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logistics

What can African countries learn from China about transport and logistics?

Bernard Aritua's picture
Qiulongpo Port Container Terminal in Chongqing. Photo: Li Wenyong/World Bank

The 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Beijing concluded on a high note with a pledge of $60 billion of development assistance from China to countries in Africa – together with the $60 billion pledged 3 years ago, it means China is investing $120bn over 6 years in Africa. Most of this assistance is directed at financing infrastructure. Several African leaders were featured on local and international media, and policy makers are no doubt contemplating the various dimensions of the China-Africa relation.

Logistics: Building skills to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow

Yin Yin Lam's picture


As one of the key foundations for manufacturing, trade and growth, logistics is a strategic component of every economy. The sector can also contribute significantly to job creation. For example, in the UK, logistics is a $120billion industry that employs about 8% of the workforce. In India, it is a $160billion industry accounting for 22 million jobs, with employment growing 8% annually.

In 2016 and 2018, the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index found that many developing countries face a significant skills gap in the logistics sector, especially at the managerial level. Similarly, several studies conducted in emerging economies such as China, India, and South Africa report shortages of supply chain talent.

In that context, emerging economies must tackle two critical challenges in order to develop a competitive logistics sector:
  • How can governments plug the skills gap in logistics?

  • How can the sector cope with the rapid changes brought about by technology, such as warehouse automation “freight uberization” or online platforms matching demand and supply, and their impact on the labor market?
Let’s look at three countries that consistently rank high in various global logistics rankings—Germany, the Netherlands, and Singapore—to see how they manage these challenges.

India: A logistics powerhouse in the making?

Karla Gonzalez Carvajal's picture
Photo: Daniel Incandela/Flickr
The numbers are in: India now ranks 44th in the latest edition of the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index, a relatively high score compared to other countries at similar income levels. This number matters not just to the logistics sector, but to India’s economy as a whole. Indeed, logistics can directly impact the competitiveness of an entire market, as its ability to serve demand is inextricably linked to the efficiency, reliability and predictability of supply chains.

Broadly defined, logistics covers all aspects of trade, transport and commerce, starting from the completion of the manufacturing process all the way to delivery for consumption. To say that it is a complex business is an understatement.

First, there is always a delicate balance between the public arm, which provides the roads, railways and waterways, and lays down the rules and regulations, and the private sector, which has responsibility for carrying out logistics operations in a smooth and seamless manner. This fine interplay is further complicated by the globalization of manufacturing which—with many more ports of call in the logistic chain—is putting ever-increasing pressure on the sector. In addition, there are very practical challenges in integrating different modes of transport, in speeding up border crossings, and in dealing with trade protections–all of which impact external trade.

But as difficult as it might be, creating a well-functioning logistics sector is essential to any nation looking to compete in the global economy. India is a case in point. To fuel its global ambitions, the country has taken active steps to up its logistics game.

How can Indonesia achieve a more sustainable transport system?

Tomás Herrero Diez's picture
Photo: UN Women/Flickr
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,500 islands, is the fourth most populous country in the world, with 261 million inhabitants, and the largest economy in Southeast Asia, with a nominal Gross Domestic Product of $933 billion.

Central government spending on transport increased by threefold between 2010-2016. This has enabled the country to extend its transport network capacity and improve access to some of the most remote areas across the archipelago.

The country has a road network of about 538,000 km, of which about 47,000 km are national roads, and 1,000 km are expressways. Heavy congestion and low traffic speeds translate into excessively long journey times. In fact, traveling a mere 100 km can take 2.5 to 4 hours. The country relies heavily on waterborne transport and has about 1,500 ports, with most facilities approaching their capacity limits, especially in Eastern Indonesia. Connectivity between ports and land infrastructure is limited or non-existent. The rail network is limited (6,500 km across the islands of Java and Sumatra) and poorly maintained. The country’s 39 international and 191 domestic airports mainly provide passenger services, and many are also reaching their capacity limits.

Intermodal connectivity in the Western Balkans: What’s on the menu?

Romain Pison's picture
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As in most other regions, trucks reign supreme on freight transport across the Western Balkans, a region that encompasses six countries including: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

The domination of road transport in the freight sector comes with several adverse consequences, including unpredictable journey times, high logistics costs, congestion, as well as high levels of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. To address this, our team is looking at ways to redirect part of the freight traffic in the Western Balkans region away from roads, and onto more efficient, greener modes such as rail or inland waterways.

You may think we’re trying to bite off more than we can chew here. After all, even advanced economies with state-of-the-art rail infrastructure have been struggling to increase and sustain rail freight transport.

However, as evidenced by the Global Competitiveness and Logistics Performance Indexes, there is strong potential to close gaps in the quality of the Western Balkans transport systems or custom clearing processes. The region has also experienced sustained economic growth (higher, for instance, than OECD countries), while its geographic position makes it a strategic link between Western and Eastern markets, especially considering Turkey’s rail freight developments and global connectivity initiatives.

So where should we start?

Low-carbon shipping: Will 2018 be the turning point?

Dominik Englert's picture
Photo: Peter Hessels/Flickr
As highlighted in a previous blog post, international maritime transport has not kept pace with other transport modes in the fight against climate change.

