It's the land where the civilisation originated, the crucible of early inventions, rich in natural resources and wildlife. It is home to 54 countries and a billion plus population. It's the land of Nelson Mandela, the messiah of peace. It's Africa, the cradle of life.
Today, Africa has turned into the hottest new frontier of limitless opportunities. In 2014, the continent recorded FDI inflows to the tune of US$127.9 billion, according to industry reports. In 2015, the World Bank described Africa as the second most-attractive investment destination in the world just behind North America. Recently, the McKinsey Global Institute predicted Africa's spending appetite to rise to around USD 1 trillion in the coming years. Industry analysts and experts are betting on Africa, big time.
The fervour for Africa is not unsubstantiated. The continent is witnessing a wave of change in its political and economic scenarios, with a projected growth of 6 percent not just in a handful of its countries, but almost across all the 54 African nations. Agriculture, tourism, mining, infrastructure and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) are among the top emerging industries that are driving this growth and will continue to do so in the time to come (See box).
Despite recent strong headwinds in the continent, the outlook on Africa's economic growth remains extremely positive. Estimates show that by 2020, Africa will become the second fastest-growing region in the world.
Africa is rising against the odds and the world is racing to partner with this continent on the move. We at ECU Worldwide are proud to be allies in this momentous rise of the continent and bring to you our perspectives and story from Africa.
Logistics and transportation infrastructure in various parts of Africa are at different stages of development.
The world's busiest shipping corridor—the Suez Canal—lies in the northern Mediterranean shoreline of the continent and South Africa boasts of eight commercial seaports along its 3,000km-long coastline.
Apart from these two maritime hubs, shipping and coastal infrastructure in other African countries remains rudimentary with a huge scope to grow. Rising trade volumes continue to push up the demand for air freight and there is an increasing need for tighter integration between the developed coastal cities and the deeper hinterlands with improved road and rail infrastructure.
Africa requires logistics and transportation providers that will not just help their clients flourish but will also develop the continent's infrastructure. Because of these demanding conditions, Africa continues to see a dearth of professional logistics service providers. Further, market entry forces such as licensing requirements, competition, taxation and regulations add to the crunch. Providers that cover all of Africa are few and far between, making it a challenge for businesses to realise the full potential of the continent. Africa is neither for the faint-hearted nor for short-term gains. You are in Africa for the long run, or not at all.
Present in Africa for over two decades, ECU Worldwide's footprint today spans the length and breadth of the continent across 48 countries. With over 70 locations, 25 direct export lanes and 100 direct import lanes, ECU promises clients the widest coverage of Africa.
While expanding in the continent, ECU Worldwide has played a pivotal role in developing the logistics and transportation sector. Today, the company is looking to develop the industry further to push up Africa's global standing as a trade and transport hub. "For us at ECU, LCL is more than just 'Less than Container Load'. It's a customer's shipment that needs to be handled with utmost care and precision. It calls for well-structured processes and an efficient system to handle each shipment from Africa to anywhere in the world. Our vision for Africa is to offer clients integrated logistics service options backed with technology. We believe that our 'Africa vision' will continue to transform the continent's logistics infrastructure and take it to higher global standards," says Ms Shantha Martin, RCEO, Africa, Middle East and ISC at ECU Worldwide. Ms Martin's words are reflected not just in the milestones that ECU has set in the two decades of being in Africa, but also in the company's future plans for the continent.
For more than 20 years, ECU Worldwide has been serving clients from offices in important locations. It is the undisputed LCL market leader and a frontrunner in the FCL segment with the largest network-spread in Africa. With 13 strategically located offices in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Mauritius, and a well-connected team of highly reputed and experienced partners, ECU is well-positioned to provide hinterland coverage of all major countries within the African continent.
To meet the growing needs of this emerging market's global trade, there has been a rise in new trade lanes. ECU Worldwide has widened the network to cater to these lanes and give consumers better access to the market. The company offers global direct services to all major seaports in Africa through 27 direct export trade lanes and 171 direct import trade lanes. The company's distinctive expertise in over-border shipment handling through South Africa ensures the safety and speedy delivery of consignments across the continent. ECU Worldwide is your direct and most easy access to Africa and your link from Africa to the rest of the world.
More than a decade of being in the continent has made ECU Worldwide quite the African aficionado. There are learnings and experiences for us every day. If you are a business keen on the African sojourn, remember these five points from ECU Worldwide:
The United Nations has chosen ECU Worldwide as its logistics partner for movement of cargo to a large number of non-governmental organisations in Africa. Transporting water-purifying products for UNICEF to 13 different remote areas in Zimbabwe remains one of ECU's most fulfilling shipments because of the impact it has had on communities.
The growing economy in many African countries has stimulated domestic demand, leading to greater trade volumes in the region. This is an opportunity that we have to take note of and capitalise on. We recently concluded our annual Africa conference in Morocco, which is a major platform for our regional heads to align their business operations to meet demands in Africa.
- Dr Shashi Kiran Shetty, Chairman, Allcargo Logistics and ECU Worldwide