Nigeria, founded and published in Nigeria. A reputable company that publishes relevant news in Nigeria and around the world in over ten categories. She is also the founder and CEO of Basecoat Nigeria.
Educated at the University of Buckingham with a degree in Law and Finance, Neya leads the Board on strategic matters, establishes high governance, and oversees the company’s business.
Before becoming Chairman/Publisher of The Sun Nigeria, Neya, an entrepreneur, built and runs several successful businesses, the most recent being Base Coat, a nail salon chain in Lagos. She is also the Vice-Chairman of Sun Heavens Hotels and Resorts.
With a strong interest in social issues and a desire to empower women, Neya works with the OUK Foundation to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs one through six.
IoDSA CEO Parmi Natesan on Building Great Directors in South Africa
IoDSA CEO, Parmi Natesan
Established in 1960 as a branch of the Institute of Directors in London, the Institute of Directors South Africa (IoDSA) is a non-profit company (NPC) with members and is the only professional body for directors that is recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) (ID422). IoDSA mission is to influence, develop and advance corporate governance and directorship by pursuing ethical and effective leadership in South Africa. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online (BAO), Parmi Natesan talks about the IoDSA she leads, its contribution to the south african economy, challenges, gender inclusion and diversity and much more. Excerpts.
Alaba: Το begin, brίefly tell us about the loD South Africa and your strategic role?
Parmi: The Institute of Directors in South Africa is a non-profit company and a SAQA-recognised professional body for directors in South Africa. It is also a promoter of corporate governance, acting as convener and secretariat of the King Committee and having ownership of the King Reports on Governance for South Africa.
Its vision is – Better Directors. Better Boards. Better Business.
Its mission is – To influence, develop and advance corporate governance and directorship by pursuing ethical and effective leadership in South Africa.
We drive corporate governance awareness and improvement through thought leadership, hosting learning events, performing governance advisory services and board performance evaluations. We contribute to enhancing the effectiveness of directorship through training and certifications.
Alaba: What would you say are the major contributions of the institυte to the South African economy?
Parmi: The enhancement of corporate governance and directorship has a knock-on positive effect to the South African economy.
Major recent contributions include:
- We submitted a letter written to the Chair of the Zondo Commission containing good governance recommendations for director competencies and appointment processes.
- We issue numerous media releases and broadcast interviews to raise awareness of governance learnings
- We offer discounts on our services to NPOs and SMEs, in an effort to assist them with improving their governance and thus growing and thriving as a business.
Alaba: Since your appointment as the institute CEO, what are your biggest challenges and role in corporate governance?
Parmi: We have a duty to hold our members to account in the public interest. This has meant introduction of a new member code of conduct and disciplinary regulations to govern this. What has been a challenge is that membership of the IoDSA is currently voluntary. An individual does not need to be a member in order to serve as a director. So there is unfortunately no common benchmark or standard for directorship.
Sometimes the IoDSA brand gets tainted by “bad” directors who are found to have acted unethically, as the public does not realise that these directors are not necessarily our members, and thus we have limited mandate to act against them. Another challenge is the way in which corporate governance gets applied in corporations, often in a tick-box compliance fashion. This is form over substance and not conducive to achieving the desired outcomes of good corporate governance. Changing mindsets and behaviour around this is critical and there is no one size fits all solution.
Each organisation needs to consider what makes sense for their business. Instead of wanting to follow a compliance driven approach of ticking boxes, organisations should follow a mindful application approach of putting practices in place that in their judgment ultimately achieve the necessary outcomes of ethical leadership, effective control, good performance and legitimacy. The judgment of the governing body is critical in this approach.
Alaba: What is your view on how leadership is changing, amid broader efforts in society to see greater inclusivίty in terms of race, gender, and socio-economic background, and a move towards making a more positive and sustainable contribution to society?
Parmi: We are advocate for diversity on boards, not only in terms of race, gender and socio-economic background, but also in terms of skills and experience. Diverse groups are able to tackle problems from various angles and this leads to better decision making. We have a specific focus on advocating for more women on boards. With women controlling consumer spending and forming half of the educated workforce, it does not make sense that they are still largely underrepresented in South African boardrooms.
The role of directors is definitely changing as we move towards a more stakeholder focused way of running business. In the past, the primary focus of directors was financial return for their companies. That has changed considerably over the years, where business is now seen as a corporate citizen of the country in which it operates. And it thus needs to be conscious of the impact that it has on society and the environment in which it operates. This is why integrated reporting (as opposed to just financial reporting) is so critical.
In today’s fast-paced world, achieving the right skills as a director is not a target but a journey: business models, socio-economic models, political models – sometimes it seems everything – are changing and old certainties seem to be in the process of continual redefinition. Directors, who play such a critical role in organisations and, indirectly, the fabric of public life, are least able to feel they have achieved the right skills mix.
In general, professionals have a certain credibility and respect in the market, which they need to protect through ongoing learning, adapting and competence.
Alaba: Let’s talk about entrepreneurshίp. What is your view on how female entrepreneurship can be fostered?
Parmi: Entrepreneurship is a critical contributor towards our economy and should thus be fostered.
Alaba: Το what extent can digital connectivity catalyse South Africa’s economic recovery, for example helping foster both flexible working and the levelling-up of rural areas?
Parmi: Digital can open many doors and opportunities for people to participate in economic activity.
