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Hachem: Nigeria’s e-Commerce Market Worth $12bn

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  • Nigeria’s e-Commerce Market Worth $12bn

Aramex, one of the leading global providers of e-Commerce, logistics and transportation solutions, with a presence in 60 countries, recently expanded its operations to Nigeria. Its Global Chief Executive Officer, Hussein Hachem, in this interview with Obinna Chima, expresses confidence in the ability of the Nigerian economy to regain its place as Africa’s biggest and fastest growing economy despite the headwinds. Excerpts:

At a time when a lot of foreign firms are exiting the country as a result of the shortage in foreign exchange, Aramex has decided to expand its operation to Nigeria. What is the attraction of your firm to Nigeria?

Firstly, for us, our strategy is a long term strategy. Look at Nigeria, it has a population of over 180 million people. Out of this, 62 per cent are youths and they are highly connected on the internet and there is massive usage of mobile phones. So, we believe that the time is ripe to really connect the Nigerian communities to the global revolution of e-Commerce. What we want to do is to ensure that a lot of Nigerians are able to access the global connection of e-Commerce and be able to buy anything he or she wants from the global e-Commerce market and we would do the supply chain.

That is one component. We believe Nigeria is the hub of the region and we would like to connect more Nigerians to their neighbors. So, that is the value we are looking for. Foreign exchange scarcity is a global issue. The challenge in Nigeria is also what they are facing in South Africa, the same thing in Europe as well. If you look at the Pounds, it has depreciated by 22 per cent. So, it is a global phenomenon. However, our outlook is beyond the short-term. We have a long-term business strategy for Nigeria. Foreign exchange scarcity is just a short-term challenge.

So, Aramex has been public in the Dubai financial market. We have been in operation for the last 35 years. Our core geography is the Middle East, North Africa, Sub Saharan Africa, Asia specific, with footprints in Europe and the United States. We believe growth markets are quite interesting and we believe Aramex’s footprint in this market would help facilitate trade. However, trade is changing and it is changing because of technology and acceleration of technology is changing lives.

We believe that through the quantum leap in technology, there are lots of opportunities to be captured globally as well as in Nigeria. So, we believe there are lots of interesting business opportunities within the Nigerian economy. Through start ups, Lagos is becoming in Silicon Valley of Africa. There are great ideas happening here and we would like to support that. Similarly, Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa and there is a lot of trade happening between Nigeria and its neighbours, Nigeria and China, Nigeria and South Africa, and we want to be involved in that. So, Nigeria is the latest in our African expansion.

We have been covering Africa for several years and we currently operate all across East Africa, with Kenya as the hub. We are in South Africa and Angola. So, out of 53 African countries, we have a direct and 100 per cent presence in 28 of the countries and we connect the rest through partnership agreements. We believe in this economy and we believe that the GDP of the Nigerian economy has the possibility of becoming $6 trillion by 2050 because the economy has all the right components for growth and we are willing to participate and accelerate that growth.

Clearly, you must have done your research before coming into the country. What are the opportunities you see for e-Commerce in Nigeria?

The e-Commerce market in Nigeria is in the range of $12 billion. But, that is only at the tip. The challenge is in ha aving a proper payment gateway that would allow people to pay online. We are working on that and I think a partnership between us, the payment gateway and the telecoms would do that. You will see more people participating in the e-Commerce solutions that we are bringing into the country.

What is your partnership with the Nigerian Postal Service all about?

We work very closely with the public sector, not only in Nigeria, but wherever we operate and NIPOST is one of such. So, we look forward to expand our relationship with the post. We believe the post is evolving globally. We believe the post office is the natural solution for e-Commerce because it has the reach. The postman is highly recognized by the community and he is a secured person by design.

Everybody knows him and they have the network. So, it is quite natural for us to work with several post operators to ensure that an e-Commerce shipment is delivered to the right address anywhere across the country. We believe in an ecosystem whereby Aramex would work very closely with the post so that we can extend our solutions and technology across Nigeria. We have done something similar in Australia. We have an agreement with Australia Post, which is a joint venture, whereby we are filling the global capacity of e-Commerce through a hybrid system. So, we recognise the importance of post and we are exploring the opportunity of a partnership with NIPOST.

We have other firms in the sector you wish to play in, what is the unique selling point of Aramex and what is that special offer you are bringing to the Nigerian market?

We understand that the demand on service is changing, we understand that supply chain is evolving and we do understand that our current model, which is the traditional model, where you have a company that controls technology and its deployment, does not fit into the digital economy. So, what is different is that we are working on a concept that would involve the communities. That means you would see us investing in startups and working with technology start ups to enhance the ecosystem. There is a problem we are having presently and it is not a Nigerian problem.

It is a global shortage of capacity. And we believe that the growth of e-Commerce is surpassing the growth of infrastructure. What we have built is a technology that allows anybody to become and Aramex delivery man. We have an online billing system that is sophisticated and that would be extended and deployed in Nigeria. We are launching our addressing system, so you don’t have a challenge on your address anymore. It is an app that is fully integrated and as soon as you get into any street.

