The speech by Marcello Saponaro, ALN & ALNA Chairman, at the opening of Africa Logistics Network 7th annual meeting. Virtual meeting, the second one, with opening cerimony on Tuesday, October 26th 2021. 


My dear friends,
Welcome to our 7th ALN annual meeting and to our 2nd ALNA annual meeting.
Welcome to our new and to our veteran members.
Welcome to you brothers and sisters of ALN and ALNA.


Lets’ start from the bottom. The daily thought that many of us received yesterday from our friend Pratap Nair – FEI Cargo India (ALN member). A quote ascribed to Charles Darwin:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to the change”  

I’m not talking only about the pandemic, even if covid 19 changed the scenario.

All of us know very well what the world of trading and our logistics industry is facing:

  1. Very high freight rates. In some cases multiplied by ten;
  2. Strong ports and dry ports congestion;
  3. Lack of dock workers and… truck drivers and the difficulties to replace them.

And for all these factors the christmas empty-shelf paranoia seems to take hold, encouraging in this way the consumers’ fear and the consequences that this implies. And fear always bring disastrous consequences.

Is then the Grinch, the animated character, winning? Is the Christmas going to be stolen by the green hairy creature?

For sure we are part of a fragile and delicate global supply chain hit by many typhoons.

The world has learned a hard lesson: our interconnected economies are separated by long distances. Delays in one place have ripple effects in many other places. One container not discharged in long beach because the port workers are in quarantine is a container not loaded in Iowa with soy… and it means a potential feed shortage in Southeast Asia.

Not only the pandemic, i said, but yes that has been the beginning of many changes.

During the lockdown people bought stand mixers and treadmills or running machines and many other equipments….  Leaving the just-in-time economy without warehouse stocks for months.

But for months many containers have been shipped all around the world delivering personal protection equipments.

In march the crisis of the vessel Ever Given into the Suez Canal arrived, increasing for weeks the global supply chain disruption.

Then the port congestion and some port shutdowns because of the new Delta variant of the virus were another hit to the system.

In the meantime we can see every day carriers expanding not only their profits but also their activities and trespassing day by day the border with the freight forwarders business.

It’s the digitalization that allows the carriers to  handle shipments from door to door, including additional services as customs clearance and insurance coverage. It’s the digitalization that allows carrier to make very easy the procedures for very easy shipments.

Why to pay an expert freight forwarder to ship every week ten containers with meat from the inland of brazil to the province of modena?  Why to do that if that shipment is tracked point by point in the global blockchain based portal?

Probably they are right.

There won’t be competition in some markets.

But yes, there’s competition in many others.

One year ago, in my opening speech at the 6th and 1st annual meeting i said

Visiting a new customer we can say: hi, we are a small / medium family business. We take care of your cargo much more than any of the 25 or 50 major freight forwarding companies in the world and much much more than any carrier. And this is true, i am sure. But not enough. All this changes if coming, will come for everybody. Because the changes run independently by our wishes.

I think to be allowed to say that i was right. To recognize the need now, Tomorrow and the day after of Tomorrow of professional Freight Forwarders doesn’t mean not to see the need of a change and that the evolution must cover all, including Freight Forwarders.

If i look at our business, daily handled by our operation teams, it appears always more complicated. Why? It should be easier and easier… containerization, standardization, digitalization, should have made it easier for everybody… but not if the process started years ago, leaving to the small and medium companies only the more skilled jobs. And every day more…

This is the reason why we started Africa Logistics Network six years ago. And this is, again, the reason why we started Airfreight Logistics Network for Africa two years ago and Exclusive Project Network last May 2021: to find the niche markets, to find highly skilled partners, to compete with the Multinational Freight Forwarders and now with the shipping lines on the fields where they are the weakest.

Niche markets can be very big, as Africa is, as Project Cargo is. And they are just a couple of examples, not the only ones. The essence is still the knowledge and professionalism of our teams and networking.

Network is that thing that makes small and medium sized companies… bigger!

Believe me, it’s not easy to make a Network. And it’s even more difficult during tough times when companies that have been always reliable and financially stables are not anymore that. We have the Protection Plan but it covers only a small part of the risk. We also have to make always a more strict selection of new members and to suspend, if not even to kick out, the members representing now a risk for the community. This is the only way to continue being a family as we are. A big family founded on confidence and friendship. And every family, sometimes, has to take drastic decision to protect the other members.

What else?  Digitalization and again digitalization. Tracking on line, electronic documents, blockchain based platform… we can’t leave it only to the major companies and carriers.

This is also the priority for Africa to restart growing after covid.

After covid, i said. Let me say one more thing. In all Western and Northern Countries we are talking about the 3rd dose of vaccination.

I think this is correct and right and good and moral for our future but only if not alternative to the first and second dose in the rest of the World and especially in Africa where only 2% of population has been vaccinated.

I think it’s clear to everybody that only if all the World is protected, we are protected. Only if all the World is vaccinated, we can be safe and sheltered from other lockdowns.

Let me close with a quote, as i started.

It’s from Michael Jordan, businessman and former basketball player.

NBA website states that MJ is “by acclamation the greatest basketball player of all time”. And, despite he was the best one, he said

“Talent wins games but teamwork and intelligence wins championship”

I mean… you are the talented one. ALN and ALNA are the teamworks, two of the teamworks needed to win the championship.

Good luck and good work my friends, i’m sure we have a great future together.

And see you! See you soon in Muscat!

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