From moving industrial batches and agricultural produce, to shipping commercial consignments and aid packages, ECU Worldwide South Africa sets the benchmark in providing cargo solutions for the African continent
The African continent, home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, is witnessing an economic renaissance. Even as the African nations are in a race to grow, an unprecedented amount of infrastructure is being created and there is a sharp rise in trade and commerce. On one hand, the resources-rich African countries are sustaining the raw-material needs of the global producers and on the other hand, the continent's emergent markets are attracting supplies from round the world. The rising imports and exports are creating record volumes of cargo movement, and ECU Worldwide South Africa is poised to tap this booming market.
Among the earliest global logistics players to identify the potential of Africa, ECU Worldwide has invested quality resources over the years in establishing ECU South Africa as a dominant cargo solutions outfit in the region. "We have been operating in South Africa for more than 21 years now, and as an integrated logistics provider, we have the pulse of the market," says Yvonne Palm, country manager, ECU Worldwide South Africa, adding that the South African unit serves as the hub for the entire continent.
With a team of experienced professionals and Ms Palm leading from the front, ECU Worldwide South Africa sets the benchmark in efficiently moving cargo across borders and all over Africa. Besides the centralised head office at Port Elizabeth, ECU Worldwide South Africa has three dedicated offices in the three key markets of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. "Besides servicing the crucial South African market, we also act as the hub for Central and East African countries, where huge growth is being witnessed currently," said Ms Palm. From capital-intensive projects like solar farms to manpower-intensive industries like mining, there's tremendous progress being made across the spectrum and integrated logistics have a key role to play in the process. "Our sister companies work through ECU South Africa as a one-stop-shop cargo supplier to various end-destinations within Africa," said Ms Palm.
With Africa emerging as a key market in global trade, ECU South Africa handles cargo coming in from all parts of the world. "In terms of the major routes, we register good incoming volumes from China, India, USA and parts of Europe," said Shantha Martin, regional CEO, adding that while a major percentage of the cargo volumes are still coming by sea, the air freight and road freight volumes are rising sharply and there is huge potential for their growth in the years to come.
The contents of the cargo are as varied as the geographies they transcend. The cargo varies from water purifying products that make the water consumption safe for humans, to foodstuff as well as pharmaceutical products. Many of these products come with specific transportation needs and the ECU team is well-equipped to handle the challenges. For instance, reefer containers and specialised containers like Flatrack are used to transport out-of-gauge cargo.
In the ECU Worldwide chain, South Africa occupies a unique position because of the work it does for aid organisations such as the UN. "We have been working with UNICEF, especially within East Africa, where we have been part of the logistical solution for life saving products," reveals Ms Martin, adding that working with the aid organisations is a matter of pride for ECU South Africa, and in a way ECU Worldwide's contribution to the humanitarian cause that these organisations stand for.
In terms of countries that are making a mark in the logistics business, the big markets are Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, with countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Namibia are emerging on the scene.
Moving the cargo across the borders through South Africa comes with its own set of challenges. "We do whatever it takes to help our partners move their consignments to their destination anywhere in Africa. Our services include customs clearance through the borders as well as at final destination," says Ms Palm, adding that ECU is equipped to arrange any form of transport needed within the African continent to deliver the best and secure service to the clients. ECU South Africa has a process to have all documentation in place well ahead of the border movement to ensure smooth passage of cargo through border posts. From dropping cargo at building sites or at sites of proposed airports, to delivering new equipment to a hospital or arranging a consolidation truck that makes multiple stops within a country to drop the cargo in remote places, it's all in a day's work for the South African team. One big challenge can be moving long-distance cargo on roads, given that some of the roads are not up to the mark in many parts of Africa. Safety of the transporters is always important. There have been situations where unrest would take place and border posts are closed for days and the cargo would get stuck. Allcargo's South African team has the local expertise to overcome such situations, given its long experience in the region.
"We have worked towards being an integrated logistics service provider where we serve inland markets and this has been perceived as a huge value-add by our clients," added Ms Martin.
ECU South Africa has been known for consistent performance and many of its team members have got awards for long service. The secret behind the low attrition rate is the unit's belief that it is one big family and every employee a member of the family. "Trust and mutual respect form a part of our core values. We treat every individual in our team not as a number, but as an asset to our growing business and this brings loyalty and substance to our ECU South Africa table," said Ms Palm, adding that this encourages loyalty and commitment from each member of the team.
The South African unit stays engaged and satisfied through a series of ongoing measures for people engagement, and the result is a team that delivers a high level of service. "Treating our staff with respect and giving them achievable goals motivates them to reach their potential and contribute to the organisation's growth," said Ms Palm.