By Onome Amawhe
The history of DHL, the world’s leading logistics company is a fascinating one. In the late 60s, Larry Hillblom, was a law student at University of California’s School of Law. He also combined a side job running courier services at Oakland International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. At its core, the services rendered were in picking up packages for both airports first and last flights of the day five times a week. After graduation, Hillblom met Adrian Dalsey, a salesman and together, they expanded the business, delivering packages to several other destinations. By this time, the business had assumed a fast paced delivery approach; a trait that the company is well known for to this day. Drawing on a portion of his student loan, Hillblom brought in another friend, Robert Lynn and started the global logistics giant now known as DHL—a combined initials of the first letter of their surnames: Daisley, Hillblom and Lynn. By the 1970s, there was a burgeoning awareness of the effectiveness of DHL delivery and this culminated in a rapid domestic and international expansion. DHL hit the African continent in 1978 where it grew at an incredible pace. During the late 90s, Deutsche Post AG, the German postal service and international courier Service company acquired some shares in DHL. Subsequent shares acquisition enabled Deutsche Post to reach majority ownership in 2001 and by 2002, 100% of DHL was absorbed into the German Courier Service, making it the world’s largest logistics company. At this time, other enterprises had been incorporated into the business namely; DHL Express, DHL Freight, DHL Supply Chain, DHL Global MailL, which has now been renamed DHL E-Commerce and DHL Global Forwarding. Saddled with the responsibility of driving DHL’s Global forwarding business in Africa and the Middle East is Amadou Diallo; one of the hardworking men who make transportation of goods possible across the region with his 20 years expertise in logistics and corporate integration. Diallo assumed the role in July 2017.
In the 49 years since DHL was founded— in 1969, what has been its biggest achievement?
Our business across all divisions has grown tremendously and we continue to strive to be the postal service for Germany and the logistics company for the world. We are the global market leader in the international express market. Global market leader in air freight and among top two leading ocean freight services; one of Europe’s leading road freight forwarders and global market leader in contract logistics. Deutsche Post is also Europe’s largest mail services operator and market leader in the German mail and parcel market. As a group, we employ approximately 510,000 people in over 220 countries and territories worldwide and generated revenues of more than €57 billion Euros in 2016. Our employees have professional expertise and our customer- centric culture makes us the best in the industry.
How is the company changing today, and where does it want to go?
Deutsche Post DHL Group’s Strategy 2020 sets our strategic priorities for the coming years and underscores our goal to become the company that defines the logistics industry. Digitalization and automation are likely to play an increasingly important role – both in reshaping and disrupting how we work and in opening up new opportunities for greater productivity and innovation. The companies that embrace these developments are the ones that will be successful in the future. In terms of addressing our environmental footprints, Deutsche Post DHL Group aims to achieve net zero logistics-related emissions by 2050. Up to 2025, four interim targets will be used to track progress with the implementation of the new target. In the future, the company will focus its activities even more intensively on emission-neutral logistics concepts.
How do you evaluate the situation in the freight forwarding sector in Africa?
Having provided world-class freight services in Africa for the past few decades, we have seen the rapid economic growth and development in the region, and the opportunities which businesses here can tap into. With our long-term expertise and with the support of our extensive, global network, we at DHL Global Forwarding work every day towards offering our clients the best possible tailor-made solutions, which meet their evolving business needs. We remain committed to supporting them with timely, agile, and cost-effective global freight connections that allow them to reach their fullest potential. And our approach is clear: We think global and act local. That requires us to have a global and long-term view, while at the same time operating within local or regional constraints or cultural restrictions, to best maximise the situation.
Could you shed some light on the geographical importance of Africa to DHL?
Africa is one of our network’s fastest growing markets. With rising disposable incomes and more stable economic and socio-political environment, Africa as a region presents many opportunities for businesses. According to African Development Bank Group, trade among African countries expanded from 10 per cent in 2000 to about 16 per cent in 2014, creating sizable opportunities as disposable incomes rise continent-wide. As the region gains in economic importance “ not least due to its strategic value to initiatives like China’s Belt and Road,“ businesses in the Middle East and Africa need comprehensive freight connections, flexible capacity, and durable partnerships more than ever before if they wish to grow alongside these opportunities. That’s what we are in the business of offering: what works best for our clients – they can leverage our extensive network and expertise to extend their foray in the international markets.
As a global company, how do you stay relevant to local needs in a continent that is so diverse?
DHL is an established global logistics service provider; staying close to the market with strong local knowledge and experience, and being adaptable and responsive to customer needs are DHL’s fundamental principles. With our long-term expertise and with the support of our extensive, global network, we work every day towards offering our clients the best possible service and solution. We are also heartened that our clients also see the value we bring to their table – in 2017; we were voted Africa’s International Freight Forwarder of the Year for the fourth consecutive year by readers of STAT Times, a leading international air freight publication.
What are the best practices/strategies that you employ, to seek out, develop and implement solutions for trade requirements?
DHL has been driving innovations through various initiatives which enable us to identify and implement changes that improve trade flows as well as meet our customer needs even before they anticipate them. Our footprint expansion will play a major role in facilitating international trade across the region especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are consistently seeking access to growth opportunities beyond our borders.
Safety and reliability of delivery are traditionally perceived as the key competitive strength of the global freight forwarding business. What initiatives does DHL undertake to bring its services in line with the market expectations?
We facilitate global trade and offer innovative logistics solutions to help businesses tap into opportunities. In Nigeria for example, we are the only freight forwarder with a bonded warehouse at the Port Harcourt International Airport (opened in 2015) and dedicated Customs area to navigate Customs requirements and processes. In Lagos, we have a dedicated air-side facility with in-house Customs at the airport to ensure shortest time possible delivery. We have a total of 1980sqm air-side facility in Lagos and 1000sqm bonded warehouse in Port Harcourt. Staying close to the market and being adaptable and responsive to customer needs are DHL’s fundamental principles.
With economic integration gaining momentum in Africa, what are your thoughts on how these trends will affect the logistics industry, and how does DHL plan to take advantage of this?
Logistics, as an enabler of trade, creates the connections necessary for growth and cross-border commerce, thereby laying the groundwork for thriving businesses, industries and economies. Greater integration of African economies will remove barriers to trade and investment, and logistics as an enabler of trade will also grow to support the region’s logistics needs. For example, when the integration of the three African regional economic communities (RECs): Comesa, SADC and the EAC under the TripartiteFree Trade Area (TFTA) does come into fruition in the near future, the region will see immense growth, for which we can best support with our global expertise and network. We are always actively seeking out new markets to expand our already extensive network in the region, with the best local talents.
A number of countries in the region were some of the hardest-hit in the downturn. Has DHL suffered a knock-on effect from this? How did your strategy develop in the context of the downturn?
As a general principle, Deutsche Post DHL Group is well accustomed to dealing with political, regulatory, social and economic changes around the world. We are confident that we will be able to make any necessary short and mid-term adjustments needed to avert disruption to our operations and to ensure that our customers will continue to enjoy the seamless service they have come to expect from us.
How did the region perform in the past year in terms of volumes and revenues?
Our full year figures are not out till March 2018, and we do not break down our figures by region. The region has been working hard to improve our service quality for our customers, and local businesses are recognising that we offer some of the best-in-class network services to enable them to facilitate trade with the rest of the world. As a general principle, Deutsche Post DHL Group is well accustomed to dealing with political, regulatory, social and economic changes around the world. We are confident that we will be able to make any necessary short and mid-term adjustments needed to avert disruption to our operations and to ensure that our customers continue to enjoy the seamless service they have come to expect from us.