Successful implementation could see 80m jobs transferred from Asia

African leaders after agreeing to establish the African Continental Free Trade Agreement at an African Union summit in Kigali, Rwanda in March 2018 © AFP/Getty Images


May 2019 saw the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, creating a single market of 1.3bn people that will grow to an estimated 2.5bn by 2050. A market where 60 per cent of the population is under 25, and where there’s an appetite for high levels of consumption of fast- moving consumer goods. The challenge is: how do we make it work?

The AfCFTA has been signed by 54 of the 55 countries in Africa (only Eritrea has not signed it) and ratified by over half of the signatories. It creates a real opportunity for Africa to liberalise over 90 per cent of intra-Africa tariffs and deliver significant growth on the continent.

Successful implementation of the agreement has the potential to establish Africa as a global manufacturing centre and could, ultimately, result in an estimated 80m jobs in Asia being transferred to Africa.

CEOs of African businesses have their fingers crossed that this is, finally, tangible progress towards a homogenous single market. But they remain sceptical that such an ambitious agreement can be successfully implemented, given the limited success of previous African regional free trade zones and initiatives.

The first step to a successful AfCFTA was a high level of participation which, against all odds, has been achieved. The second step, due to commence in July 2020, is the implementation and practical adoption of the trade practices, processes and infrastructure required to establish a working free zone across 54 countries. Precedent for such a Herculean task exists: the Asean free trade zone has been a notable success, creating a platform for manufacturing, regional trade and a stimulus for jobs and prosperity.



By this year Africa will have a larger working population than China and India combined


Much of the momentum to date has been driven by the African Union and the continent’s development finance institutions, which have ushered the process forward, often having to use all the leverage and persuasion they have available. Encouragingly, they are now fully committed to implementation, resourcing and supporting a meaningful launch and delivering achievable steps by July 2020. The agreement will take until 2030 to be fully operational.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa takes on the presidency of the AU in 2020 and understands the benefits of the AfCFTA and the need to drive the process forward. There is concern, however, that he will be preoccupied with the domestic issues boiling in South Africa. It remains to be seen how important the AfCFTA is on his agenda and how much time he is able to allocate to advancing the process.

Africa currently has the lowest intraregional trade in the world. Only 15 per cent of African trade is cross border between neighbouring countries, whereas cross-border trade represents around 65 per cent of the trade in developed markets. The free movement of goods has the potential to trigger a manufacturing boom and establish Africa as a world centre for manufacturing.

Asia’s transformation into a global economic engine began with the production of cheap goods in countries where wages were low and workers abundant. What followed was the development of sophisticated regional value chains, knowledge transfer and upskilling, and the transition from export-led economies to more balanced ones with rising domestic consumption.

Africa has yet to experience anything like that. The lack of cross-border trade today stifles manufacturing across the continent, constraining production to local markets that are difficult to scale. The elimination of tariffs will stimulate trade, enabling companies to expand and develop as they address larger regional markets.

The manufacturing sector will also begin to draw foreign direct investment. This, in turn, will lead to larger production volumes and bring about new efficiencies, enabling African manufacturing to finally have the ability to compete not only in domestic and regional markets but to be more competitive with global manufacturing.


For Africa, successful implementation of the AfCFTA is a game changer with the potential to move millions from a rural subsistence agriculture- based society to an early stage industrial society


By 2040 Africa will have a larger working population than China and India combined. Low wages on the continent are attracting manufacturers from high employment industries, such as the apparel sector, which can manufacturer at a lower cost in Africa than in traditional Asian production centres. The current slowdown in developed markets means that increasing numbers of multinational companies are becoming interested in the African opportunity as a market and as a global manufacturing base.

For Africa, successful implementation of the AfCFTA

is a game changer with the potential to move millions from a rural subsistence agriculture-based society to an early stage industrial society.

Manufacturing wages are five times more productive for GDP growth than agriculture.

Many of the criteria needed for Africa to prosper finally appear to be aligning. These include a highly competitive young workforce that is willing and able to adopt new technology and embrace the fourth industrial revolution, combined with increasing political stability across the continent and vast, untapped energy resource discoveries that are attracting billions of dollars of foreign investment.

The latter is generating dividend payments for governments in countries such as Mozambique, Tanzania, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Mauritania that are sufficient for them to develop as they become net energy exporters.

The AfCFTA has the ability to bind all these prospects together and deliver real growth.

China is first out of the blocks. It is interacting with the private and public sectors in Africa to realise the benefits anticipated from the AfCFTA. Already at the forefront of infrastructure projects in Africa, Chinese manufacturing initiatives are now spreading across the continent.

