Audrey D’Angelo

International courier company DHL is investing heavily in encouraging the growth of small business and cross-border trade in sub-Saharan Africa.

DHL has depots in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

Sumesh Rahavendra, DHL Express’s head of marketing in the region, said it had started dealing with small business in the region and, to facilitate this, had increased the number of its depots from 300 to more than 2 000 within a few months.

It was also increasing the number of aircraft in its fleet.

Rahavendra said the lack of infrastructure in the region was preventing the growth of intra-African trade and making the continent mainly reliant on imported manufactured goods, while raw materials were exported. Until recently, most of these goods had come from Europe.

“This is due to lack of accessibility to a large extent, while in many countries the postal services are unreliable. Sub-Saharan African countries desperately need access to other markets, and lack of infrastructure is one of their biggest challenges.”

Rahavendra said South Africa was “playing a huge role” in helping to open up the rest of sub-Saharan Africa to new markets through its trade with China and India.

He said the planned improvement in the road structure was beginning to happen. Plans for a transport corridor from Durban to the copper belt and for a connection between Dar es Salaam and Botswana were under discussion. But it was a massive project that would not happen overnight.

Meanwhile, DHL’s investment in facilitating cross-border trade was growing every year. The German-based company would not disclose figures, but it added five or six aircraft to its delivery fleet last year and would continue to expand its facilities on the continent.

He said this expansion would not stop even when the planned roads connecting African countries were provided. “Europe has an effective road network but there is still a demand there for express deliveries by air and they will still be needed in Africa.”