Small businesses have global potential thanks to e-commerce.
SMEs active on the internet export more than traditional businesses.
Heightened economic activity can especially benefit women.
Globalization got a bad rap in part because, by sweeping aside barriers to the movement of capital, labour and goods, it was perceived to have favoured large corporate interests over all others.
With the unfolding e-commerce revolution, however, a fairer and more inclusive balance is reshaping the global business environment to provide more room and opportunity for small businesses, especially those headed by women.
E-commerce: small business accelerator
Today, small businesses – even one-person “social sellers” – can run as global entities thanks to the growing availability of inexpensive digital tools that allow them to source, ship, deliver, pay, collect and virtualize other key aspects of their operations. The fast-developing e-commerce ecosystem, which includes marketplaces, payment gateways and online logistics, is helping to reduce barriers to trade across borders.
Export participation rates for traditional small businesses (those that typically do not sell online) range between 2-28% in most countries. In contrast, 97% of internet-enabled small businesses export, according to the World Trade Organization.
Why is this a big deal? Because firms participating in global value chains see the strongest gains in productivity, income and quality of employment. A report by the World Bank points out that in developing countries like Ethiopia, firms that are part of global value chains are twice as productive as other firms. And in a broad number of emerging markets, companies that take part in global trade are also more likely to employ more women than others with more traditional, male-dominated business models. Female participation in the labour market, in turn, correlates strongly to societal gains in health, education and overall prosperity.
Put simply, e-commerce is creating economic employment opportunities for new sets of players. Amazon claims that the 1 million small businesses selling on its platform have created 900,000 jobs in the process. Alibaba’s Taobao, one of the largest e-commerce platforms in China, has 3,200 “Taobao villages” in rural areas where a significant percentage of the village is engaged in e-commerce transactions. No wonder then, that some non-governmental organizations and think tanks are touting e-commerce as a model for developing rural Africa.
E-commerce: gender accelerator
When it comes to the gender effect of e-commerce, the research is still emerging and much of the data is localized, but early signs are promising.
The International Trade Centre (ITC) has found that despite having less access to technology, women use digital platforms to their advantage. The head of the ITC says four out of five small businesses engaged in cross-border e-commerce are women-owned, while just one in five firms engaged in offline trade is headed by women.
Meanwhile, there is more and more evidence to show how e-commerce and digital technology are bringing women to the fore of global trade:
A McKinsey study on Indonesia’s e-commerce sector found that women involved in online commerce generate more revenue than that contributed by those in traditional commerce.
Taobao says 50% of its online shops were started by women, whereas only 3.7% of businesses across 67 other industries in China are headed by females, according to the South China Morning Post.
The World Economic Forum says one in three Middle East start-ups is female-founded. And Cairo-based ExpandCart, one of the region’s most successful e-commerce enablement platforms, says that one-third of small businesses on its platform are owned by women.
Cross-border e-commerce is the fastest-growing segment of international trade, so all of this should come as welcome news for globalization’s critics and fans alike. More importantly, it can help change the two-decade narrative about opportunity, inclusion, fairness and balance in the global economy.
Technology and e-commerce are finally democratizing access to the benefits of global trade, helping globalization live up to its original promise of shared prosperity and growth.
New 900,000 sqm logistics park in Riyadh represents support of Vision 2030
RIYADH – October 20, 2019 – Agility, a leading global logistics provider, today announced the opening of a new 900,000 square meter logistics park in Riyadh, part of a series of investments in the country valued at 1 billion Saudi riyals (SAR).
The new facility, inaugurated on October 17, was developed by Agility Logistics Parks (ALP) and includes 250,000 sqm of built-up, high standard warehousing and logistics facilities. The Riyadh ALP will serve leading multinationals as well as small and medium-sized businesses operating in Saudi Arabia.
H.E. Dr. Nabil Alamoudi, Saudi Arabia Minister of Transportation, said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is heavily investing in logistics infrastructure, to enable us to compete globally, in line with the goal set out in Vision 2030. The support of key private sector partners, such as Agility, will help us achieve this vision.”
The development of the new Riyadh ALP is consistent with Saudi Arabia’s intent to become a regional and global logistics hub. Among the goals outlined as part of the country’s Vision 2030, the Saudi government seeks to diversify the economy, grow the private sector, create new jobs, improve its competitiveness, become a logistics leader, increase non-oil exports, and draw foreign investment.
Henadi Al-Saleh, Chairperson, Agility, said: “Agility is committed to building infrastructure that will strengthen the business environment for both multinationals and small and medium-sized businesses in the Kingdom. Our investments, valued at SAR 1 billion, are aimed at driving the development of logistics facilities across Saudi Arabia. The Agility Logistics Park in Riyadh represents our commitment to supporting the Kingdom’s 2030 vision to become a regional and global logistics hub.”
