Security issues grow in sub-Saharan region

It just got a little more complicated to make international express shipments in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Regulators in the United States and the European Union have added three more countries in Africa – Sudan, South Sudan and Djibouti – to a list of countries that are deemed a high risk for cargo shipments. Flights from these countries are subject to the strictest – and most time-consuming – forms of security screening before they can fly to the E.U. and U.S.

With the three nations added to what is known as the “red” list of high-risk countries, Africa now has eight that carry such a designation, the others being Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Somalia and Somaliland. The red list is part of a three-tier classification system devised last year by EU and U.S. regulators, based on the level of security measures required. The other two designations are “white,” for those countries with a moderate risk and requiring less security measures, and “green,” for countries with the lowest risk. According to the EU Aviation Security Validator site, since July 2014, cargo originating from red- or white listed countries will be considered “unsecured cargo” and will not be allowed to fly to the U.S. or EU unless the carrier is accredited under ACC3 (Air Cargo Carrier 3rd Country) regulations. Airports in red and white countries also must be validated to ensure that proper cargo screening techniques are used. Shipments coming from green-listed countries, however, are considered secured and do not require any additional measures.

After the new red-list countries were named in April, Oliver Facey, vice president of operations for DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), released a statement noting that customers around the world wishing to send packages to these areas will not necessarily be prohibited from doing business in the region, but they should be aware that more time and effort will be needed.

“Certain items may need to be rerouted to countries in order for them to be screened and cleared for shipping,” he said.

Because e-commerce has driven demand for the business-to-consumer express market in SSA, Facey said DHL Express has acquired RA3 (Regulated Agent 3rd Party) accreditation in 18 of its countries with direct flights to Europe. DHL Express has invested more than €3 million in the last two years to improve security processes in select SSA countries, he added.

“These regulations set the benchmark for general security measures and screening which then gets applied consistently to all goods being processed out of Africa and the rest of the world,” Facey said. “The rise of the small- to medium-sized enterprises has also resulted in greater variety and accessibility to new and competing products. Goods are now just a click away, and can be sourced and ordered from anywhere in the world.”

Charles Brewer, managing director of DHL Express SSA, said sub-Saharan Africa is still home to one of the fastest growing middle classes in the world, providing “vast opportunities” on the continent for African entrepreneurs. SSA’s agricultural industry, Africa’s largest economic sector, represents 15 percent of the continent’s total GDP and more than US$100 billion per year. “It is estimated that more than 60 percent of the globe’s available and vacant land is situated in SSA,” he added.

While Sudan and South Sudan are not yet major players in the air cargo market, the red listing may be felt more keenly in Djibouti, a small nation located at the spot where the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden meet. The capital, Djibouti City, already a thriving seaport, has ambitions to build two new airports – each large enough to handle 100,000 tonnes of air cargo – with the help of funding from China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.

In January, Djibouti’s president, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, kicked off construction of the first of the two proposed air hubs, located about 25 kilometers south of Djibouti City. The airport, to be called Hassan Gouled Aptidon International Airport, after Djibouti’s first president, is expected to open in 2018.

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