Hope you’re well.
I’ve been absorbed the last few months working on a simple timer that is built around my thinking on habit building, it’s about 75% done and now I’m looking to learn more from others about their productivity methods of choice. Would love to hear from you.
In case you missed it, here is last month’s newsletter.
The Apapa Port in Lagos, Nigeria, is legendary for it’s long delays in processing imports. In fact, people prefer to ship parts to neighbouring Cotonou in Benin Republic or Lome in Togo (now West Africa’s busiest port even though it can’t handle the same volume as Lagos), unload the parts, and drive back into Lagos after paying any tariffs at the land border(s).
Those who don’t do that are liable to have their trucks line up for days waiting to get into the port. This gridlock is caused by multiple reasons, but the chief one is that the port is at its holding limit.
The line of trucks waiting to get into the Apapa Port, that line easily goes on for another km. Source: Yahoo Finance.
In fact, the port has been cited as one of the reasons for the delay in completing a new private refinery in the city. Dangote, who’s Nigeria’s richest man and is building the refinery, has a fix for this: he’s built a small certified port near the refinery’s site.
Last month, the port authority introduced a call-up system where truck drivers can sign up and receive a time frame to come into the port as a way to reduce this traffic jam. There have been many objections to this new system.
Other entrepreneurs are trying different things. One of them, Deji Anubi, is building a logistics hold in the outskirts of Lagos. With access to mini-terminals around Lagos and a bonded terminal in a nearby state, his plan is for customers receiving goods to avoid Apapa completely. It would be interesting to see how successful that is.
The situation is not very different around the continent. The World Bank produced a paper aptly titled Why Does Cargo Spend Weeks in Sub-Saharan African Ports? Lessons from Six Countries some years ago, which found that contrary to the prevalent thinking the dwell time (how much time shipments spend in ports) is not chiefly affected by port infrastructure. An excerpt from the report reads:
handling and operational dwell time add only two days (except in cases of severe congestion) to the average dwell time of 15 days and more. The bulk of the time pertains to transaction time and storage time, which result from the performance of controlling agencies and, even more important, from the strategies and behavior of importers and customs brokers.
This in turn breeds a situation they termed “The Vicious Cycle of Dwell Time.”
The Vicious Cycle of Dwell Time. Source: World Bank.
They also found that established companies may use long dwell times to prevent competition, similar to a predatory pricing mechanism, as well as to generate considerable rents. So where does that leave small or medium scale entrepreneurs, as most hardware startups are? Likely in the same boat as Deji.
Four years ago, the Senegalese government began to execute their agenda to recruit manufacturing operations to the town of Diamniadio. That has opened up the country to players like MIG who now produce electric bikes out of the country. In The Economist last month [paywall], it was reported that initiatives like that one have helped increase the share of people working in manufacturing in sub-Saharan Africa from 7.2% of the total in 2010 to 8.4% today although some challenges lie ahead.
With the growing influx of Chinese construction firms on the continent, I really enjoyed this piece of ethnography by Cheryl Mei-Ting Schmitz whose research focused on workers at an Angolan firm. While Chinese expansion in Africa is frequently depicted as rapid or exciting, she found that those on its front lines find it quite dull, repetitive, and monotonous.
The recovery of metals through recycling is a growing topic, not just because it is better for the environment but also because it’s cheaper than the extraction of raw materials. One drawback to recycling is the presence of impurities such as insulating particles mixed with conductors (when in granular form), this reduces the quality of the recycled products. Three researchers in Algeria successfully experimented with using Eddy current evaluation [PDF] to predict the percentage output of conducting particles in metal recycling as a means to ensure the purity of the final product.
Anteneh Gashaw is re-designing 25-litre plastic jerry cans to redistribute the weight. [Ethiopia]
Lake Turkana Wind Power is a large wind farm of 365 turbines providing 17% of the country’s installed capacity. [Kenya]
REAL Garments has developed a process to produce jeans using 90% less water than normal. [Mauritius]
The African Enterprise Challenge Fund is receiving applications for their $1.2m Innovation Fund open to entrepreneurs in the clean cooking and renewable energy sectors located in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, or Zimbabwe.
Deadline: April 29.
The ASIP Accelerator is accepting applications from startups developing new solutions in sectors including AgriTech and CleanTech.
Deadline: May 14.
In Madagascar, Jirogasy is developing a solar computer for schools: combining a solar home system, a motherboard integrated behind a touchscreen, and a Pay-As-You-Go module.
Until next time,
Thanks to Seyi for sharing the link to Deji’s thread.