Chinese companies are relocating their manufacturing hubs from China to Africa in the expectation of tariff-free regional trade and competitive export markets. The alignment of Africa with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is now at the forefront of all Sino-African intergovernmental discussions.

If Africa can implement the agreements in practice, and other countries and trading blocs follow China’s lead, the AfCFTA has a good chance of living up to its promise, propelling Africa to the forefront of global manufacturing.

Geoffrey White is chief executive of Agility Africa, a logistics company.

beyondbrics is a forum on emerging markets for contributors from the worlds of business, finance, politics, academia and the third sector. All views expressed are those of the author(s) and should not be taken as reflecting the views of the Financial Times.


Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

Reported Q3 2019
(Million KD)
Q3 2018
(Million KD)
YTD 2019
(Million KD)
YTD 2018
(Million KD)
Revenue 400.7 394.4 1.6% 1,175.8 1,150.4 2.2%
Net Revenue 133.3 125.2 6.5% 386.4 374.1 3.3%
EBITDA 47.4 39.2 20.9% 142.4 114 24.9%
Net Profit 21.7 20.0 8.4% 63.6 58.9 7.9%
EPS (fils) 13 12 8.4% 38.2 35.4 7.9%


Excluding IFRS16
Q3 2019
(Million KD)
Q3 2018
(Million KD)
YTD 2019
(Million KD)
YTD 2018
(Million KD)
Revenue 400.7 394.4 1.6% 1,175.8 1,150.4 2.2%
Net Revenue 132.5 125.2 5.9% 383.9 374.1 2.6%
EBITDA 40.4 39.2 2.8% 121.4 114 6.4%
Net Profit 22.4 20.0 12.1% 65.6 58.9 11.3%

Numbers above are rounded


KUWAIT – November 14, 2019 – Agility, a leading global logistics provider, today reported third-quarter earnings of 13 fils per share on net profit of KD 21.7 million, an increase of 8.4% (or 12.1% excluding IFRS16 impact) over the same period in 2018. Q3 EBITDA grew 20.9% (or 2.8% excluding IFRS16 impact) to KD 47.4 million, and revenue increased 1.6% to KD 400.7 million.

Year to date, earnings were 38.2 fils per share and net profit was KD 63.6 million, up 7.9% (or 11.3% excluding IFRS 16 impact). Year-to-date EBITDA was KD 142.4 million, an increase of 24.9% (or 6.4% excluding IFRS 16 impact). Revenue for the first three quarters was KD 1,175.8 million, an increase of 2.2%.

“Our Infrastructure portfolio of companies drove our results in the third quarter, with all major entities seeing growth. Our Global Integrated Logistics (GIL) business, on the other hand, was affected by challenging market conditions and trade-war headwinds that have affected the industry as a whole,” Tarek Sultan, Agility Vice Chairman and CEO, said. “Even so, GIL is moving forward aggressively with its digitization agenda to improve operational efficiency and drive a better customer experience.”

Sultan said: “We continue to invest in technology-driven change and seek to be the digital leaders in our industry. Our Agility Ventures team is partnering with innovative start-ups that are re-shaping the supply chain in areas ranging from green technologies to e-commerce. We are also accelerating in-house development, acquisitions, and partnerships to grow our digital logistics platform, Shipa. We believe this is the key to differentiating Agility and positioning us for future growth.”


Agility Global Integrated Logistics (GIL)

GIL EBITDA was KD 7.8 million (excluding IFRS 16 impact), a 1% decline from same period in 2018. The decrease was due to higher operating expenses related to new facilities, as well as investments in digital transformation.

GIL gross revenue was KD 285 million, a 2.4% decline (or 0.7% decline on a constant currency basis) from same period in 2018 due to challenges within the freight forwarding industry. GIL’s Q3 net revenue was KD 67.3 million, a 4% increase (or 5.3% increase on a constant currency basis) vs. Q3 2018.  The net revenue increase was driven mainly by growth in Ocean Freight, Project Logistics and Contract Logistics. The overall net revenue margin was 23.6% in Q3 vs. 22.2% in Q3 2018.

Q3 Air Freight volume fell 15.8% (in tonnage) as a result of trade concerns and lower demand from customers across industries and geographies.  This decline in volume was partially offset by higher yields – expressed as net revenue/ton – which increased 15.5%. As a result, Air Freight net revenue decreased 2.8% vs. Q3 2018.

Ocean Freight TEUs fell 9.3%, but Q3 yields improved 13.7% vs. the same period in 2018. GIL Ocean Freight yields were strongest in the Americas and Europe. Ocean Freight net revenue improved 3.2% as compared with Q3 2018.

