Started in 2017, Nigeria-based digital logistics startup Kobo360, which has raised two rounds of funding totalling $7.2 million last year, has sensed the technological need of the unorganised African logistics industry. Obi Ozor, CEO & co-founder talks about technology opening up borders and facilitating intra-African trade, on building blockchain enabled G-LOS, and planning to enter 10 new markets by 2020.

How do you find technology as a driver in the African logistics industry and in powering up AfCFTA?
Earlier, the African logistics sector was very informal. For example, you have a business looking to move cargo across the country; they first have to find the right agency - either by calling around or by physically going to a bus park. From there, the agency would look for an available truck owner to move the cargo to the destination. This process is not only time consuming, but also expensive. There is no guarantee that the goods will arrive in good condition.

At Kobo360, we have built a tech-enabled platform that connects cargo owners, truck owners, drivers and cargo recipients at scale, in order to reduce the friction in the supply chain. This means that if you are a business looking to move goods, with Kobo360's technology, you can do so cost-effectively with deep visibility, efficiency, and transparency.

The AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Agreement) will take many of the legislative roadblocks that have made it extremely difficult for goods to be moved across the continent. However, there are still many concerns about the process of delivering goods. With our presence in countries such as Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, where some of Africa's busiest ports reside, we are opening up geographical borders and using technology to improve African logistics, thus encouraging intra-African trade.

How will you be utilising the recently secured $30 million Series A funding?
We have been very fortunate to attract investors such as Goldman Sachs, AAIC (Asia Africa Investment and Consulting), TLcom Capital, Y Combinator and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) - all within two years. The funding will be used to scale our operations, accelerate supply growth and develop our technology offering on the same platform. To facilitate the AfCFTA, we also plan to add 25,000 more drivers to our platform.

How Kobo360 bridges customers and drivers on a single platform?
The logistics sector in Africa is currently estimated at $150 billion but yet is plagued with opaque pricing, expensive middlemen and supply chain inefficiencies. What Kobo360 offers is a platform that is accessible to anyone who is looking to move goods as well as truck drivers looking to transport cargo.

Our app has been built to make business easier, faster and more efficient for our customers and drivers. It has a range of features including digitised waybills with automated invoices, a customised dashboard and multi-language functions for our drivers across the continent, as well as a first-of-its-kind bidding tool for drivers and customers to assess the price of a trip before selection. With Kobo360, there is complete transparency and our customers are assured of the safety of their goods.

Could you highlight the Global Logistics Operating System (G-LOS)?
Today, business on the continent is powered by mobile, and technology has opened up new opportunities; this was not how the African market looked like in the past decade. The G-LOS that we are building is a blockchain-enabled platform that will leverage technology, to combine all activities in the lifecycle of the supply chain ecosystem. This will also help in the company transition to more supply-chain services as well as ensure that Kobo360 works faster and smarter for all stakeholders on our platform.

Which markets are you planning to foray into?
After two years of our launch, we have expanded to Togo, Ghana and most recently we officially launched in Kenya. We have also recently beta launched in Uganda and are looking to increase our footprint across Africa; the goal is to expand into ten new markets by the end of 2020. To date, we have aggregated a fleet of over 10,000 drivers and trucks.

What is the potential witnessed in Nairobi market - a logistics hub for perishables?
I must say, the potential is enormous. Kenya has a high technology adoption rate, which we are taking advantage of, in order to support the logistics market. Additionally, the Port of Mombasa is the largest and busiest port here in East Africa and provides a direct connection to over 80 ports worldwide whilst serving as an exit point to other countries in East Africa such as Burundi, DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Rwanda, Southern Sudan, and Uganda. We were in beta testing for five months in Kenya, before officially launching with access to over 3,000 trucks. Businesses can see the value Kobo360 is creating and are eager to partner with a reliable startup such as ours.

Details on KoPAY, KoboSAFE, and KoboCARE.
At Kobo360, we are very much driver-focused because they are one of the most important elements in the supply chain. This is why we provide access to a range of services through our driver-empowerment programmes to ensure that they have financial freedom. KoPAY offers drivers access to up to $5,000 monthly working capital; KoboSAFE provides access to an insurance product' and lastly, KoboCARE provides access to discounted petrol, comprehensive health maintenance organisation (HMO) packages and an incentive-based programme to give support towards education for drivers' families.

Who are your clients?
Our clients are businesses who are experiencing issues in road-based freight transportation. We have worked with thousands of SMEs and over 80 large enterprises such as Dangote Group, DHL, Unilever, Olam International, Flour Mills of Nigeria, and LafargeHolcim. In Kenya, we have partnered with logistics companies including Bidco Africa, Union Logistics Limited, Intraspeed Arcpro Kenya Limited, Bakhresa Group, and many other millers.

This story was originally published in Logistics Update Africa's September - October 2019 issue.

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