Apapa, the city of Lagos which is home to Nigeria’s largest and busiest port, is synonymous with traffic jams. The roads to the port are lined with dozens of trucks waiting for days or weeks to be cleared into the terminals where they load containers for transfer to warehouses.
Most of the drivers, customs officers and terminal operators who trudge through Apapa and other African ports are men, but some of the great visionaries tackling the continent’s freight problems are female entrepreneurs. . With footprints in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, their businesses are eliminating inefficiencies that increase the cost of goods to consumers at the last mile of delivery.
Make complex supply chains visible
In 2018, Miishe Addy founded Jetstream to enable importers and exporters to track shipments to and from Africa.
Jetstream exists because in most African ports offline activities within the maritime transport value chain take long periods, sometimes due to poor port infrastructure, but also corruption. Addy’s idea is that by using supply chain management software that integrates every step from farm or factory to port to final destination, freight forwarders and cargo owners can plan better with near real-time data. âWe bring different stakeholders together on a single platform where they can interact and see their entire supply chains,â Addy says.
Having visibility is one thing, but empowering stakeholders to take meaningful action is just as important. Shipments get stuck in the process when their owners run out of money to pay customs fees or terminal fees. Addy says Jetstream has made more than $ 450,000 in commercial finance loans for such needs since 2019, ranging from $ 500 to $ 30,000 in checks per transaction. The startup’s successful deployment in Ghana helped it get $ 3 million in seed funding this year, and after opening in Nigeria as well, Addy said Jetstream will be present in all major African ports by 2028.
Motivation of trucks is key
While Jetstream’s strengths lie in decongesting West African ports, companies like Lori Systems in Kenya connect traders and truck drivers like Uber does through web applications.
The CEO of Lori Systems is Uche Ogboi, former investment banker at Citi and venture capitalist at EchoVC, a pan-African company. She took over the reins from the founder of Lori in July, but earned her stripes as COO for two years, a role in which she helped expand the startup’s entry into Nigeria in 2019 and guided it to 40% savings throughout last year’s pandemic business cycle. âFor our investors and stakeholders, I know and understand what it takes for Lori to become a multi-billion dollar company on the continent,â she told TechCabal.
Like Jetstream, Lori also has a financing component in the form of fuel financing for truck owners. It is basically an incentive to ensure that trucks are available to move goods on tedious roads to travel. But in the long term, Ogboi’s mission is to make Lori the company that best adapts to new technologies to reduce transport costs in Africa.
Despite the transparency and speed of progress of their businesses, entrepreneurs like Addy and Ogboi may never solve the fundamental infrastructure problems – dilapidated roads, filthy terminals, corruption of customs officials – that plague all African logistics. Neither Jetstream nor Lori Systems can guarantee the arrival times of goods as do carpooling applications for road passenger transport.
But logistics in Africa is no longer just a story of problems. The solutions, although in the early stages of deployment, are based on plans written by women entrepreneurs.
This article is part of Quartz Africa Innovators 2021, the sixth edition in a series that identifies some of the continent’s most ambitious and imaginative minds. The more than two dozen women representing 18 countries and a wide range of sectors represent the dynamism, entrepreneurship and resilience of millions of people on the continent. Their innovations show the potential that can be unleashed when women with bold ideas and decisive action take the lead.
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