A concerted focus on air freight market makes ECU a dominant player in the African hub
Egypt has been a challenging, yet lucrative destination for ECU's air freight business. Among Africa's high-growth markets, the country has been an important hub of international and regional services, production and re-exports. The advantages offered by preferential trade agreements, competitive labour and utility costs, and proximity to major global markets make Egypt a crucial and attractive market to be in.
With an eye on the emerging opportunity served by Egypt, ECU Worldwide renewed its focus on its air freight business a couple of years ago. Our intensified focus over the past couple of years has borne fruit — In the short span of two years, ECU Egypt has been able to successfully differentiate itself from other players, demonstrating consistent growth to become Turkish Airline's No 1 air freight provider in Egypt. ''ECU Worldwide is gradually expanding into air freight and Egypt's contribution has been phenomenal. We look to strengthen our presence further and cater to both African and international markets,'' says Shantha Martin, Regional CEO, ISC, Middle East, East Med and Africa - ECU Worldwide.
The total export shipments at ECU Egypt during 2018 grew 5x to 395, accompanied by a staggering 35x growth in volumes to 930 tons over the past year alone. ''We entered the new business of perishables with two major clients who export fresh fruits and fish, in addition to our regular customer base. We also handled odd dimensions and dangerous goods cargo, in both import and export air freight. While we have our own AWBs stocks with major airlines like Etihad, Kuwait and Turkish, we have also sealed strong agreements with dominant local freight operators to boost the expansion,'' said Amal Mohamed, Country manager, Egypt - ECU Worldwide. Egypt's ability to provide integrated services such as customs clearance and transportation reflects the company's imports-led growth of 59% in terms of the number of shipments handled, and an 80% increase in volumes in 2018, over the previous year.
Not surprisingly, Egypt now ranks as the second biggest market in ECU's global network in terms of freight volumes handled. The opening of ECU's Cairo airport office in January 2018 has reaffirmed the company's focus on this unique market.
Traditionally, Egypt has posed a few operating challenges. Upgradation of infrastructure has been a long-standing issue for the logistics trade and for overall business growth. Depending completely on Cairo airport and to a lesser extent on Alexandriahas made it difficult for exporters, who continue to move their products from all over the country to Cairo, often criss-crossing hundreds of kilometres in the process.
The recent embargo imposed by countries like Qatar, Russia and USA has compelled Egyptian businesses to seek creative solutions to sustain and grow their revenues. Last year's devaluation of the local currency has been another economic blow for imports.
In spite of these challenges, ECU Egypt has managed to do better than before. One reason has been the reputation it has built up over a decade of being a reliable logistics partner. ECU Egypt has been able to leverage the strength and depth of ECU's global network of overseas offices, partners and agents worldwide. Since the company deals in large volumes, this improves its ability to offer competitive rates and better quality of service delivery to customers.
Egypt is also a highly competitive market especially when it comes to export of perishables. A majority of the cargo space on airlines is dedicated to the big freight-forwarders and exporters, especially during the peak season. ECU's strategic partnerships with major airlines allow it to compete and gain business in the region.
Manufacturers, exporters and freight forwarders are among ECU's primary customers who utilize its air freight services. These include exporters of fresh vegetables, fish and frozen products to destinations such as Johannesburg, Amsterdam, Beijing and Baghdad, and import of machines, spare parts and raw materials for garments from Shanghai and Istanbul.
Importantly, ECU occupies a unique position within Egypt as the only provider which offers a bouquet of LCL, FCL, air freight and warehousing services, thus giving customers the convenience of multiple benefits through a single logistics partner.