DHL Global Forwarding – Sub Saharan Africa

Always moving forward

Headquartered in Bonn, Germany, and today employing in excess of 470,000 people in over 220 countries and territories worldwide, Deutsche Post DHL has become a name synonymous with couriering and logistics. The world’s leading mail and logistics group, it generated revenues of €55.5 billion during 2012, representing an increase of 5.1 percent comparing to previous year. This increase mainly reflects the exceptional market position that DHL maintains in the world’s growth regions, such as Asia and Africa.

When it comes to Global Forwarding, DHL is the world leader in air freight services and one of the biggest providers of ocean freight services. Through the work of its 30,000 employees, DHL Global Forwarding (DGF) helps ensure the transport of all manner of goods by air or sea on a daily basis.

“At the beginning of 2012,” states Roger Olsson, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding – Sub Saharan Africa, “DGF merged three previously separate regions, Europe, the Middle East and Africa into a single EMEA region. This consolidation allowed DGF to better coordinate its commercial activities and improve operational efficiencies between countries.”

Meanwhile, this event also brought about the establishment of some sub-regional offices, one of which would open in Johannesburg, South Africa. “From this office,” Olsson continues, “we have a regional team committed to improving the group’s activities in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. It also means that for the very first time, DHL is now running its African operations from within the continent itself.”

Sub-Saharan Africa is made up of no fewer than 48 different countries, with DHL today boasting offices and capabilities in 41 of these. The remaining seven are covered through the groups’ work with credible local partners.

“When it comes to DGF’s operation in Africa,” Olsson explains, “having the biggest overall coverage of any other logistics provider is understandably vital. In addition, we are also able to leverage our global presence to cater for the vast number of businesses that are working to bring cargo into and out of the continent.”

Olsson also shares the belief held throughout DHL that the people that make up its workforce are just as vital a component to its success as its global coverage. “We have dedicated people throughout the business who know better than anyone else how to expertly deliver the type of services we provide. At the end of the day you can have the largest network in the world, but without the right people on hand to make it work you will never get very far.”

With its GDP growth outlook estimated to remain around 5.5 percent over the next three years, Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to remain the region with the second highest growth rates worldwide, after Asia for the foreseeable future. Some of the more tangible opportunities for a multinational logistics player like DHL are the recent oil & gas discoveries in Eastern Africa, and the immense natural and mining resources found throughout the region. It is however important not to ignore the more traditional logistics sectors that DHL serves, namely engineering, automotive and the consumer-sector.

“The oil and gas industry,” Olsson reveals, “accounts for roughly half of our entire business today in the Sub-Saharan space. It is for this very reason alone that we continue to invest more and more in this area of our operations as the opportunities available to us are simply unbelievable, particularly as major oil and gas undertakings further help put countries like Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda on the map. Following just behind in terms of importance is the mining sector where we also have a special focus, leveraging our global expertise when it comes to the industry to assist in the development of business across Sub-Saharan Africa.”

As an organisation, the work of DHL goes beyond simply doing business with its customers. One of the achievements it is most proud of has been the development of a comprehensive strategy to fulfil its Corporate Social Responsibility requirements. In Africa it has helped spearhead the “Go Teach” programme. Sustained through an existing partnership with SOS Children’s Villages, the programme aims to provide disadvantaged youths with the confidence, knowledge and skills needed to enter the world of employment. Furthermore, DHL supports Global Volunteers Day, an annual event that sees thousands of its employees volunteer to carry out environmental and community related activities.

As DGF makes plans for the future its focus looks set to revolve around increasing its service offerings and capabilities in such a way that it will be able to deliver the same kind of door-to-door service in Africa that it currently does elsewhere in the world.

“Achieving this goal,” Olsson concludes, “will no doubt bring with it challenges of its own. Nevertheless we see it as absolutely fundamental to our business that we are able to deliver ever-improving service levels and product offerings that allow us to service the entire logistics chain here in Africa, from origin to final destination. What we benefit from is having a clear strategy and vision for the future, one that we hope will result in DGF being the first choice solutions provider for its customers in Sub-Saharan Africa, growing up our market share in the process. This will be accomplished by expanding into sectors with a seamless end-to-end service offering and a broad product portfolio, by developing best-in-class operational capabilities.”

Written by Will Daynes, research by Paul Bradley