Maersk’s Anita de Werd on How Logistics & Inclusion Can Unlock the Enormous Potential of Africa’s Regional Fashion & Textile Market
To understand the disparities between the fashion industry across different African regions, one must first look at the integration of logistics, and the various issues faced when it comes to shipping goods on a global level. According to Solistica, an expert logistics company merging international operations under one single brand, this is partially due to the fact that, “Africa is split into 5 economic regions, each with different expectations for growth and specific conditions for building infrastructure, necessary for developing a competitive logistics sector. Because of this inequality, we cannot see the country as a homogeneous market since there are clients with specific needs in each of its 54 countries. This has created a growing demand for logistics among manufacturers and retailers that aim to expand their operations and improve their supply chains and transport networks.”
Through the rise of technology and globalization over the past decade, new opportunities for internationalization have arisen. This has provided a welcomed boost in the supply chains, which has allowed multinational corporations to explore and establish themselves across Africa, particularly Angola, Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Nigeria. “Some of them own the most important ports in the continent: Barra do Dande and Lobito in Angola, Lekki in Nigeria, Musoma in Tanzania, and Lamu in Kenya,” Solistica announced on their blog in August 2019. “Close to 90% of Africa’s trade is carried out by sea, which makes its ports crucial for supply chains despite being small as per global standards. Some ports currently under construction across the continent will need to be modernized to face the large volume of trading expected from the growth in population and economic development.”
Maersk, the largest Shipping Line in the world, first announced their strategy as global integrators of container logistics, back in 2018. We spoke to Anita de Werd, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Maersk Africa, to gain better insight into how this leading logistics company is facilitating the growth of the African fashion industry via its offers. “We have been organizing the logistics for all the major and niche fashion brands for years and are specialized in apparel. This is what we have become known for in the global fashion world,” Anita told Fashionomics Africa. Operating under the Maersk umbrella, their sister company, Twill, is “a new freight logistics service for small and medium-sized businesses. Shipping cargo door-to-door, over land and sea, the team of Twillers help you focus on what you do best by taking care of the logistics.”
The Twill platform allows SMEs and other medium-sized companies to book and ship their products with comfort and ease, knowing that the team of Twillers will track the safe journey and arrival of your load to its destination, keeping you up to date on any changes or questions that may arise along the way. Thanks to the Twill concept and form of operation, the company offers a safe option for trade throughout and post-COVID-19. “Twill is a digital innovation from Maersk and fully suitable for the post-COVID logistics,” Anita explains.
Anita acts as a spokesperson promoting diversity and inclusion within the logistics world, corporate organisations and SMEs, and is of the firm belief that, any organisation – small or large – has the capacity to grow by focusing on inclusion. In a recent Two Minute Talk video hosted by Own the Room, Anita discussed the importance of inclusion, and is adamant that this approach will stimulate Africa’s fashion and lifestyle trade both regionally and internationally.
“So, what are organisations nowadays chasing? Talent, profit and growth. I see a lot of organisations chasing growth like a puppy chasing its tail. But what if organisations were to take a people-centric approach by focusing on inclusion? Not only inclusion in terms of gender - female and male - but also in thoughts and the style people have, or people with mental and physical disabilities. If we would all come together and bring our ideas forward, and if all organisations take this approach on, they’ll want to nurture, to captivate, to leverage all the input of their employees. Afterall, it's the employees that drive performance and profit, right? Organisations can have inclusion as a policy, as a value, as a system - but what about you? What if you would bring inclusion into your everyday work? Talk to that engineer, listen to a child or that person you're not automatically drawn to. What could happen? Magic could happen! And large organisations will then, automatically grow."
Furthermore, Anita insists that investing in infrastructure, both physical and virtual, could drive the industry forward. “The industry has made a big jump with online fashion shows, zoom meetings and virtual reality. We need bandwidth for that and, of course, the physical infrastructure to be able to move the goods, also from rural areas, where a lot of fashion is produced. We need to start making more use of digital platforms such as Fashionomics Africa, and be present on e-commerce platforms like Afrikrea Limited, and work with logistics platforms like Twill. We need to tap into the enormous potential of the African regional market and push the #MakeInAfricaForAfrica ideal.”
With Facebook having recently announced its partnering with leading African and global operators to build 2Africa, the most comprehensive subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East region, it looks as though this potential will be unleashed sooner rather than later. According to Facebook, the subsea cable will interconnect 23 African countries, the Middle East and Europe, providing “nearly three times the total network capacity of all the subsea cables serving African today.”