While inland transport was included in the 2015 Paris Agreement and international air transport followed suit in 2016, progress in the international shipping sector, which carries 80% of the world’s trade volume, has been more modest. Back in 2011, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) did adopt a set of operational and technical measures to increase the energy efficiency of vessels. Realistically though, it may take about 25-30 years to renew the world’s entire fleet and make all new vessels fully compliant with IMO’s technical requirements.

In any case, focusing only on technical and operational efficiency simply won’t be enough. The demand for maritime transport is growing so quickly that, even when taking all these energy efficiency regulations into account, CE Delft projects that emissions from international shipping could still increase by 20-120% by 2050, while IMO estimates range between 50-250% for different scenarios. This clearly calls for a bolder agenda that includes credible market-based solutions, too.

Three reasons why maritime transport must act on climate change

Nancy Vandycke's picture


For years, the transport sector has been looking at solutions to reduce its carbon footprint. A wide range of stakeholders has taken part in the public debate on transport and climate change, yet one mode has remained largely absent from the conversation: maritime transport.

Tackling emissions from the shipping industry is just as critical as it is for other modes of transport. First, international maritime transport accounts for the lion’s share of global freight transport: ships carry around 80% of the volume of all world trade and 70% of its value. In addition, although shipping is considered the most energy-efficient mode of transport, it still uses huge amounts of so-called bunker fuels, a byproduct of crude oil refining that takes a heavy toll on the environment.

Several key global players are now calling on the maritime sector to challenge the status quo and limit its climate impact. From our perspective, we see at least three major reasons that can explain why emissions from maritime transport are becoming a global priority.

E-commerce is booming. What’s in it for urban transport?

Bianca Bianchi Alves's picture
Também disponível em: Português
 

Worldwide, e-commerce has experienced explosive growth over the past decade, including in developing countries. The 2015 Global Retail E-Commerce Index ranks several of the World Bank’s client countries among the 30 most important markets for e-commerce (China ranks 2nd, Mexico 17th, Chile 19th, Brazil 21st, and Argentina 29th). As shown in a 2017 report from Ipsos, China, India, and Indonesia are among the 10 countries with the highest frequency of online shopping in the world, among online shoppers. Although growth in e-commerce in these countries is sometimes hindered by structural deficiencies, such as limitations of banking systems, digital payment systems, secure IT networks, or transport infrastructure, the upcoming technological advances in mobile phones and payment and location systems will trigger another wave of growth. This growth will likely lead to more deliveries and an increase in freight volume in urban areas.

In this context, the Bank has been working with the cities of Sao Paulo and Bangalore to develop a new tool that helps evaluate how different transport policies and interventions can impact e-commerce logistics in urban areas (GiULia). Financed by the Multidonor Sustainable Logistics Trust Fund, the tool serves as a platform to promote discussion with our counterparts on a subject that is often neglected by city planners: urban logistics. Decision-making on policies and regulations for urban logistics has traditionally been undertaken without sufficient consideration for economic and environmental impacts. For instance, restrictions on the size and use of trucks in cities can cause a number of side effects, including the suburbanization of cargo, with warehouses and trucks located on the periphery of cities, far from consumers, or the fragmentation of services between multiple carriers, which may lead to more miles traveled, idle truck loads, and inefficiencies.

Preparing for the future - A logistics industry roadmap

Yin Yin Lam's picture
Photo: Sarah Starkweather/Flickr
The government of Singapore recently outlined its vision for the country's future, describing how different sectors could harness technology, innovation and mega-trends in order to take the city-state to the next level. This approach includes a dedicated Industry Transformation Map for the logistics sector, which accounts for 7.7% of Singapore's GDP and over 8% of jobs. Logistics is also understood as a crucial enabler for other significant parts of the economy, such as manufacturing and trade.

How is Singapore anticipating the transformation of logistics?

Singapore has been considered a major logistics hub for quite some time, and is currently ranked first in Asia according to the Word Bank’s Logistics Performance Index. The sector, however, is experiencing significant transformations such as the rise of digitally enabled logistics services, and the emergence of new delivery capabilities (autonomous vehicles, 3D printing).

The Industry Transformation Map (ITM) will help Singaporean logistics keep its competitive edge in this rapidly evolving context, and aims to achieve a value-added of S$8.3billion (US$6 billion) by 2020. In particular, the ITM intends to strengthen innovation, productivity, as well as talent development across the logistics sector—including by leveraging trends such as artificial intelligence and collaborative robotics.

Three factors that have made Singapore a global logistics hub

Yin Yin Lam's picture
Then vs. now: the Port of Singapore circa 1900 (left) and today (right). Photos: KITLV/Peter Garnhum

When it gained independence in 1965, Singapore was a low-income country with limited natural resources that lacked basic infrastructure, investment and jobs.

A few decades later, the picture couldn’t be more different. Singapore has become one of Asia’s wealthiest nations, due in large part to its emergence as the highest-performing logistics hub in the region (see World Bank Logistics Performance Index).

The numbers speak for themselves. Today, the small city-state is home to the world’s largest transshipment container port, linked to over 600 ports worldwide. Singapore Changi airport is voted the best internationally, and is served by about 6,800 weekly flights to 330 cities. Finally, the island nation’s trade value amounts to 3.5 times its GDP.

Singapore’s achievements did not happen by chance. They result from a combination of forward-looking public policy and extensive private sector engagement. This experience could provide some lessons to any developing country seeking to improve its logistics network. Let us look at three key factors of success.

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