East Africa as a model
The clocks don’t necessarily tick at the same pace all across Africa, as Folashade Akanni-Shelle, the managing director of Bolloré Transport & Logistics in Nigeria, also pointed out. She believes that some East African countries can be role models for her own country’s national development. She spoke to ITJ correspondent Kerstin Kloss recently about the great logistics opportunities in Nigeria – and the inherent risks.
“I like to push ahead with change,” says Folashade Akanni-Shelle. The Nigerian manager joined the Bolloré Group after completing her law studies in the United Kingdom. Today she’s planning to further develop her country’s national economy by helping to establish end-to-end logistics solutions in Africa’s largest economy. As the managing director of Bolloré Transport & Logistics Nigeria she’s headed a team of 526 employees in the country since October 2020; they run four sites – in Lagos, the centre of trade and industry; in Port Harcourt, the centre of the oil and gas industry; in Onitsha in the east; and in the centrally-located capital of Abuja. Akanni-Shelle points out that the resource-rich country’s 900,000 km2 of land, populated by more than 200 million people, means there are great opportunities for growth. “All that makes Nigeria highly interesting – but it can also be a rather complicated country.”
In February market experts from ‘Germany Trade & Invest’ said that the nation “has one of the world’s largest under-supplied consumer-goods markets,” a fact that they said is illustrated by the growing volume of e-commerce in Nigeria. Domestic players such as Kwik Express dominate the segment. “All you need is a bike, a transport box and a sign, and you’re set!”
Infrastructure has to be improved
At the moment the focused manager is determined to overcome the hurdles on the path to success in her country, and to establish B2B activities for international customers in the sea and airfreight as well as the project logistics segments. The biggest challenges in Nigeria – quite unlike in Europe, for example – concern infrastructure. Power cuts occur daily, and Akanni-Shelle believes this is a field the government has to tackle urgently. At the same time the road networks as well as the railway infrastructure is in urgent need of further development and expansion, with improved access to remote areas a key concern.
The government is modernising railway lines, adding tracks to singletrack lines and planning to build a link to Kano in the north. “Even when that’s finished,” Akanni-Shelle underlines, “a lot will still need to be done.”
With the Niger and Benue rivers, Nigeria also has a broad-ranging inland waterways network. Its potential remains largely untapped, according to Akanni-Shelle, because Lagos is always the first focus for benefits – as is the case with rail. “But inland waterways could help relieve congestion in the road networks,” she says. Bolloré owns an inland barge, to make faster calls between terminals in Lagos – for example between the Apapa container port and the Tincan Island box terminal, run by a consortium made up of Bolloré Ports, China Merchants Holding International and the China Africa Development Fund. It is used by clients from the automobile industry and the foodstuffs and beverages segments.
Wolfgang Busch, Bolloré Logistics’ Frankfurt-based Africa business development director, nevertheless calls sea freight activities in Nigeria “pure hell. Containers can remain in port for up to 40 days, just because the road networks are in a desolate state, or waiting lorries block the access and distribution roads, or cranes are bust. This causes additional costs, for example container demurrage and detention fees, as well as port storage fees. On top of this prices for hinterland transport solutions frequently skyrocket in the rainy season. “Transporting a teu less than 100 km can then cost as much as USD 2,000.”