Contract Logistics posted healthy growth, mainly in the US, Australasia, India and Singapore, with the MEA region continuing to perform well.  Project Logistics also showed solid and increased growth.

Excluding IFRS 16 impact, year-to-date GIL EBITDA was KD 24.5 million, flat vs. the same period in 2018. Year-to-date net revenue improved 2.7%, and revenue fell 2.1%.

To strengthen performance and its market differentiation, GIL is implementing its digital strategy. By accelerating its digital transformation, GIL intends to enhance customer and supplier connectivity, create innovative complex customer solutions, increase the efficiency of its business processes, and enable comprehensive business insight.


Agility’s Infrastructure Companies

Agility’s Infrastructure group EBITDA rose 3.8% to KD 32.6 million in the third quarter. Revenue reached KD 119.7 million, an increase of 13.4%. For the nine months, EBITDA grew 8.3%; and revenue increased 14.5% (all numbers exclude IFRS 16 impact).

Agility Logistics Parks (ALP) reported a 14.2% increase in third-quarter revenue as compared with the same quarter in 2018. Revenue from facilities completed in late 2018 contributed to strong results, as did yield improvement at existing facilities. Near-term growth will be driven by development of new logistics parks and warehouses in Saudi Arabia and Africa, along with optimization of the company’s land bank in Kuwait.

Tristar, a fully integrated liquid logistics company, posted 9.6% revenue growth in the third quarter, driven by increases in road transport, warehousing operations and the shipping business, in addition to business wins from new and existing customers. Tristar continues to execute and to look for opportunities to unlock additional value for its shareholders.

National Aviation Services (NAS) revenue rebounded, growing 8.5% in Q3 after a difficult start to the year. NAS’s first-half performance was hurt by unforeseen regulatory and operational expenses in Kuwait, price reduction in Cote d’Ivoire, and a temporary reduction of flights in and out of Afghanistan. NAS expects improvement in results to continue into Q4 and 2020. Operations in Mozambique, Tanzania and Morocco remain in launch phases and are hindering group performance, but Uganda, Jordan and Egypt continue to outperform.

United Projects for Aviation Services Company (UPAC) posted Q3 revenue growth of 1.4%. UPAC operations are still being affected by the shift in passenger traffic to dedicated airline terminals at Kuwait International Airport.  UPAC has been able to offset the impact by generating new revenue from car park management operations in (T4) and through the strong performance of its real estate management operations in Kuwait.  In Abu Dhabi, construction continues to progress on Reem Mall, a $1.2 billion project.

GCS, Agility’s customs modernization company, posted revenue growth of 8.2% in Q3. Gains were driven by implementation of new services in customs operations, digital services for the trade community, and port operations. GCS continues implementing digital initiatives to drive efficiency and improve profitability.


Recap of Agility third quarter 2019 Financial Performance (reported)

Leveraging the Agility network of logistics and supply chain experts, Agility launched the Smart Shipping content hub, a dedicated page providing practical and timely content focused on three main topics: Incoterms, Regulations, and Shipping Tutorials.

Agreement broadens cooperation, gives JD Logistics freight capacity, local warehousing options

Left to Right: Zachary Gidwitz and Stard Huang of JD Logistics stand alongside Henadi Al-Saleh and Sushant Palakurthi Rao of Agility at JD Logistics’ 4th Global Supply Chain Summit in Beijing


BEIJING – Oct. 30, 2019 – Agility, a leading global logistics provider, together with its digital innovation arm, Shipa, has signed a memorandum of understanding with JD Logistics, an independent business group under, China’s largest retailer, to collaborate on logistics in fast-growing e-commerce markets.

Agility and JD Logistics will work together to make it easier for consumers in some of the world’s fastest growing markets to get access to JD’s product range and products offered by JD Logistics’ merchant partners. The new agreement focuses on cross-border logistics, procurement and retail. It covers markets in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

In Southeast Asia, Agility will act as a cross-border business-to-consumer (B2C) trunk service provider, utilizing its strong air freight capacity, and will also act a local business-to-business (B2B) warehouse provider. In the Middle East and Africa, Agility will act as JD’s primary logistics service provider and will handle terminal customs clearance and delivery services for its B2C line, helping JD Logistics improve its local logistics system and build a more complete transportation service network. Jointly, Agility and JD Logistics will build door-to-door cross-border and local B2C services. JD Logistics is the operator of China’s largest B2C e-commerce fulfillment network.

