Opportunity lies in bridging supply side and distribution channels: Dario Giuliani
Founded in 2018, Briter Bridges is a data-driven research organisation focused on collecting and visualising information on markets across underserved markets.
In the report, 'Digitising Logistics in Africa' by Briter Bridges, authors Dario Giuliani and Lisa Hannah surveyed more than 40 leading logistics startups "to get qualitative insights and anecdotes about the sector and its development."
Founded in 2018, Briter Bridges is a data-driven research organisation focused on collecting and visualising information on markets across underserved markets. Apart from collaborations with 40 active logistics companies, Briter Bridges pored over research sourced from thousands of companies listed in its database.
The organisation continuously tracks Africa's technology markets and looks at different sectors and areas that might be lacking adequate information.
What made you choose to investigate the role of up-and-coming logistics companies in the African continent?
Briter has been tracking businesses and market insights across dozens of verticals and, as part of our research, we decided to devote some efforts to bring to the surface the opportunity presented by the logistics sector, which over the past 2-3 years has seen investment skyrocketing and several new players entering the market all across Africa and other emerging markets.
"Technology proves to not only be a convenient tool to reduce managerial and operational costs, but also a way to fill market gaps" - but how does one circumvent the basic problem of internet infrastructure and penetration?
Technology is not a substitute for infrastructure and purchasing power but it effectively enables processes that, if left to a human decision, would be less efficient. The rise of platforms and tracking mechanisms have allowed to crowd out expensive intermediaries and burdensome processes and guarantees accountability from both supply and demand sides.
The report talks about opportunities in urban logistics and trade in the future. Which start-ups, according to you, are best taking advantage of opportunities available in the present to add value to logistics services in urban and rural areas?
One million dollar question - I am firmly convinced lots of opportunities today lies in bridging the supply side and distribution channels, especially beyond capital cities. Hard to rank but larger companies are rising all across the continent. If in Nairobi you can find several players looking at a similar vertical, peripheral and rural areas are still widely cut out of the main digital services. There are companies who have been serving the trucking and delivery market, from Kobo to Trella, Lori, Sendy, to name some of the most funded ones.
However, businesses addressing informal merchants such as Twiga Foods, Sokowatch, Copia are also contributing to empowering the less wealthy swathes of the population.
During the course of your research and interviews, what were mentioned as big challenges to the logistics supply chain and operations?
Besides access to finance at both the early and growth stages, which is a problem that goes well beyond the logistics sector, transparency, overheads costs, and reliable market information are all obstacles for emerging companies.
Did the companies mention how they got past or circumvented the recurring challenges of running a tech-logistics business?
Having a clear understanding of the dynamics and the power relations in each market is crucial but, I would say, the fact that all these companies have access to internal data generated by their operations represents a big opportunity to learn in real-time about the goods and bads of doing business.
Was there any topic/trend/observation that came up as interesting during research but had to be kept of its scope?
Yes. Regulation seems to be a double-edged sword. Too much can be crippling, too little can be destabilising. Similar companies have expressed contrasting opinions due to their specific experience in their market.
Is Briter Bridges working on any other research-based in Africa and its market?
Yes, we are always tracking Africa's technology markets and looking at different sectors and areas that might be lacking adequate information. We have now released almost 70 maps showcasing the continent's innovative potential and recently expanded to South Asia and MENA.
In keeping with your research, what is the scope of growth you see in the technology and logistics space in Africa in the next, say 10 years?
I tend to shy away from 10 years of forecasts but I feel confident saying African markets are seeing a positive increase in the number of businesses and deals, although the lack of infrastructure and the high market fragmentation constitute significant obstacles to a smooth development of the industry. Surely, the recent interest by Asian players, from governments to private businesses, in Africa's startups can be seen as an opportunity or a sign that 'something is cooking'.