Empowering African traders on the global stage

While Africa is famed for exporting its rich minerals across the world, population growth and rising per capita incomes also make Africa a potential for imports.

Africa is often seen as an export-driven market with oil in particularly high demand following the Ukraine conflict and grain-producing countries like South Africa and Mozambique harvesting 20% more maize in response.

And in central regions, demand for rare earth elements such as cobalt, copper, and lithium (which are essential ingredients for producing electric batteries) is expected to increase by 46% by 2025.

While Africa is famed for exporting its rich minerals across the world, population growth and rising per capita incomes also make Africa a potential for imports.

For international companies that understand the continent’s potential, the principles of exporting goods into Africa are no different from exporting to any other continent. You research to learn how your product compares to what might already be supplied, and if there is a gap, there is an opportunity.

It sounds simple enough, but until recently, international traders looking to distribute across Africa did not have the tools to understand demand, preventing the management of inventory levels. And if they did distribute products into the market, inefficient procedures and tariff barriers hampered trade.

But Africa's trading environment and infrastructure are modernising as fast as the opportunities are presenting themselves, and we are investing heavily in the digital infrastructure to help Africa keep up with demand.

This includes inter-bank operability programmes and truck booking platforms, which have seen a reduction in vast cash payments at ports, better scheduling, and availability of inland transport providers.

To bring greater value to customers and governments, we introduced CARGOES to the region – our digital suite of enterprise services and products designed to digitalise and streamline the supply chain process. These products can be used on both desktop and smartphone.

Previously cargo tracking, invoicing, payments, and vehicle booking would take weeks. Today our tools enable enterprises to collaborate with local customs and banking institutions to roll out immediate payments to customers and introduce tracking services for trucking companies. This reduces container vessel waiting times at some ports from five days to a matter of hours, which is particularly valuable for traders of perishable goods, and those taking advantage of the enormous e-commerce market in Africa (which is projected to reach revenues of $43bn this year).

Trade On The Go

The African market is also very comfortable making financial transactions on their phones. Building on this existing trust in personal tech, we were able to roll out CARGOES to small and medium-sized enterprises. This has created access to key shipping and customs resources previously unavailable to them. CARGOES hasn’t just given these companies a simplified route to the logistics sources they need to trade – it is revolutionising their banking and how they organise their supply. As a result, these businesses are appealing more to foreign investors, who can now confidently trade with them throughout Africa – because they have visibility of a secure end-to-end supply chain.

With CARGOES, traders can also access essential information regarding bookings for their freight. In a few simple steps, they can see how long it will take a product to travel from the factory floor to the customer’s door – and what the cost will be. This enables everyone along the supply chain to book and pay safely to transport their goods – all from their phone.

Benefits For Regulators

Operating digitally is not just beneficial for traders – it also alleviates the pressure on regulators. Digital platforms, like CARGOES Customs, provide visibility, meaning customs officials can immediately see what is being transported, where it has come from, where it has stopped along the way, and the end destination. They can see if all the necessary documentation has been completed and if the relevant import and customs duties have been paid. These factors speed up the import and export process, reducing potential bottlenecks and delays at borders.

Making Trade Flow

As we see already in Africa, when companies and countries work together to digitalise their supply chains, it brings down costs and makes processes more organised, transparent, and efficient. More importantly, digitalisation builds trust with foreign investors and breaks down barriers, empowering African traders on the global trading stage – and boosting the region’s economies.