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The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Africa’s logistics industry

Guest post: Obi Ozor, Group CEO and Co-founder, Kobo360, e-logistics company

2019 was a great year for Kobo360, in 2020 we had plans that far exceeded our achievements of the previous year. This year and decade was to be about building opportunities for our drivers to be in the best position to provide for their families. Building opportunities for businesses to vastly improve trade for them. After all, that is why in 2017, we launched Kobo360 – a tech enabled platform; solving inefficiencies and increasing productivity so that all involved in the supply-chain can reap the benefits.

Then COVID-19 hit. This global pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus, has totally disrupted almost all global economies; entire sectors are at standstill [travel, hospitality – to name just two] and of course, due to restrictions of movement, the trucking and logistics sector is also seriously affected.  So, because of this, we had to go back to the drawing board to find solutions for much higher stakes.

When COVID-19 hit Africa, our initial response was to safeguard our employees by following the guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the governments of countries we operate in, such as providing hand sanitizers and working from home.

Alongside these measures, we were charged with securing the essential goods for the millions of Africans that rely on our service. We began speaking to our network of port authorities, suppliers, drivers and manufacturers, even struck key player partnerships to pool our resources to ensure that movement could continue; from cross border, to intra-state and last mile deliveries. Keeping Africa moving went from being an informal motto to an actual agenda.

We officially launched our Global Logistics Operating System (G-LOS), a blockchain-enabled platform which provides remote access to the entire supply chain, allowing for business continuity during the crisis by facilitating a steady stream of trips. G-LOS facilitates the social distancing practice as drivers can secure their jobs with cargo owners through the app. To keep costs low for drivers, we have subsidized their fuel, tyres and spare parts for maintenance.

Our drivers need to be in trucks, on the road and on the move. That is how we, as a logistics company, set out to face the challenges that coronavirus had presented us with; by ensuring that essential supplies are being transported from point A all the way to point B, we can avoid the very real threat of food shortages and civil unrest.

Unfortunately, due to the recent lockdown in Nigeria and the lack of clarification from the government on what was deemed to be essential movement, 3,000 of our trucks were “parked” as drivers feared being arrested, attacked or having their goods impounded by law enforcement. The dialogue between us and the government bodies that we so urgently requested early on has now begun to allow for fluid movement. We want to engage in serious discussion with them, then more importantly, put into place even more serious actions.

Not only are we trying to navigate the bumps in the road caused by unclear announcements, there are other issues which are completely out of our hands and that will hit our industry pretty hard. The volume of goods across the continent has reduced by 30%, the biggest drop being non-essential goods such as construction stock by 50%. 70% of vessels have delayed their arrival time by as much as 40 days. These figures are rapidly changing and significantly affecting all industries, not just logistics. But essentially, the whole supply chain has been shaken to the core.

Kobo360 entered the market to revolutionise the logistics industry, COVID-19 has further demonstrated just how important technology is in the 21st century, in terms of moving goods, connecting people safely and powering industry, where possible. Our e-logistics platform has enabled us to continue movement across the continent in a way that protects our drivers, employees and the community, whilst minimising the risk of abrupt disruption to our business.

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