The last week of April saw the Lagos-headquartered OnePort 365 raking in $5 million through its seed funding. The funds will be channelled to fuel OnePort 365's plans to drive the end-to-end digitisation of freight management in Africa and support expansion into new markets across the continent. In OnePort 365's own words, the company works to "leverage technology to drive your supply chain and business objectives."

So, why is this an important development? Let's trace the Nigeria-based OnePort 365's rise against the backdrop of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement or AfCFTA which revolutionised the trade landscape across the continent. Africa received a much-needed thrust thanks to the AfCFTA bolstering cross-border logistics across the landscape.

The market research platform – Upply – decodes the AfCFTA's highlights, "What comes along with the expansion of e-commerce is a growing demand for distribution and warehouse management services. The service providers with a well-established local network will be particularly in need of facilitating last-mile delivery, which also provides local e-commerce marketplaces and retailers certain advantages in comparison with international e-commerce players. Furthermore, the expansion of the e-commerce market, especially cross-border e-commerce, can transform some areas into regional distribution hubs."

Citing a World Bank report, Upply comments, "According to World Bank's analysis, the AfCFTA will boost intra-continental exports by over 81% and exports with non-African countries by 19% by 2035. In terms of sectors, manufacturing exports are anticipated to make the most gains: a 110% increase for intra-African trade and 46% for non-African trade. In contrast, service trade is envisaged to have the most modest rise (14% of intra-African trade)."

As for the digital enablement, an African Union report entitled, The Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (2020-2030), expresses optimism when it comes to Africa's digital era, "Africa presents a sea of economic opportunities in virtually every sector, and the continent's youthful population structure is an enormous opportunity in this digital era and hence the need for Africa to make digitally-enabled socio-economic development a high priority. Digital transformation is a driving force for innovative, inclusive and sustainable growth. Innovations and digitisation are stimulating job creation and contributing to addressing poverty, reducing inequality, facilitating the delivery of goods and services, and contributing to the achievement of Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, Africa has fewer legacy challenges to deal with and is therefore adopting digitised solutions faster out of necessity. For Africa, the current moment offers a leapfrogging opportunity. Today's technologies indicate the scale and speed at which technology is transforming traditional socioeconomic sectors."

OnePort 365's market expansion plans align with Upply's market insights on the AfCFTA which forecasts a growth trajectory in regional consumer markets, "The anticipated income growth under the AfCFTA also means an expanding regional consumer market. The middle-class population in Africa is estimated to reach 1.7 billion by 2030 from 1.2 billion in 2018. An earlier report from Brookings Institute highlighted the growing demand for two types of goods: fast-moving consumer goods and luxury products, along with an anticipated income growth"

As a digital freight management firm, OnePort 365 promises its clients that it would "simplify your supply chain through our intuitive platform, while plugging your business into a world of opportunity – because everyone deserves to feel the excitement of going global, regardless of size."

For customers, OnePort 365's checklist also includes – a functional model,100% visibility, minimal paperwork, real-time tracking, and infrastructure network and easy navigation. With the AfCFTA only strengthening the 'tradescape' across the continent, LUA talks to OnePort 365's CEO and founder Hio Sola-Usidame to understand what the digital freight forwarder's future roadmap looks like.

Edited excerpts:

OnePort 365 recently raked in $5 million as seed funding. You mentioned that the funds would be utilised for expansion plans in new markets. Could you please elaborate on these plans?
At present, we have active operations in Nigeria and Ghana. As part of our expansion plans, we are exploring some opportunities in Kenya, with a view to setting up operations and penetrating that market. The status quo across several African markets are quite similar, and we are passionate about using our solutions to unlock opportunities for traders and other stakeholders across the continent.

Are there any plans for new collaborations for OnePort 365 in future?
OnePort365 is always on the lookout for good collaborations. We are in conversation with partners and potential collaborators to explore growth opportunities. The freight management space in Africa is ripe for disruption and we are passionate about playing our part in realising the full potential of trade on the continent.

What was the impact of the pandemic on OnePort 365? How did the company manage to tide over challenges?
The Covid-19 pandemic was a catalyst for our business as traders needed to explore other options for managing freight and cargo that didn't need them to be present in-person. Traders have been managing freights in the traditional way for a long time so the main challenge was getting them to try our digital solutions. We also have to remember that these traders are moving hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of goods at a time so trust is an essential part of the service. However, once they experience the convenience and efficiency of our platform, the conversation becomes much easier and it is difficult for them to go back to doing things the old way. Since we started operations in 2019, we have increased the number of 20-foot equivalent unit containers (TEUs) we process by 140 percent and grown our revenue by more than 420 percent.

What are the different supply chain visibility solutions on offer?
Commodities coming into the ports in Africa have little or no visibility and usually result in missing containers and/or trucks being vandalised. You also have a situation where cargo worth hundreds of thousands of dollars are entrusted to drivers who earn less than $400 per month. Quite often, cargo disappears in transits, leaving traders out of pocket and reluctant to embark on significant transactions. With OnePort 365, traders get GPS-enabled, real-time visibility of their shipments. We have powerful trackers that allow monitoring of shipments across every inland point, enabling us to give detailed reporting on where shipments are located at any point in time. With this tracking service, traders can transact business with confidence and reduce the risk of revenue loss due to cargo getting lost or stolen

OnePort 365 leverages advancements in payment technology and the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) to power instant payments. Can you elucidate what kind of advancement is on offer?
Before the introduction of PAPSS, traders had to navigate a system where transactions coming from African banks were routed and cleared using foreign banks that peg currencies to the US Dollar, The Euro or British Pounds. As a result, these transactions were taking up to 14 days to clear, slowing down the pace of business and making cross-border trade unduly expensive. With PAPSS, traders can get paid instantly which makes it easier for them to run multiple transactions and maximise opportunities to trade. Until now, booking different freight services meant traders had to work with up to six different service providers. Our platform leverages PAPSS to streamline this process into just one channel, saving traders both time and money on their transactions.

What is the future blueprint for OnePort?
Our goal is to drive the end-to-end digitisation of freight management in Africa, making it easier to move cargo to, from and within the continent. We are working towards a situation where traders can manage the entire freight management process (from booking to payment) on one single platform because that is what we believe African traders deserve. We believe managing freights should be as easy as booking a flight or ordering a ride-hailing service and we are building the operating system to make this possible.

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