However, a number of challenges continue to plague African cross-border traders, some of which include booking, payment, documentation and visibility. These effects include increased costs, inefficiencies, and many missed opportunities for merchants. For many African traders, the traditional paper-based approach to handling freight is the norm. Despite its flaws and flaws, they tend to choose it because it’s the one they know and are used to. We also have to remember that these traders carry hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods at a time, so sticking with what they know best often seems like the safest option.
However, these processes have been digitized in other parts of the world, and it should be the same in Africa. Many digital freight forwarding companies are using technology to facilitate the movement of goods by simplifying payments and paperwork and providing real-time visibility.
There’s no reason cargo management shouldn’t be as easy as booking a flight or using a ride-sharing service. And just as technology has played an important role in transforming the airline and ride-sharing industries, we believe it can also play a role in transforming the freight management industry in Africa.
Here are some of the ways technology can transform freight transport in Africa
Centralization of the booking process
Managing the movement of freight can involve many different parties, and staying on top of everything can be a complex process, especially with the paper-based approach. By leveraging digital solutions, merchants can connect with as many suppliers as they need and manage the entire booking process on one platform. Merchants no longer need to wait up to two weeks to compare the best rates from different service providers. With pre-negotiated rates, they can explore competitive offers and book freight in 30 seconds or less.
Simplify the payment process
Digital platforms are leveraging the advent of a technologically enhanced infrastructure, the Pan African Payments and Settlement System (PAPSS), for instant payment transactions across Africa. This is a major change for African merchants, meaning merchants only need to engage in one channel, saving them time and money on their transactions while by having access to instant payment.
Digital platforms also make it easy to pay in different currencies, which can help alleviate currency exchange issues that affect different countries. For example, merchants can now pay in Naira on the OnePort 365 platform, with their customers receiving payments in the appropriate currency from their end. This makes it easier for them to transact without being unduly impacted by Nigeria’s current forex restrictions.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for our business as traders needed to explore other options to manage their freights and goods that did not require their physical presence. By adopting digital solutions, merchants can seamlessly exchange pre- and post-shipment documents. Traders can securely log into web platforms to view all documents attached to their shipments. This eliminates the laborious process of physically retrieving these documents from shipping company offices or centers.
Before the advent of digital freight forwarding companies, traders could only track their goods in transit by having a man in the truck. It was often their best option to prevent their cargo from mysteriously disappearing. However, digital solutions such as trackers that monitor shipments at every inland point can generate detailed reports on the whereabouts of goods in real time. These tracking devices also reduce the risk of lost revenue by reducing the risk of theft or loss of cargo.
Hio-Sola Usidame is the founder of OnePort 365, the start-up that digitizes freight management and makes the process of transporting freight to, from and within Africa efficient and convenient.