Across the GCC, and in Saudi Arabia, Agility also invests in technology to transform the logistics industry. Agility is an investor in Homoola, a digital load-matching service that is based in Saudi Arabia and uses technology to improve road freight efficiency by connecting shippers and trucking companies. In addition, Agility’s digital logistics arm – Shipa – also operates in the Kingdom, providing last-mile delivery services as well as access to the world’s most comprehensive online freight forwarding platform.
In the 2019 Agility’s Emerging Markets Logistics Index, Saudi Arabia ranked sixth globally, and fifth for business fundamentals, among the world’s 50 leading emerging markets, indicative of the country’s notable improvement in its business environment.
Geoffrey White, CEO at Agility Africa, speaks to CNBC Africa at the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali at the end of March. Agility is building warehouses and logistics parks to suit a variety of needs across Africa – watch the full interview to find out more.
Agility facility to stock parts for Cummins regional operations in West Africa
ACCRA, Ghana – May 16, 2018 – Agility, a leading global logistics provider, has leased warehouse space in the Agility Warehouse Park in Ghana to Cummins for a new West African Distribution Center.
Cummins, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of diesel engines, generators, filtration and associated engine components, will use the facility to stock and distribute a range of over 10,000 spare parts for Cummins operations across West Africa.
Cummins joins other multinationals and small and medium-sized Ghanaian companies that have chosen the Agility Warehouse Park at Tema because its secure, convenient location provides international standard warehousing and services for their West African operations.
Location was a significant factor in Cummins’ selection. The Agility park is eight kilometers from Ghana’s main seaport and is adjacent to the Aflao highway connecting Ghana to Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria.
Felix Bani, Cummins Operations Manager – Central Supply Chain Operations (CSCO), said: “Product distribution can be fast-tracked, either by road, sea or air. By choosing the Agility Warehouse Park, Cummins has addressed one of the biggest constraints to companies doing business in West Africa – the lack of quality infrastructure.”
Bani said Cummins was also attracted to the facility because it meets international environmental standards and features eco-friendly construction materials. Agility used energy efficient roof and side insulated panels; wind-driven roof fans; skylights for natural lighting; LED and energy-saving bulbs; and solar-powered streetlights. The site will recycle paper, plastic, metal, and carton waste. It provides eco-friendly waste management services and carbon footprint reporting.
The Agility Warehouse Park in Ghana is part of a network of international standard warehouse parks that Agility is funding and developing across key markets in Africa to support the development of domestic and regional trade.
Geoffrey White, CEO Agility Africa, said, “We believe that the provision of international standard warehouses in Africa for storage, distribution and light manufacturing is one of the fundamental building blocks necessary for economic growth. The Agility Warehouse Parks enable companies, whether multinationals such as Cummins, or small and medium enterprises, to access quality infrastructure easily, quickly and cost effectively.”
Agility is one of the world’s leading providers of integrated logistics. It is a publicly traded company with more than $4.6 billion in revenue and more than 22,000 employees in over 500 offices across 100 countries. Agility Global Integrated Logistics (GIL) provides supply chain solutions to meet traditional and complex customer needs. GIL offers air, ocean and road freight forwarding, warehousing, distribution, and specialized services in project logistics, fairs and events, and chemicals. Agility’s Infrastructure group of companies manages industrial real estate and offers logistics-related services, including customs digitization, waste management and recycling, aviation and ground-handling services, support to governments and ministries of defense, remote infrastructure and life support.
Cummins Inc., a global power leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from diesel and natural gas engines to hybrid and electric platforms, as well as related technologies, including battery systems, fuel systems, controls, air handling, filtration, emission solutions and electrical power generation systems. Headquartered in Columbus, Indiana (U.S.A.), since its founding in 1919, Cummins currently employs approximately 58,600 people committed to powering a more prosperous world. Cummins serves customers in about 190 countries and territories through a network of some 500 company-owned and independent distributor locations and approximately 7,500 dealer locations. Cummins earned $1 billion on sales of $20.4 billion in 2017. Press releases can be found on the Web at www.cummins.com. Follow Cummins on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cummins and on YouTube at www.youtube.com/cumminsinc.
JOHANNESBURG – Oct. 9, 2017 – Agility, a leading global logistics provider, today announced the winners of its Africa 2017 Photo Competition, an annual competition showcasing the rapidly changing landscape of Africa.
The contest, now in its third year, drew more than 4,000 entries from professional and amateur photographers from more than 60 countries. The images captured the transformation and modernization of Africa and were grouped into three categories: cities, industries and technology. The winning images showed young Malawian students using tablets at school to learn their local language; a sunset over Nairobi, Kenya; and hot air balloons flying over Luxor, Egypt.
A cash prize of $2,000 was awarded for each competition category. The winners were Judith Hermetter from Great Britain (Technology); Joshua Wanyama of Kenya (Cities); Mohamed Kamal of Egypt (Industry). Hermetter also won the Grand Prize of $2,000 for her photograph of the young Malawian students learning to read using a tablet.
The winning photographs will be showcased on a CNBC Africa telecast, published in Forbes Africa, and featured in Agility social media, promotions and advertising.
“Technology has the potential of being transformational – it can provide personalized quality education in a cost-efficient and scalable way,” Hermetter said.