So, I think the technology component is unique, the mindset that we have about the Nigerian market is unique, the idea of youth and community participation are unique. So, that is what we are bringing into Nigeria. If you go to Amazon right now and you do any online transaction, there is 99 per cent probability that if would be an Aramex delivery. We have mail box solutions that allow anybody in Africa to shop from 18 cities and we would bring the package to you. We have really passed on the power to our agents and they can do third party billing. That is a great way of exporting our service and also part of efforts of encouraging Nigerian companies to do either imports or exports.

How would your service support the activities of exporters and how do you intend to drive awareness of your brand with the stiff competition in the industry?

There are thousands of courier companies in Nigeria as well as thousands of logistics companies. And we have been going from city to city meeting with the CEOs and management. The main issue we see today is that a lot of companies are focused on domestic deliveries, whereas Nigeria is known to be an import-dependent nation. We have already started listing multiple agents. What we have done is that we have installed our technology, we have given them access to be able to operate in training and today any company that is linked to our system is able to independently request a pick up to any of our globa, distribution lines. We have really passed on the power into our agents and they can do third party billing, which means that if a customer or company has a shipment they want.

For awareness, one way that we can reach everybody is through mobile and digital. The economy has changed, so social platforms and digital tools are the best ways to drive awareness. You can authorise from Twitter, Facebook and different platforms and from there reach everyone.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Crude Oil

Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

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Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

Oil retreated from an earlier rally with investment banks and traders predicting the market can go significantly higher in the months to come.

Futures in New York pared much of an earlier increase to $63 a barrel as the dollar climbed and equities slipped. Bank of America said prices could reach $70 at some point this year, while Socar Trading SA sees global benchmark Brent hitting $80 a barrel before the end of the year as the glut of inventories built up during the Covid-19 pandemic is drained by the summer.

The loss of oil output after the big freeze in the U.S. should help the market firm as much of the world emerges from lockdowns, according to Trafigura Group. Inventory data due later Tuesday from the American Petroleum Institute and more from the Energy Department on Wednesday will shed more light on how the Texas freeze disrupted U.S. oil supply last week.

Oil has surged this year after Saudi Arabia pledged to unilaterally cut 1 million barrels a day in February and March, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicting the rally will accelerate as demand outpaces global supply. Russia and Riyadh, however, will next week once again head into an OPEC+ meeting with differing opinions about adding more crude to the market.

“The freeze in the U.S. has proved supportive as production was cut,” said Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro. “We still expect that Russia will push for a significant rise in production,” which could soon weigh on prices, he said.

PRICES

  • West Texas Intermediate for April fell 27 cents to $61.43 a barrel at 9:20 a.m. New York time
  • Brent for April settlement fell 8 cents to $65.16

Brent’s prompt timespread firmed in a bullish backwardation structure to the widest in more than a year. The gap rose above $1 a barrel on Tuesday before easing to 87 cents. That compares with 25 cents at the start of the month.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and oil trader Vitol Group shot down talk of a new oil supercycle, though they said a lack of supply response will keep prices for crude prices firm in the short term.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

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Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

Oil prices rose on Monday as the slow return of U.S. crude output cut by frigid conditions served as a reminder of the tight supply situation, just as demand recovers from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brent crude was up $1.38, or 2.2%, at $64.29 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate gained $1.38, or 2.33%, to trade at $60.62 per barrel.

Abnormally cold weather in Texas and the Plains states forced the shutdown of up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude production along with 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas output, analysts estimated.

Shale oil producers in the region could take at least two weeks to restart the more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude output affected, sources said, as frozen pipes and power supply interruptions slow their recovery.

“With three-quarters of fracking crews standing down, the likelihood of a fast resumption is low,” ANZ Research said in a note.

For the first time since November, U.S. drilling companies cut the number of oil rigs operating due to the cold and snow enveloping Texas, New Mexico and other energy-producing centres.

OPEC+ oil producers are set to meet on March 4, with sources saying the group is likely to ease curbs on supply after April given a recovery in prices, although any increase in output will likely be modest given lingering uncertainty over the pandemic.

“Saudi Arabia is eager to pursue yet higher prices in order to cover its social break-even expenses at around $80 a barrel while Russia is strongly focused on unwinding current cuts and getting back to normal production,” said SEB chief commodity analyst Bjarne Schieldrop.

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Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

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Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

Oil prices rose to $65.47 per barrel on Thursday as crude oil production dropped in the US due to frigid Texas weather.

The unusual weather has left millions in the dark and forced oil producers to shut down production. According to reports, at least the winter blast has claimed 24 lives.

Brent crude oil gained $2 to $65.47 on Thursday morning before pulling back to $64.62 per barrel around 11:00 am Nigerian time.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 2.3 percent to settle at $61.74 per barrel.

“This has just sent us to the next level,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. “Crude oil WTI will probably max out somewhere pretty close to $65.65, refinery utilization rate will probably slide to somewhere around 76%,” Yawger said.

However, the report that Saudi Arabia plans to increase production in the coming months weighed on crude oil as it can be seen in the chart below.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister, warned that it was too early to declare victory against the COVID-19 virus and that oil producers must remain “extremely cautious”.

“We are in a much better place than we were a year ago, but I must warn, once again, against complacency. The uncertainty is very high, and we have to be extremely cautious,” he told an energy industry event.

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