Africa’s ‘Moon Shot’: Preparing for an African air cargo renaissance

Investments in pan-African quality

In an effort to raise the bar on cargo-handling standards across Africa, Kenya is scheduled to become the first country in the world to adopt a new benchmarking tool this year, called Cargo Service Quality (CSQ), at all of its airports nationwide.

Developed last year by The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), the CSQ tool is made up of four parts – benchmarking, assessment, improvement and excellence – and enables forwarders at participating cargo terminals to submit ratings on the service quality they receive at airports. Some of the rating criteria include process, technology, facilities, regulators and general airport infrastructure.

KAA said it plans to implement the online tool at all Kenyan cargo hubs by the middle of 2019, with the goal of using the response data to improve airport performance across the country. “When the TIACA system is fully adopted, we will be able to provide visibility and transparency to customers, and improve relationships with service providers by creating service quality benchmarks,” said Evans Michoma, the cargo commercial manager for KAA.

Another development that could have ramifications across the African airfreight business is the establishment in July 2018 of a joint venture (JV) between DHL Global Forwarding and Ethiopian Airlines Cargo to build a new logistics services facility in Ethiopia that could potentially handle cargo for the entire African continent. Although few details from the JV have been shared, the new entity, “DHL Ethiopian Airlines Logistics Services Ltd.,” would be controlled by Ethiopian Airlines, which holds a 51 percent stake in the agreement.

The German forwarding giant said it aims to establish air, ocean, and road freight services to connect trade hubs from the Horn of Africa to the rest of the world. Ethiopia is an exporter of perishable goods, like flowers, livestock, leather products and coffee. While the region has a solid portfolio of exports, there is a “much-needed [improvement in] freight capacity and logistics infrastructure,” read a statement from the JV.

Customs clearance automation

Of all the potential storm clouds on the horizon for Africa’s airfreight industry, customs clearance “remains a major hindrance,” said Astral’s Gadhia. However, IATA has played an important role in encouraging the adoption of the electronic air waybill (e-AWB), “which has improved the process in countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa to name a few.”

Most African countries have their own customs systems, but few of them have been integrated with the customs clearance communities of neighboring countries. The South African Customs Union, however, has a long-standing history of single-source operating platforms and paperless processing, which is also used by neighboring countries. For example, Anderson said, “it is commonplace to pre-enter customs entries in JNB prior to wheels down/aircraft landing in JNB.”

Kenya has been another bright spot of late, in terms of customs clearance, Anderson said. The country has taken positive steps to improve functionality “by introducing a single-window operating platform that directly links customs, Kenya’s Bureau of Standards and the National Bank, for the clearance of a shipment.”

This arrangement still requires a paper receipt to be presented for any taxes or duties paid to the national bank at the airport, as part of the clearance procedures, which can sometimes slow the process. Nevertheless, Anderson said the Kenyan customs system integrates well with that of neighboring Tanzania for air shipments being trucked cross the border.

“Effectively, the Tanzanian customs entry is framed at the time the shipment is entered for a transit request in NBO,” he explained. “It again relies upon the importer of record to pay duties or taxes to the bank, in this case the consignee in Tanzania. However, once the duty or tax is paid, the process is very smooth thereafter at the border crossing into Tanzania.”

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