In addition, Agility and JD will also cooperate in retail and procurement by promoting high-quality products made or assembled in the Middle East and Africa to Chinese sourcing merchants, and creating more sales channels for Chinese merchants. Agility will also help strengthen JD’s international supply chain. At the same time, JD will leverage its extensive logistics network and industry expertise to help Agility and its partners further enhance their footprint in the Chinese market, and increase overall operations efficiency.

Henadi Al-Saleh, Chairperson of Agility, said: “Agility has a long record of providing specialized services in emerging markets. By partnering with JD Logistics, we will leverage our respective strengths to make it easier to connect the businesses looking to tap the consumer demand in fast-growing markets such as ASEAN and the Middle East with the vast supplier base in China.”

Zhenhui Wang, CEO of JD Logistics said: “JD Logistics has developed advanced supply chain systems, technology and operations, and has extensive supply chain and logistics management experience. By partnering with Agility, we will provide customers with a variety of transportation services for ocean, land, air and rail transportation, helping us design the optimal logistics solution to reduce costs and increase efficiency for customers.”

The MOU was signed at JD Logistics’ 4th Global Supply Chain Summit in Beijing. The summit focused on the impact of advanced technologies on the global industrial economy and examined how artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and blockchain will affect economic and social development.

Supply chain and logistics operations in Africa are beset by difficulties including a lack of infrastructure and suitable storage facilities. One logistics provider, Agility Africa, hopes to tackle this by establishing a chain of high-quality warehouses throughout the continent


Operating in Africa can be a big challenge, and the establishment of a new supply chain there even more so. The acquisition or construction of decent storage facilities, the recruitment of suitable staff and the need to contend with local laws are all potential barriers to setting up business. However, Agility Africa, a division of the Kuwait-based parent company which operates in more than 100 countries, aims to change this by “de-risking” the process and providing a series of well-managed logistics facilities across the continent.

Geoffrey White, CEO of Agility Africa, told Automotive Logistics that the company has a “build it and they will come” strategy regarding setting up warehouses in key ports on the continent. “There is a risk perception regarding Africa that is incredibly high,” he says. “This is a big disincentive for a lot of people to come.”

In implementing this strategy, the company is committing itself to major investments: at least $200m on each park. These start with a first phase covering around 25,000 sq.m, with more space of similar size added as demand grows.

Read full article on Automotive Logistics

Agility Fairs & Events has been the official logistics partner of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia since 2016. Watch how we ensure precision both on and off the track. It takes Agility.


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.

How the next wave of innovation is changing the supply chain. What you need to know about blockchain, IoT, Robotics Process Automation, AI, data science and how they are changing your business.

Successful contract extension includes innovative paperless technology and digital dimensioning solution

Bonn, Hamburg, September 24, 2019: Messe Frankfurt, one of the world’s largest exhibition, congress and event organizers, has extended its exclusive cooperation with forwarding agents DHL Trade Fairs & Events and Agility for five years. This is the third time in a row that both companies have been contracted as the official logistics providers for the exhibition grounds in Frankfurt. These grounds span almost 60 hectares, and feature 11 halls with over 400,000 sqm of indoor and outdoor exhibition space. Messe Frankfurt organizes close to 50 trade fairs a year, including the Frankfurt Book Fair and the International Motor Show (IAA).

“We’re proud to be an exclusive logistics partner for Messe Frankfurt”, says Stefan Engisch, Head of Trade Fairs & Events Germany. “This contract is one of the biggest in global exhibition logistics and by combining best-in-class services and innovative technological solutions we have once more proven being provider of choice for fair and event logistics.”

At the Messe Frankfurt exhibition grounds, Agility and DHL work closely to coordinate the delivery of goods to the exhibition grounds, handle customs procedures, loading and unloading, and ensure the timely delivery of exhibits and their assembly at exhibition stands. Exhibitors have access to a large warehouse for empty transport packaging and unneeded exhibition material. To facilitate and expedite the dimensioning and registration process of all incoming and outgoing shipments DHL Trade Fairs & Events implemented an innovative volume measurement solution. The solution works with camera sensors of a renowned game consoles manufacturer using 3D camera technology.

Further, a specially designed IT solution has been introduced to ensure the smooth and largely paperless handling of all orders, giving all three partners – Messe Frankfurt, DHL and Agility – simultaneous access to all information from every order. Employees will use mobile devices to record all deliveries upon arrival. Additionally, orders, changes and performance specifications can be saved and displayed in real time.

“Agility has been working with DHL to organize professional logistics for exhibitors and visitors at Messe Frankfurt since 2007. Our experience working at this venue gives us unrivaled knowledge of the exhibition space, and demonstrates our successful track record of delivering outstanding logistics services at events and exhibitions across the globe,” said Markus Lingohr, CEO for Central Europe at Agility.

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