Alaba: Before the year ends, what would you ultimately like to achieve?
Parmi: Greater awareness of the power and impact of good corporate governance can make, not only on companies, but also on a country. South Africa as a country desperately needs ethical and effective leaders to steer our country in the right direction to prosper. We have been lobbying for enhancements in director appointment processes in both the private and public sector in South Africa. It would be great to see some traction on this from the policy makers.
Alaba: Lastly, what has been the most significant-ever moment for you professionally – and what advice would you give your younger self?
Parmi: I have received many accolades including:
- Rising Star Award from the Nelson Mandela University.
- Finalist for Businesswoman of the Year at the Top Women Awards.
- Global Woman Achiever at the World Women Leadership Congress.
- Ethical Leadership Award at the SAICA Difference Makers Awards.
However, I think my most significant moment professionally has to be having the privilege and honour to lead the IoDSA. In fact I was the youngest person to be CEO of the IoD SA, and the first ever person of colour. This platform gives me an even louder voice to influence and advocate for ethical and effective leadership in South Africa.
In terms of advice to my younger self, a few things I actually often tell my daughter
- Girls can do anything boys can do – never let our gender hold you back.
- Pick your battles and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Watch IoDSA HERE
Lesley Ndlovu, Africa’s Climate and Disaster Risk Insurance Leader
Lesley Ndlovu is an executive with extensive international experience in insurance and investment management. He is currently the CEO of the African Risk Capacity (ARC) Group, a Specialised Agency of the African Union founded in 2012. ARC is a hybrid mutual insurer and the commercial affiliate of the Group founded in 2014. The ARC Group was established to help African governments improve their capacities to better plan, prepare, and respond to natural disasters triggered by extreme weather events, as well as outbreaks and epidemics. Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online caught up with Mr. Lesley Ndlovu to reflect on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, lessons, key highlights of ARC 2021 financial report and the ARC Gender Strategy.
Alaba: To begin, perhaps you could briefly share the African Risk Capacity (ARC) position on the pandemic. The challenges, lessons and how the industry is dealing with the impact?
Lesley: The pandemic was a period of great uncertainty for everyone. For us at ARC, it forced us overnight to become a virtual organisation in a business where face to face interaction with our clients is extremely important. It was also an opportunity for growth because it made our clients, particularly governments, more mindful of risk management and anticipating what could go wrong. As a result, we saw double digit growth in our core insurance segments. We are looking to expand our product offering to include insurance coverage for outbreaks and epidemics.
Alaba: What would you say are the impacts and highlights of the ARC 2021 financial report?
Lesley: 2021 has been a challenging year due to the payment of large insurance claims all across Africa. However, we are an impact oriented insurance company, paying claims means that we are helping out people facing difficulty after an extreme weather event and the funds we provide allows the affected people to bounce back and continue with life. Since the inception of ARC, we have paid close to US$100 million in claims.
Alaba: Could you share with us your set goals for the year and the ARC Gender strategy?
Lesley: Our ambition is to mainstream the gender dimension into our insurance business in terms of both underwriting and claims, as women and girls bear the brunt of the impact of extreme weather. The starting point is to gather the data and measure the impact, we estimate that 54% of the claims we pay benefit women. In West Africa, we have worked with partners to provide insurance coverage for women farmers in the karité (shea butter) sector. We see this area as a tremendous business opportunity because it is a historically underserved segment.
Alaba: How are you making sure the ARC insurance offerings are easily accessible to clients in key sectors like agriculture, health, etc in the continent?
Lesley: At ARC, we focus on 3 core client segments – governments (federal and state), humanitarian agencies and small-medium scale farmers. We are building scale and diversification in our business both across products and geographies by introducing new products and entering new markets. Our mandate is to close the protection gap and increase the number of people protected by insurance. We want insurance to be more available, accessible and affordable. We have launched a number of strategic partnerships, including acquiring a stake in Pula Advisors, a leading parametric insurance aggregator, this move has enabled us to grow our market share in the agricultural sector. At COP 26, we mobilised close to US$100 million to subsidise governments in the payment of insurance premiums over multiple years.
Alaba: You recently met with key strategic partners in Nigeria, making it your third visit to the country. Can you tell us about the key outcomes emerging from the meeting?
Lesley: I had the good fortune of being in Abuja at the end of March, this was an opportunity to renew and strengthen relationships with our key stakeholders in Nigeria. We would closely work with the Ministry of Finance at the federal level as well as local insurance companies. With local insurance companies, we provide technical expertise on the development of products and risk management and reinsurance capacity, our local partners provide us with product distribution and local market insights. The scale of the opportunities is so vast that it can only, the opportunities can only be fully exploited through close collaboration between the various stakeholders.
Alaba: Lastly, Where do you visit next on your ARC mission visit and what is the future of climate risk insurance?
Lesley: Climate insurance is one of the most exciting sectors of the insurance market because it answers a pressing need on the African continent. Currently, there are over 700 million Africans whose livelihoods are vulnerable to extreme weather and insurance has a major role to play in protecting their lives and livelihoods. Agriculture is the mainstay of most African economies and any investments into the sector should be protected through insurance products as a de-risking mechanism. I fully expect the industry to grow at double digit rates for the foreseeable future because the coverage gap is large. Closing the gap is of paramount importance in the era of climate change, where the frequency and severity of natural disasters is increasing.