Geoffrey White, CEO, Agility Africa, said Africans and African governments are “embracing technology – and as a result transforming all parts of society. This year’s Grand Prize photograph illustrates the technological shift that is empowering people with access to knowledge and information. As a company investing heavily in African infrastructure, Agility is seeing the advancements the continent has made on a daily basis, and we are proud to share images that reflect these changes.”
The competition was judged by an independent panel that consisted of Sneha Shah, Managing Director, Thomson Reuters Africa; Bronwyn Nielsen, Editor-in-Chief, CNBC Africa; and Salim Amin, Chairman of CameraPix and co-founder of Africa24 Media.
“Agility’s photo competition is key to getting the message out about what is really going on in Africa – the alternative energy sources from wind, sun and water; the leading edge technology in schools; the tourism opportunities, and our vibrant and growing cities,” said Nielsen.
Technology & Grand Prize: Judith Hermetter | Great Britain
Cities: Joshua Wanyama | Kenya
Industry: Mohamed Kamal | Egypt
ACCRA, Ghana – October, 19, 2016 – Agility, a leading global logistics and infrastructure provider, has opened a distribution park near Ghana’s main port, the first of a network of logistics parks it intends to build across Africa, bringing world-class warehousing and logistics capabilities.
Tenants at the 45-acre Ghana Agility Distribution Park in the Tema Port Free Trade Zone Enclave include multinationals entering the West African market and small and medium-size Ghanaian companies using the park to expand their operations in light manufacturing and export and import.
Agility is developing distribution parks in Cote D’Ivoire, Tanzania, Nigeria, Mozambique and Angola. It has additional sites available in Senegal, Mauritius and Cameroon.
“One of the biggest constraints to companies starting to do business in Africa is the lack of quality logistics and infrastructure,” said Geoffrey White, CEO of Agility Africa. “This is inhibiting the growth of trade, imports, exports and manufacturing.”
The Agility parks provide 24-hour security, reliable power and connectivity, and international-standard warehousing and logistics services. In addition, Agility develops “Build-to-Suit” options for customers to meet their specific requirements.
“Agility is a world leader in developing logistics parks around the globe. We are committed to using this in-depth experience to establish a network of quality facilities in Africa,” White said. “By developing and leasing much-needed warehousing, the Agility Distribution Parks help companies operate in Africa with the reliable, modern and secure infrastructure they need to grow their business, allowing them to access new markets without committing large amounts of capital.”
To meet demand, Agility is building seven more warehouses at the Ghana park in a second phase of development. It is also finalizing proposals for several large Build-to-Suit facilities at the Ghana park, each tailored to specific customer requirements with sizes ranging from 5,000 sqm to 25,000 sqm.
Agility Distribution Parks meet international environmental standards and use eco-friendly construction materials. Agility used energy efficient roof and side insulated panels; wind-driven roof fans; skylights for natural lighting; LED and energy-saving bulbs; and solar-powered street lights. The site will recycle paper, plastic, metal, and carton waste. It provides eco-friendly waste management services and carbon footprint reporting.
The 2016 Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index ranked Ghana as one of the most promising markets in Africa. Africa’s growing middle class and consumer spending were identified as the most significant drivers for Africa’s growth in the Index, an annual ranking of the world’s most attractive emerging markets countries.
To provide training in management and logistics-related skills, Agility has developed leadership programs for Africa that are available to local employees and university graduates. Trainees will have the opportunity to gain experience working with Agility in Ghana and around the world.
“Agility is investing in the future of Africa by funding and developing projects that build long-term sustainable businesses. The Ghana distribution park is just the first step,” White said. “We are proud to be supporting Ghana’s economic growth, and the economic growth of Africa as a whole.”
Agility brings efficiency to supply chains in some of the globe’s most challenging environments, offering unmatched personal service, a global footprint and customized capabilities in developed and developing economies alike. Agility is one of the world’s leading providers of integrated logistics. It is a publicly traded company with more than $4.1 billion in revenue and more than 22,000 employees in over 500 offices across 100 countries. Agility’s core commercial business, Global Integrated Logistics (GIL), provides supply chain solutions to meet traditional and complex customer needs. GIL offers air, ocean and road freight forwarding, warehousing, distribution, and specialized services in project logistics, fairs and events, and chemicals. Agility’s Infrastructure group of companies manages industrial real estate and offers logistics-related services, including e-government customs optimization and consulting, waste management and recycling, aviation and ground-handling services, support to governments and ministries of defense, remote infrastructure and life support.
Across Africa, Agility is developing a network of international-standard distribution parks to provide warehousing, reliable infrastructure and secure environments that offer consistent power and connectivity. Agility’s experience in emerging markets enables it to move cargo from anywhere in the world to any destination safely, on time and on budget for consumer goods makers, energy and mining companies, and other customers. In addition to logistics solutions, Agility also develops and manages fuel infrastructure and distribution, airport services and ground handling, remote site camps and catering, and customs modernization solutions across Africa.