Can Kenya get out of the provision chain disaster?

This autumn is coming to an in depth, the vacation season is upon us, and Kenya’s companies are settling their accounts for the yr. 

In some ways, transport and logistics, which assist quite a few sectors of the Kenyan financial system, appear to be on an upswing. The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) reported a 4.4% progress in container site visitors in the course of the first eight months of the yr, and Kenya’s all-new port at Lamu launched in Might. 

However, alongside constructive figures and groundbreaking infrastructure tasks that time to an optimistic outlook for the logistics business, Kenya—similar to the US, UK, and different nations all through the world—can be feeling the impression of a COVID-19-induced provide chain scarcity.

Will tech supply an answer to assist the business maintain itself?

A worldwide meltdown

On a world stage, the provision chain meltdown started with a container scarcity that cropped up on the finish of 2020, with freight charges rising greater than 264%, in comparison with earlier years. Previous to this, containers moved from China to Europe and North America, however COVID-19 restrictions restricted air freight, creating an elevated demand that prevented the move of containers again to East Asia.

Following that, demand for Chinese language exports skyrocketed after a pandemic-induced stoop. At this level, international provide chains have been already out of stability, and demand for exports exceeded the provision of transport containers.

By March 2021, transport container charges from China to the US and Europe had elevated by 300%, in comparison with the yr earlier than. 

Commerce below lockdown

In Kenya, it started with a lockdown. 

The beginning of the pandemic led to a gridlock in Kenya’s transport business that had an instantaneous impression on the nation itself, and the area as a complete. 

Industries with markets exterior of the East African neighborhood have been among the many hardest hit. East Africa’s flower business, for instance, which ships recent flowers through air to European nations, suffered an estimated $1 billion in losses when European nations sealed their borders. Ethiopia, Africa’s second-largest flower exporter, additionally reported an 80% discount in flower export quantity. 

Resulting from restricted sea and air routes, imports to Kenya decreased by 23%, however the permission of choose land transport that allowed items to move by land between borders meant that “different nations within the East African neighborhood benefited,” mentioned Manaseh Otieno, Commerce and Coverage Supervisor on the Kenya Affiliation of Producers (KAM).  For instance, commerce between Kenya, an exporter of palm oil, petroleum oil, and salt, and Uganda, an exporter of milk, tobacco, cane, and power, elevated by 11.3%. 

However transport by land between the nations was nonetheless gradual and prohibitively costly. 

As constructive COVID instances started to extend in East Africa, Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya agreed to check all truck drivers getting into and exiting the three nations. Nevertheless, unequal distribution of COVID-19 sources and insufficient provide chains to get them to East Africa meant a scarce variety of check kits. This led to a buildup of drivers alongside the border, misplaced items, an general lower of truck inflows into Uganda, and a rise in transport price at round 48%. 

Whereas the flower business is rebounding and vans are transferring extra freely, the short-term dismemberment of the provision chain business could proceed to have knock-on results on companies within the East African financial system. 


The US is already feeling inflationary pressures attributable to provide chain points which have resulted in a 6.2% improve within the US Client Worth Index—a measurement used to estimate worth adjustments in a basket of products—in comparison with final yr. 

Kenya is experiencing the same phenomenon. 

In April, the price of bread in Kenya elevated by $.044 for the primary time in 4 years and is ready to extend but once more. The  Cereal Millers Affiliation (CMA) factors to decrease international wheat shares, marine freight points, and the rising price of gasoline to its highest ranges previously 10 years because the causes of the value improve. 

Reliability is vital

Kenya’s potential provide chain disaster and its impression will be mitigated. 

A significant side of the rise in costs attributable to the present meltdowns is uncertainty, which will be expensive within the logistics business. 

The market is presently extremely unsure, which may current difficulties for even probably the most effectively organised companies.

“The transport strains are like a small mafia,” mentioned Dr. Simeon Obidairo, co-owner of BoConcept, a up to date, Danish, luxurious furnishings line within the means of reopening in Nairobi.“They let you know transit instances for the transport goes to be six weeks; the cargo leaves, they usually find yourself delivering it 12 weeks later. So, we’ve seen no less than double the standard transit instances.” 

A typical methodology of organising and monitoring shipments to reduce provide chain disruptions is thru using know-how, which, when underutilised, creates main operational kinks that may be cumbersome to appropriate. 


A brand new Private Data Safety Regulation out of China, for instance, is stopping the supply of real-time transport info by some China-based transport corporations, triggering fears of additional transport disruptions. As China is dwelling to 6 out of 10 of the world’s largest container ports, this has brought on a 90% drop in terrestrial transport information that corporations use to trace the arrival and departure of important items.

East Africa’s logistics business remains to be rising to a spot the place it’s equally tech-reliant. At current, most commerce within the area occurs informally. However extra reliability is extremely desired: “We’d like frameworks to assist digital commerce,” mentioned Manaseh Otieno. “Regardless of the consumer has ordered ought to be what they really get. And if it isn’t, there ought to be a mechanism to deal with these points.”

Resulting from pandemic-induced demand shocks, transporters within the area additionally in the reduction of. As consumption rises amid vacation festivities, and companies improve capability, those that fail to grow to be extra tech-reliant could discover themselves “ill-positioned throughout the nation primarily as a result of low adoption of know-how by the business,” mentioned Tayo Oyegunle, COO of Moove, a logistics platform that provides on-demand options to each clients and companies inside East Africa.

Investor urge for food for the transport and logistics sector was nonetheless excessive in 2021, with a complete of $200 million raised by the business as a complete in Africa in the course of the first eight months of the yr. However, a lot of this has been attributed to the January graduation of the African Continental Free Commerce Space (AfCFTA), a 34-member-state-strong settlement that goals to introduce non-tariff limitations all through the African continent.

However, the AfCFTA’s success for Kenya and the area as a complete additionally necessitates extra coordination on a technological stage. With out it, it might be years earlier than we see provide chain points corrected and an setting for freer commerce realised. 


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