Bifasor promising start in West Africa
We — Zakaria, Steven and Rym, three of the five co-founders of Bifasor — have just returned from a challenging, yet rewarding trip to Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Burkina Faso in West Africa.
Our objectives were to launch the pilot version of the Bifasor e-platform, to recruit our first users, and to meet key national authorities in transport and logistics. We did not choose these countries at random. For one, Bifasor has strong connections in all three: Zakaria was born in Côte d’Ivoire and his family comes from Burkina Faso; Rym, Steven and Zakaria all met in Ghana while they were living and working there. These countries also represent a strategic consideration for Bifasor’s beta test phase: we purposely included the French speaking country of Burkina Faso, which is landlocked, because it relies on a freight corridor with English-speaking Ghana, a fact which poses problems for Burkinabé shippers and transporters looking to clear customs in a language they are not familiar with.
Côte d’Ivoire: government reforms for the professionalization and modernization of the sector make a promising home for Bifasor
On July 16, we held a press conference in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. In front of an audience made up of media and logistics professionals, we explained what Bifasor is and how it works, its role in improving logistics for companies in Africa and abroad, and its ability to open new economic opportunities in the country.
The media coverage was excellent with articles on Bifasor appearing in the much read daily newspaper Fraternité Matin, on the website Abidjan.net, and in a televised report during the afternoon and at primetime on the national television station RTI (watch here)
It was also an opportunity for us to meet Mr. Fofana Soumaïla, President of the National Union for Professional Transporters of Côte d’Ivoire (SNTPCI in French) and Vice President of the High Council of Employers for Road Transport Companies (HCPETR in French), and Mr. Mery Koné, Secretary General of SNTPCI, who was present at the press conference. As the two are deeply involved in the implementation of measures promoting the professionalization and modernization of road transport in Côte d’Ivoire, they expressed their enthusiasm for the prospects offered by our platform. They also committed to supporting Bifasor actively and helping to recruit their members to join the platform.
On the same day as a high-level meeting between the HCPETR and the Ministry of Transport, Mr. Soumaïla graciously introduced us to the Minister of Transport, Mr. Gaoussou Touré, who gave us his encouragement and moral support. Our launch coincides with Minister Touré’s proclamation on and commitment to the implementation of reforms aimed at putting in place a new dynamic for a long suffering, yet vital, sector of the national economy. Among these reforms are tax measures designed to encourage the renewal of the country’s aging vehicle fleet, and administrative facilitation for the professionalization of those involved in road transport.
We completed our trip to Côte d’Ivoire with a visit to the premises of the Maritime Organization for West and Central Africa (MOWCA), where we met with Secretary General Amb. Alain Luvambano. MOWCA, which counts 25 Member countries, is responsible for putting in place measures to improve maritime transport and transit and to promote regional and international integration. This meeting was an opportunity to lay the foundations for partnership and future collaboration between Amb. Luvambano’s organization and Bifasor.
Ghana: a favourable context
Ghana proved to be a fertile terrain in terms of applying new technologies to logistics management. At our meeting with the representative of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority at the port of Tema — where 70% of Ghana’s trade occurs — we were impressed by the modern arrangements put in place for the port’s management. An effective investment policy accompanied by a qualified work force makes this port one of the best-performing terminals in Africa. Moreover, the country has enacted reforms to facilitate trade within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), particularly by implementing its commitment to apply the common external tariff.
The Head of Shipper Services & Trade Facilitation at Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA), Mrs. Naa Densua Aryeetey, stressed the importance of effectiveness in service delivery on the part of freight transport professionals. Our innovation particularly caught her attention since it responds to the issues raised by GSA’s members, namely the need for greater transparency in the prices charged by transport and logistics companies, along with the ever present need to reduce costs and time in the transport of goods. Mrs. Aryeetey guaranteed her assistance in implemeting the Bifasor platform.
This trip was also an opportunity for us to meet other pertinent stakeholders including our advisor Mr. Michael Luguje, who is the Secretary General of the Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA); the Chamber of commerce for Burkina Faso in Ghana; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); West Africa Trade Hub; and Borderless Alliance, whose goal is to eliminate barriers to trade in West Africa.
Our stay in Ghana ended with us being filmed for a report on CCTV by journalist Mark Naftalin, who followed us around Accra and Tema as we recruited beta testers. Here are some scenes and images from the filming of the CCTV report, which was broadcast on August 5. (To watch the report, click here).
A beautiful end in Burkina Faso!
The last week of the trip, dedicated to Burkina Faso, ended with an unexpected climax: we spent 45 minutes with the President of Burkina Faso, Mr. Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. Very encouraging about our initiative, the President praised on the one hand the type of entrepreneurship that Bifasor represents, and which he seeks to promote to young people in his country, and on the other hand the benefits of an innovation such as Bifasor to the national economy and to the modernization and formalization of the transport and logistics sector.
This discussion gave rise to another meeting with the Minister of Transport for Burkina Faso, Mr. Soulama Souleymane, to whom we exposed our desire to set up a subsidiary in Burkina Faso. In doing so we believe we can contribute to the improvement of the freight transport sector in a country whose geographical situation demands efficient and effective logistical performance.
Finally, our stay in Burkina Faso allowed us to have the opportunity to meet another one of our advisors, Mr. Ali Traoré, who is the former president of the Burkinabé Shippers Council, which is very influential in the subregion.
Who are our pioneers?
This trip to the field helped us to recruit our first users, who have been essential in providing us feedback during this “proof of concept”. The goal is to use their expertise and experience in the field to assess the features of the platform, verify their relevance, make improvements, and create new functions. It is indeed essential to present a product that corresponds to the constraints and expectations of all our various stakeholders. We selected a representative sample of the sector, including transporters, freight forwarders and forwarding agents from small, medium and large companies, representatives of associations and trade unions, etc. Among them, include:
- in Ivory Coast: KER Logistics, Trident Shipping, Movis-CI, SNTPCI
- in Ghana: Modern World Logistics, Tarzan Enterprise, Emmastar Shipping, Jonmoore International
- in Burkina Faso: CarlService, SOGETRAB, SOTRACOF, STS, Global Air Transport
..and many others!