By Muhammad Usman
As part of efforts to integrate trade and logistics activities in the AfCFTA era, Ethiopian Airlines Group and the African Electronic Trade Group (A-e Trade Group), a social enterprise focused on digitalizing intra-and inter-African trade, have signed an agreement to establish the East African Smart Logistics and Fulfilment Hub, to be domiciled at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
The agreement was signed Friday (30 July 2021) by the two institutions through their representatives: Mr. Solomon Begashaw, global director in charge of cargo sales, and services at Ethiopian Airlines and Mr. Mulualem Syoum, CEO/Chairman of A-e Trade Group, at the headquarters of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa.
A press statement issued by AeTrade in Addis Ababa on Tuesday said the signing of the partnership agreement was witnessed by the AU Commissioner of Economic, Development, Trade, Industry and Mining, Ambassador Albert Muchanga and senior executives from DHL Global, the global leader in the logistics industry. Ethiopian, AeTrade and DHL have a pre-existing continental partnership which has already strengthened the multimodal logistics systems established by Ethiopian at its hub in Addis Ababa.
The statement said Ethiopian, DHL Forwarding (ET/DHL JV) and the AeTrade Group were committed to the establishment of a business relationship to provide end-to end logistics solution in Africa.
“This partnership will integrate all trade and logistics activities – providing an online E-Commerce Platform, warehouse/fulfilment center, transportation and door to door delivery services. The partnership will help the signatories leverage each other’s resources and facilities to promote affordable services to small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) that create jobs and sustainable economic growth across the continent,” said the statement.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that became operational on the 1st January 2021 has the potential of being one of the biggest markets. The Memorandum signed today paves the way to bring added value to this market by unleashing partnerships that enable digital trade and economy to flourish at local, regional and continental levels.
In his remarks after the signing of the agreement, Mr. Mulualem Syoum of A-eTrade Group said AeTrade and Ethiopian were committed to supporting African SMEs to package, brand and ship their “Made in Africa” products around the continent and beyond adding that the two organisations had in December signed an MOU whose action plan had also been finalised.
“Thanks to the JV between Ethiopian and DHL, we are pleased today to witness the signing of this Action Plan by the AeTrade Group, Ethiopian and DHL. As part of their corporate social responsibility, Ethiopian Airlines accepted our proposal to support the IATF Youth Pavilion in a generous manner – and we are pleased to announce a discount of 20 percent for passenger and cargo services for all delegates registered in the Trade Fair from AU Member States to South Africa. This is a major boost and confidence in the upcoming Trade Fair and we invite all stakeholders to take advantage of it,” Syoum said.
In his response, Mr. Solomon Begashaw of Ethiopian Airlines expressed their readiness to move towards making the regional smart and logistics hub project a reality, noting that the hub would be a game changer for Africa, particularly with respect to the implementation of the AfCFTA. “For the past 75 years, Ethiopian Airlines has become a forerunner in realizing many initiatives and we are pleased to be working with the AeTrade Group to make this project a reality,” he said.
In his concluding remarks, the AU Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Industry and Mining, H.E. Amb. Albert Muchanga emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships as means of unlocking opportunities for Africa’s sustainable development, anchored on SMEs and job creation. “In this respect, we see e-commerce as accelerating Africa’s sustainable development, with the logistics and fulfillment sector being an integral part of the process,” he added.
The Ae-Trade Group, Ethiopian Airlines and DHL are already working together to provide services to their customers on the Sokokuu e-commerce platform; they are now seeking to expand their strategic partnership beyond the commercial relationship already existing among the trio. In addition, the three organizations are part of ongoing discussions to establish an inclusive platform for an African Integrated and Fulfilment Initiative, with the trio and the African Civil Aviation Commission and the African Union Commission, being part of the platform’s funding members.
In a related development, the AeTrade Group had Wednesday briefed the leadership of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on their progress in operationalizing the Sokokuu platform during which Mr Syoum presented an award to Dr Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of ECA and the ECA itself, for their roles in making the successful start of trading under the AfCFTA a reality.
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