Last month, representatives of Maersk were invited to share their East Africa project in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, hosting the fifth year review of Aid for Trade – a concept to support developing countries and their governments in recognising the role trade plays in their countries’ development.
Maersk Line pointed out that the journey of a container encompasses a maze of processes and paperwork that greatly complicates a simple task of moving cargo from A to B, with these complications being cost-heavy due to lost or inaccurate information.
"More than 30 individuals or institutions are involved in handling documentation and there are about 200 different communication interactions in the process, with public officials and between different companies," the group said. "Consequently, the time spent waiting on paper stamps and email replies costs just as much as the actual shipment, which simply is not a feasible or productive way to do business. For producers in Kenya all of the paperwork and its processes increase their total cost and limit their market access significantly."
The mapping of numerous documentary requirements in the journey of flowers and avocados from growers in East Africa to retailers in the Netherlands was the first step of a new partnership between Maersk Line and TradeMark East Africa, a not-for-profit organisation working to accelerate poverty reduction in the region through trade growth.
The aim of the partnership is to identify ways to reduce trade barriers for Small and Medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and perishable products out of East Africa, and to support companies in East Africa to gain easier entry to the world market.
By taking an active role in addressing trade barriers, Maersk Line aims to build lasting commercial relationships in the region. The next step in the project with TradeMark East Africa and partners in the region is to demonstrate how to digitise the unnecessarily complex process entirely, thereby, reducing the cost of administration and bureaucracy for everyone including the local producers.
“At Maersk Line, we have a natural interest in seeing trade growing and countries prospering from increased exports and imports," said Steve Felder, Maersk Line´s managing director for East Africa. "By taking an active role in addressing trade barriers, we aim to build lasting commercial relationships. We hope that the lessons we learn from pilot projects can be replicated and scaled in the future.”