Even though the concerns persist on the decades-long dependence on oil and fear of free trade agreement destroying local players, the much-needed diversification and shift to export orientation of Africa’s biggest economy could be a real game-changer for logistics in West Africa.

Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $448.12 billion in 2019 compared to $351.43 billion in South Africa and 303.09 of Egypt. Located in the western part of Africa, Nigeria is also called the gateway to this region, particularly due to the Port of Lagos, one of the biggest on the African continent. However, over the years the country has been crippled with logistics infrastructure deficit, roads and ports congestions and even tough customs regime. Simultaneously, logistics companies see huge potential for the future of supply chain business in Nigeria due to government policies to diversify the economy, the rise of e-commerce and the recent free trade agreement.

Nigerian logistics market

According to the 2018 African Centre for Supply Chain’s the Nigerian Logistics and Supply Chain Industry Report, the value of Nigeria’s logistics sector was estimated to be 250 billion Naira ($696 million) in 2018, a rise of 50 billion Naira ($140 million) from 2017 figures.

However, as per the June 2020 Research and Markets report, “The Nigeria freight and logistics market has been on a slow-growth trend for the past many years but is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 4 percent in the coming years.”

Maureen Adibuah, country manager of DHL Global Forwarding Nigeria, who sits in her head office in Lagos, said, “As the largest black nation on the planet, Nigeria has a huge young population and is blessed with the richness of natural resources heightening the need for a robust logistics industry. Due to its economic position, logistics is one of the fastest-growing industries in Nigeria. However, we have our challenges like the infrastructural deficit and tough customs regulations besides the problems posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Lara Lana, Nigeria country manager for Maersk, noted that Nigeria is a strategic market for them in terms of the value they can deliver to customers on both shipping and logistics services. “Maersk can offer various inland deliveries via truck across Nigeria from Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, Aba and Onitsha. We cover both the ports of Onne and Apapa through our global ocean network enabling us to connect our customers to ports across the world.”

The Nigeria-based logistics companies are also trying to expand their reach by involving themselves in the global supply chains. For example, a few weeks back, GIG Logistics announced its expansion to the United Kingdom, a major exporter to Nigeria. The company intends to gain a significant part of the UK to Nigeria logistics business.

AfCFTA could increase the intra-African trade by around 52.3 percent, thus boosting the demand for better logistics facilities and infrastructure.
Maureen Adibuah, DHL Global Forwarding Nigeria

Congestion is an important problem faced by logistics companies in Nigeria whether it is in the ports or on the road even though infrastructural initiatives are trying to directly address them. Port of Lagos is one of the most affected logistics points in Nigeria due to this.

Adibuah informs that the new under construction Lekki port with 6 million TEUs capacity is a promising development and would help in easing the current congestion problems in the port of Lagos.

Meanwhile, Lana noted that railway development is critical to high volume inland deliveries and as such the ongoing investments by the government in this transport mode will reduce the cost of inland deliveries.

“Currently, truck deliveries hold an overwhelming proportion of transport modes within Nigeria. In recent years, we have seen water transport grow exponentially through the introduction of barges and we expect this trend to continue,” she said.

Border closure

Nigeria sealed its land borders with Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger in August 2019 to stop the smuggling of goods, especially rice. Even though the restrictions were partially lifted in December 2020, which allowed light vehicles on certain borders, the movement of bigger trucks and large shipments were still banned.

The Nigerian government is concerned about the adverse impact of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement on its economy, fragmented industries and local players.

However, Adibuah talks about AfCFTA with great interest as she believes it has the potential to change the lives of people on the continent. According to her Nigeria is a logistics hub for the region and is well positioned along with neighbouring countries to support each other in moving goods.

"AfCFTA could increase the intra-African trade by around 52.3 percent, thus boosting the demand for better logistics facilities and infrastructure inside countries as well as between them. Particularly for Nigeria, it could benefit by exporting commodities of Agri produce and life sciences to neighbouring countries as well as to the wider African continent," Adibuah added.

Lana informed that most container exports from Nigeria are Agri commodities whilst container imports are finished goods, machinery, processed items.


In November 2020, Nigeria, the biggest economy in Africa, fell into recession due to a fall in oil prices followed by the Covid-19 pandemic, a result of its over-reliance on oil.

“Oil represents more than 80 percent of Nigeria’s exports, 30 percent of its banking-sector credit, and 50 percent of the overall government revenue”, reads a June 2020 release of World Bank.

Adibuah said, “Nigerian economy historically depends heavily on oil and gas sectors while the government is keen to diversify it by encouraging industries like agribusiness, technology and manufacturing with industry-specific policies and developing industrial clusters. From the 1970s and till today Nigeria’s export products are from the energy sectors due to large oil and natural gas reserves.”

However, the data and analytics company, GlobalData, in April 2021 announced that Nigeria will account for 23 percent of the all new oil and gas projects in Africa. The country will start operating around 100 such projects between 2021 and 2025. Thus, amid diversification efforts, the energy sector will dominate the country and the logistics demand for the coming years.

E-commerce and future

E-commerce and the emerging use of new technologies along with the visibility of logistics it provides and the ease of doing business can transform logistics and the entire value chain for good. E-commerce is seen as the single biggest boost for the future of logistics in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Shippers' Council, an agency of the federal government of Nigeria, in April 2021 announced that the ports across the country have achieved a 70 percent digitalisation while working with the terminal operators and shipping companies.

Lana said, “A trend we have seen is that our customers are inspired by the ease of doing business they personally experience when they do their personal shopping on the various global and local online portals. They simply want the same seamless user experience for their business.”

“Digitalising is a strong enabler to a customer-focused strategy, so e-platforms and technologically driven solutions would play a key role in the future of logistics in Nigeria,” she added.

Adibuah said, "Accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, e-commerce is an important factor that will influence logistics as it offers end-to-end visibility to customers, ease of payment and it moves shipments to anywhere and anytime in the country."

Even though the rise of e-commerce is a great opportunity, frequent power outages and a huge unbanked population is still a concern.

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