The spread of the dreaded Corona Virus plague is completely disrupting the logistics and transport operations, as companies struggle to keep supply and other basic goods moving.
By Brian Yatich
The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, has left everyone, globally worried with the plague’s wake disrupting everyday operations.
The scourge has taken a toll in many industries around the globe upsetting almost all economies with entire sectors left stranded.
Slowly, as countries look to manage the spread of COVID-19 and implement quarantines and travel restrictions, movement and lockdown measures have taken effect, this has seen logistics and supply chain operations seriously impacted.
To maintain profitability and ensure business continuity, Kobo360 is keeping its head high and re-strategizing its operations.
The firm’s timely response, technology and resources are keener more than ever in a bid to remain on the roads.
According to Kagure Wamunyu, Chief Strategy Officer at Kobo360, she says that as it is now, they are in unprecedented times which means that that they are improvising on a daily basis.
The logistics firm is repositioning itself as cargo delivery has been vital in supplying much-needed medicines, medical equipment, food supply and in keeping global supply chains functioning.
“At this moment in time, food security is crucial in Africa and Kobo360 is remaining on the frontline to ensure that manufacturers have enough raw material to produce and that essential goods are being moved on the continent. We are also exploring partnerships in order to ensure that food is being delivered to the markets and costs are kept low during this period,” She says.
Wamunyu reveals that for manufacturers and producers, there has been a significant drop in the number of imports of raw materials and finished goods, which she adds will reduce production and affect their businesses.
“At this stage, most countries on the continent have already shut their borders and enforced lockdowns, with some introducing country-wide curfews. Because of this, truck drivers are unsure about their movements and the restrictions at various ports and borders, especially as there has been a 20 per cent to 30 per cent reduction in cargo coming in through the ports,” She says.
Due to delays in origin of cargo, Wamunyu reveals that around 70 per cent of vessels have delayed their arrival time by as much as 40 days, and most vessels are now reducing their berthing time at the ports by up to 50 per cent.
The mobile technology firm has immensely benefited from its end-to-end haulage app during this period, which Wamunyu says has enforced social distancing.
Additionally, she adds, Kobo360 platform connects truck drivers and cargo owners without the need of physical contact.
“We also limit physical contact by switching from paper to electronic methods to document pickups and deliveries,”
The company, on the other hand is also introducing a Blockchain-enabled platform dubbed Global Logistics Operating System [G-LOS] in a bid to ensure business continuity during the crisis.
“G-LOS is will provide a steady stream of trips for transporters in order to allow them to continue operations without the need to physically interact or bid for jobs with cargo owners. In addition, it will provide funding for the trips, and subsidized fuel, tyres and spare parts for maintenance, thereby reducing their exposure in open markets. For manufacturers, the system matches their goods with transporters, ensuring goods get into markets with needs in this time of crisis,” she says.
To ensure that manufacturers have enough raw material to produce and that essential goods are being moved on the continent, the company is exploring partnerships with manufactures and is also reducing their costs during this period.
Kobo360 has also taken various initiatives during this period to ensure safety of its staff and employees during this crisis.
“In each of our markets, we are complying with Government regulations regarding working from home, whilst moving all meetings to phone and digital platforms. For our field officers who have to remain on the roads, we have provided them with hand sanitizers as well as educational flyers on safety and prevention methods such as regular hand washing and self-isolating if showing symptoms,”
The firm acknowledges that communication is key and have kept abreast with the World Health Organisation (WHO) updates on preventative measures and are ensuring this information is shared with employees and implemented.
Wamunyu admits that the outbreak has highlighted the current fragility of the supply chains, demonstrating much that a lot needs to be done to mitigate instant disruption and also plan for future incidents.
“China is the original epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak and that’s where most of our imported goods come from – at that time, it was challenging to get certain goods imported due to the lockdown. The virus is just getting a hold in the markets we operate in, so we are yet to see a significant impact on the industry. However, the pandemic is affecting the economies we operate in; factors such as drop in oil prices, and the consequential devaluation of currencies will increase the price of raw materials and reduce demand,” she says.
With the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) it’s a sigh of relief for the logistics industry.
“Trade in Africa is not as seamless as we would like it to be due to the lack of adequate infrastructure (rail, good roads, etc) as well as unfavourable laws. Now, more than ever, we are beginning to see the importance of the ACFTA because most of our assets are exported outside the continent when we should be trading more with our neighbouring countries,”
Moving forward Kobo360, according to Wamunyu has put in place a contingency plan so that they can react as quickly as possible and avoid losses when crisis situations arise.
She strongly advises shippers to do the same as it will provide the opportunity to be flexible and innovate whilst avoiding panic and also create more transparency within the supply chain.
With times of crisis have historically also been opportunities for change, Wamunyu is optimistic that as we emerge from this, it could be a chance to create a better economy.
“The pandemic will push the sector to its limits but I believe that in the end, we will succeed and emerge with some key takeaways. I hope that this virus will bring about an open dialogue between the public and private sectors in each market as well as between African governments in order to create better solutions for trading across the continent,” she concludes.