Digital platform to help African brands get global visibility

Nothing in the world comes for free. Africans pay for these services using their data. Yes, every time an African browses the internet, their data is siphoned. GRAPHIC/COURTESY

One of the biggest challenges African manufacturers face is access to foreign markets. However, Global logistics company DP World is promising to change this. The firm is launching an e-commerce platform, in various countries, seeking to connect manufacturers with external buyers.

The platform has just been rolled out in Kenya, with DP World saying the move seeks to strategically position Kenyan products on the global stage, by enhancing visibility of the brands to international buyers.

 The Dubai-based company noted that the new innovation seeks to tap the huge potential of Africa’s digital economy.

“We are launching in Kenya because of the deep smartphone and internet penetration but we will be moving to Ethiopia and Rwanda in the next months,” said DP World chief operating officer Mahamood Al Bastaki ahead of the launch of the app.

 Kenyans’ love for Dubai travels for business and leisure also contributed to the decision to launch in Nairobi, with research showing that many Kenyans trust Dubai trade deals and experience.

The initiative is also in tandem with the African Union’s plan to create a cross-border e-commerce trading platform through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

 Rwanda has been selected due to its rising ease of doing business and its growing stature as a continental financial hub while Ethiopia was chosen for its strategic location thanks to its proximity to Berbera Port which links Africa to the East.

 Mr Al Bastaki said the app, available on Google Playstore, will help ease the movement of cargo, being an end-to-end solution that also eases goods clearance at ports.

Buyers and sellers will be also be transacting on the platform, and goods on transit will be traced and tracked in real time using Machine Learning algorithms.

To boost cashless payments, authentication of transactions and prevent money laundering, the company is deploying Blockchain technology in the platform.

“We aim to help African traders access markets in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, India, China and the United States,” noted Mr Al Bastaki.

DP World said traders in landlocked countries on the continent now have an opportunity to show the world what they have in their stocks, as the app is a free service.

 During the pilot stage, the platform saw 17,000 products traded within it, attracting over 200,000 users with a target of hitting a million users within the next 12 months.

Products traded on the app include auto spare parts, clothing, kitchenware, electronics and other fast moving household items.

African consumers could now benefit from more affordable and better quality products from the markets listed on the platform, while also selling directly to buyers in other countries without the intervention of middle men who push up the cost of goods.

DP World said the platform will also help the Kenyan, Ethiopian and Rwandan governments track the growth of international trade, helping make data-driven decisions in improving cross-border trade.

Mr Al Bastaki assured users of data privacy protection, in a period where most tech companies have paid millions of dollars in fines for secretly using private user data on their platforms without consent to maximise profitability. 

 “We have been handling customer data for the past 40 years and never have shared private information with third parties,” he said.

 He added that the platform is guarded against the rising threats of cyber-attacks, with a team of ethical hackers constantly monitoring threat intelligence data.

 “We use blockchain at the points of data exchange and Application Programming Interfaces. We have our own tech team that develops our technologies so we don’t have to rely on suppliers who may compromise our systems. This ensures a 100 percent uptime”

To kick off the platform on the right footing DP World yesterday partnered with the Ministry of Industrilization and Trade, Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency, Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, UAE Trade Centre Kenya, Salihiya Logistics and National Bank of Kenya.

NBK managing director Paul Russo said the new platform will offer the best value to SMEs and allow them to package themselves better for the international market.

“This partnership spells out favourable terms for customers to access foreign markets while fulfilling our desire to meet customer needs and convenience.”

 Chief Administrative Secretary at the Industrilisation ministry Mr David Osiany the government’s strategic partnership with DP World is a catalysts for industrialisation policy and is in line with Vision 2030.

“This partnership will increase our country’s trading connectivity and build an easy-access market for Kenyan entrepreneurs to secure long-term, sustainable business growth. With our local expertise and DP World’s global footprint, we’ve got a prosperous future ahead of us,” he said.

 In addition, Richard Ngatia, president of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the collaboration with is testament to the impact of strong partnerships and a conducive investment climate.

 “This platform is part of the digital economy blueprint that will embrace new technological and logistical innovations that will enable Kenya’s and Africa’s ability to leapfrog economic growth for sustainable development.”

 By leveraging on its benefits, Kenyan entrepreneurs are expected to lead the charge in transforming how business is done across the continent, opening the continent to new markets, technological advancement to ultimately become the leading free trade facilitators.

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