Africa's logistics industry is undergoing a transformation. Women are on the rise, bringing fresh perspectives and filling crucial talent gaps. This trend is driven by a combination of factors, including the need for a more diverse workforce and initiatives that empower women in this traditionally male-dominated field.

The African continent is pulsating with a new energy. Robust economic growth has awakened a sleeping giant, fostering a thriving middle class with ever-increasing demands. This surge in activity has ignited a logistical firestorm. Supply chains are stretched thin, struggling to keep pace with the continent's rapid transformation. Efficient and innovative solutions are desperately needed to navigate this dynamic landscape.

However, amidst this logistical maelstrom, a beacon of hope emerges – the rise of women in logistics. Traditionally viewed as a domain reserved for men, the African logistics sector is witnessing a seismic shift. Women are shattering glass ceilings, forging their path into leadership roles, and injecting a much-needed dose of innovation and fresh ideas. Their unwavering determination and unique skill sets are proving to be invaluable assets in building a more robust and efficient logistics network for Africa.

This surge in female participation is not merely a social phenomenon; it represents a strategic shift with significant economic implications. Studies have consistently shown that diversity in the workplace fosters creativity, enhances problem-solving capabilities, and leads to better decision-making.

The logistics industry is often seen as tough and unexciting, but it's far more diverse than people think. Workers in logistics handle tasks ranging from global shipping to warehouse inventory management, which can be demanding and time-intensive. Despite many men working in this field, there's a significant shortage of women.

This isn't just a concern about the need for female workers; it's also about the valuable perspective they bring. Women often excel in interpersonal skills, being adept at calmly and effectively discussing matters. Their tendency towards empathy enhances communication, enabling them to connect better with colleagues or customers experiencing distress, not just in terms of their own emotions.

While comprehensive data remains elusive, available statistics paint a picture of an industry undergoing a shift. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), globally, women make up only 24% of the core logistics workforce. However, Africa seems to be bucking this trend.

According to a report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), women comprise 30% of the logistics workforce in some African countries. The increasing presence of women is noticeable across different facets of the logistics industry. They are leaving their mark in freight forwarding, warehousing, supply chain management, and even in traditionally male-dominated sectors like transportation. While administrative and customer service roles remain typical starting points, more women are now aiming for leadership roles and technical proficiency.

However, the path to progress for women in African logistics isn't without obstacles. Unconscious bias remains a persistent hurdle. Traditional gender roles can create an invisible barrier, making it difficult for women to secure promotions or gain the respect of their peers in leadership positions. Additionally, a lack of training and mentorship opportunities can hinder career advancement. This is especially true for women who lack formal education specific to logistics. The demanding nature of the field, often characterised by long hours and inflexible schedules, presents another significant challenge. This can be particularly burdensome for women juggling work and family responsibilities. These factors combine to create a complex landscape that women in African logistics must navigate.

When more women work, economies grow.”
Felicia Marfo, PSL

The winds of change are sweeping across the African logistics landscape, and women are at the forefront of this transformation. While challenges remain, several innovative initiatives by African companies and organisations are creating a more welcoming environment for women to soar in this dynamic industry.

For example, WILA, or Women in Logistics Africa is a pan-African organisation dedicated to achieving gender equality in the continent's supply chain and logistics industry. Their primary focus is on increasing female representation, particularly in leadership positions. WILA tackles this challenge through a multi-pronged approach. They lobby for inclusive practices within logistics companies, creating a more welcoming environment for women. Additionally, they bridge the gap between experienced and aspiring female professionals by facilitating mentorship programmes and networking events. WILA also collaborates with educational institutions to develop skill-building programmes specifically tailored for women in logistics.

“Our 2024 perspectives are focused on our commitments to women and youth. Training, mentoring, masterclasses, and community solidarity have proven their worth to WILA's growth. We will continue to pursue our mission,” says Christiane Ohin-Traore, the founding president of WILA.

Agility, a leading global logistics company with a strong presence in Africa is supporting the WILA mentorship programme. Emirati multinational logistics company DP World which has also a significant presence in Africa and has partnered with WILA to promote women’s leadership and development in the logistics sector in Africa.

One of the most significant challenges women face in logistics is entering traditionally male-dominated areas like transportation. However, recognising the power of the women's community, Kenya established the Women in Trucking Association (WITA). This organisation provides a vital support network for female truck drivers. WITA offers training programmes, mentorship opportunities, and a platform for women to share experiences and advocate for their rights.

Women today are increasingly launching logistics businesses across Africa. This suggests a growing interest and potential for leadership roles. Ladybird Logistics is Ghana’s first female-only logistics firm, founded by Felicia Marfo. Marfo isn't just a leader in logistics, she's a trailblazer for women in the field. The company not only set up the first female-only logistics firm but also provided training for women to become globally certified truck drivers, contributing to closing the gender gap in the supply chain. At present, she is working as Chief Vision Officer at Premier Solutions Limited (PSL). In a quote to Supply Chain Africa Marfo embodies the belief that "When more women work, economies grow".

Another prime example highlighted by Supply Chain Africa is Josephine Nyebaza, who founded Intra Cargo, a successful freight forwarding company in Rwanda. She also chairs the Women in Logistics in Rwanda under The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).

In air cargo logistics also women are bringing strong leadership to the table, Specialised training programmes in air cargo management, data analytics, and regulatory compliance are empowering women with the expertise needed to excel in leadership roles within the air logistics sector. These initiatives are offered by the African Centre for Aviation (AFCA). Additionally, tailored training programmes in airport operations and cargo handling, specifically designed for female professionals, are provided by organisations like the Airport Council International (ACI) Africa.

Over the next five years, we aim to increase the share of women in management to 40%.”
Racheal Ndegwa, Swissport

The mentorship programme by Women in Aviation and Logistics Africa (WIAL) connects experienced women in air cargo with aspiring professionals. These mentorship programmes provide guidance, career advice, and a valuable support network for women navigating the complexities of the air cargo industry.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) aims to increase the number of women in senior positions within the aviation industry by 2025 through its "25by2025" diversity and inclusion initiative. “Through our participation in the 25by2025 initiative, we want to make a statement as the sector leader, even though we have already reached or even exceeded the goals of 25by2025 in some areas,” says Racheal Ndegwa, Chief Executive Officer at Swissport Kenya Limited. Swissport’s management team in Kenya comprises 39% females, while in Ghana it is 25%, in South Africa, it is 43%. Additionally, local female CEOs have been appointed in Algeria, Kenya, and South Africa, with the Kenya CEO complementing the 32% of female employees in the cargo business.

According to a report, the African logistics market is expected to reach $44.8 billion by 2027, creating a significant demand for talent. This provides a chance for women to enter and rise within the industry. The rise of automation and digitization in logistics is creating new roles that are less reliant on physical strength, traditionally a perceived barrier. This opens doors for women with strong problem-solving and analytical skills, of course, challenges persist but ensuring equal access to education and promoting flexible work arrangements are crucial for long-term progress.

Overall, the future for women in African logistics is bright. With continued efforts to dismantle barriers and leverage the power of technology, the industry is poised to benefit from a more diverse and talented workforce.

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