A Beginner’s Guide to Investing in Kenyan Logistics: ‘Mwakenya’ Edition

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October 22, 2013

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

As KCSE Candidates began their exams today, I remembered the trusted mwakenya that saw the ‘lucky’ few excel in their exams.

Kenyans born in a certain range of years will recall the glorious days of what was known as “Mwakenyas”, or “cheat sheets” for our foreign friends: easily concealed bits of paper containing information likely to be needed during an examination which a cheeky student had not prepared for.

While we are not condoning cheating in any form, we do see the value in creating handy summaries to help the ill-prepared catch up. So what is it exactly that you need to know to prosper in the logistics industry as 2013 draws to a close and 2014 fast approaches?

One way to stay ahead of the curve is by paying close attention to legislation passed governing the country internally and providing a guide for international relations. One such item of legal development comes from the East African Community, which has collectively decided to allow East African citizens to cross member states’ borders using just their national identity cards as travel documents.

This move, guaranteed to inspire a spike in tourism within the region will be an excellent addition to the Kenyan economy, to which tourism has contributed 12% of GDP in 2013. In addition to being an economic stimulus, tourism also provides direct income for the logistics industry in respect to providing freighting services to hotels in need of supplies delivery and other necessities. As such, this is an area future investors in supply chain management should position themselves to benefit from once the law comes into effect in January 2014.

Internal legislation is also a key factor to consider in decision making. Our brother and technocrat, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, Adan Mohamed has confirmed that the State intends to create industrialization road maps for each Kenyan county, tailored to make the best of resources within each state, such as climate, land availability, labor resources, etc.

With these plans likely being announced and kicked off in late 2013 or early 2014, it would benefit logistics industry players to familiarize themselves with counties that can generate business as accommodated by individual logistics firms. Companies whose forte lies in industrial freighting should thus be concerned with counties slated to have industrial complexes, companies specializing in agricultural logistics should focus on counties capitalizing on agriculture, and so forth.

In some cases, however, government announcements are not always positive. Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau recently made the disheartening announcement that due to massive debts, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure would be unable to support any construction of new roads or maintenance and repair of existing ones.

While this is a dark announcement for the country, a silver lining can be found for supply chain management: where some roads may quickly become impassable due to disrepair, enterprising logistics industry players can find and operate a separate mode of transportation, such as subsidized freighting by air, or even invest in more hardy vehicles capable of braving the damaged roads. It is indeed sad that Land Rover is discontinuing the production of the hardy Defender, but that’s a story for another day.

Similarly, the recent Ministry of Health ban on transportation of food items on open vehicles may seem inconvenient: Chief Public Health officer Kepha Ombacho stated that this very common mode of transport exposed food to pathogens and toxic substances mid-freight, with even traces of lead found on food transported in this way. While I bear bragging rights to the fact that I freight using ‘sealed’ transportation, other logistics industry players can thus intervene in this situation by providing sealed transportation alternatives, or operating by bringing local open top vehicles up to standard by customizing them as needed or simply retailing covered containers, both for a fee.

Other government initiatives, such as the revival of the Pan Paper Mills also provide unique set of business possibilities for supply chain managers, which I shall leave you to discover as “homework”: in spite of mwakenyas, the best way to prepare is always to stay alert and do your research. Can you spot the opportunities?

KCSE candidates, the logistics industry promises career opportunities for those confident enough not to use mwakenyas. I wish you the best of luck!


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