1) Tell us a little about CGLI and your activities in West Africa.
CGLI is a dynamic network of professional forwarders. Its HQ is in Antwerp. Since the start in 2011 we have managed to find good members in more than 280 locations in the world, mainly ports and important trading places.
The idea is to work together in a spirit of cooperation, hence the slogan: "Simply strong together". By working very closely with our fellow members commercially, operationally and with regards to administration, we can offer to our very large customer-base a service which they can hardly find anywhere else.
Many of our members have regular business with Africa, also West Africa. In some African countries we are still actively looking for members who offer a high quality of service. Our membership fees are very moderate because the network is not a goal but an indispensable instrument, needed to give our customers access to local know-how.
Since 2 years we have been diversifying the CGLI Network. It now has specialized subdivisions: Genfor for general forwarding, Giants for project and breakbulk cargoes, Spider for rolling stock, automotive and vintage cars, Thermo CrossTrade for reefer cargoes and LCL Plus for consolidation cargoes.
I have travelled to Africa very regularly for my previous company and I'm confident that the West African region and the continent will prosper, although it is not always easy and there are many hurdles to overcome for shippers and investors. At least they can count on us and our fellow CGLI members to smoothen their supply chain in the continent.
2) Which supply chain solutions are you most excited about bringing to West African cargo owners?
I remember the days that containers were already used on a large scale in Europe, the States and Asia but not yet in Africa because the infrastructure just wasn’t there yet. In this respect Africa has made a huge step forward with good deep-sea terminals, equipped with modern cranes. This evolution is still going on as we speak. This is a very positive evolution although some ports still suffer from regular congestion problems. With regards to trade facilitation, African governments and legislators still have a lot of work ahead to ensure efficient controls of trade without unnecessarily putting a burden on trade. For example, this is reflected in the cost of custom clearance, which is a lot higher in Africa compared to the European Union, contrary to what you would expect.
In the long run we expect ICT and technical solutions like scanning to become available on a larger scale in Africa too. Also in the field of container repair there are still huge opportunities for companies in African ports. Finally it is obvious that in the field of road construction and development of other transport infrastructure Africa has a bright future ahead.
3) What future plans do you have for the region?
We want to expand our network considerably and be ready for future evolutions. One of our goals is to increase the destinations for our LCL Plus consolidation services.
We are also involved in a joint effort with our fellow members to increase our market share in FCL and project business. For West Africa, the low oil price has been a serious problem for countries such as Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Angola. Now the oil price is slowly recovering so this might stimulate the oil & gas investments in this part of the world where exploitation of oil wells is more expensive than in Saudi Arabia for example.
On the other hand we think Africa will slowly convert to renewable energy. Windmills and sun panel projects can be expected. Also, we may expect African companies to increase the added value in their products and export more semi-finished and finished products rather than to limit themselves to exports of raw materials.
As a forwarder and logistical service provider we are there to assist African companies and companies from anywhere in the world to develop their supply chains in Africa under the best possible circumstances.
4) What challenges do your members face when trying to develop their businesses in the West African transport & logistics industry?
In many countries, the roads are not yet what they should be. Finding good partners is not always easy but this is one of the reason that we participate in the Multimodal West Africa Exhibition and we invite forwarders from West Africa to come and see us. As stated before the fees are quite moderate and should not be a hurdle. Each year we come together with all members for 3 days. This gives us the opportunity to discuss with all network members during a general meeting, meetings of the sub divisions and one-to-one meetings where the members discuss their bilateral business.
5) Who are you and your members looking forward to meeting at Multimodal West Africa 2018?
We wish to establish contacts with shippers, consignees, traders and forwarders from the region. In Africa, a personal approach and face to face contacts are highly appreciated and so it should be. A long-lasting relationship, based on trust, is easier to establish if you can look each other in the eye rather than just communicate with email.
Since the concession of 26 terminals to private terminal operators on the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) model, Nigerian ports have witnessed a rapid transformation. West Africa now boasts a substantial presence of international port operators including: APM Terminals, Bolloré, China Merchants, CMA Terminals, DP World, ICTSI, Portek and TIL Group.
6) What would be your message to members who are interested in expanding their operations in the region?
We are a group of forwarders and stick to our profession, although this also includes warehousing, handling, stuffing, stripping, lashing and securing. We leave the actual stevedoring investments to the big container terminal operator groups, mentioned above.
Raymond Van Achteren, born in Antwerp, Belgium is the CEO of forwarding company Cargologin and founder/president of the CGLI Network. At a young age he learned the ins and outs of forwarding and logistics while working for Schenker, Gerlach and Cargo. In 1987 he founded ECU-Line, which soon became one of the major players in consolidation/NVOCC worldwide. He sold this company 20 years later to an Indian group. In 2011 he established Cargologin and the CGLI Network. Cargologin employs some 50 people and has its own bonded warehouse in the Antwerp port area. Raymond also owns companies in trading and wholesale, mainly in furniture and vintage cars.
The CGLI network is now active in nearly 130 countries and has nearly 300 members worldwide.Read more exclusive interviews