Previously seen as being hindered by years of mismanagement, Nigeria has risen like a Phoenix in recent years with the economic reforms of the past decade contributing towards the country finally beginning to realise its immense potential. In the last two years alone Nigeria’s expanding financial, service, communications and technology sectors have contributed towards it being recognised as Africa’s largest economy, being ranked 26th in the world in terms of GDP and being on course to become one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020.
DHL, the world’s largest courier company, which today is active in more than 220 countries and territories, was first incorporated within Nigeria in 1979. “Like all businesses in the country, DHL Nigeria came from very humble beginnings operating out of a single office in Lagos,” explains Chrys Okereke, Country Commercial Manager for DHL Nigeria.
In the beginning the company was primarily tasked with the transportation of documents in and around Lagos, Abuja and other major Nigeria cities. In time it also became responsible for the distribution of goods and documents on behalf of other DHL divisions shipping into the country, before ultimately growing into a fully-fledged entity, delivering all of the essential services that DHL has become a household name for across the country. The service has basically entailed the transportation of documents and parcels both within Nigeria and to other countries across the world, as well as the delivery of inbound materials into Nigeria.
“From a workforce of just a few individuals, DHL Nigeria has since expanded to the point where today it employs in excess of 700 people in the country, all bar one of whom are Nigerian nationals,” Okereke continues. “Meanwhile, in terms of volume growth, we began by handling less than ten shipments per day, whereas today we are responsible for the movement of more than 20,000 shipments into and around Nigeria on a daily basis.”
DHL Nigeria’s fleet of vehicles has also come on leaps and bounds since those early days, going from two motorcycles to a fleet of approximately 260 vehicles as well as the recent addition of a dedicated cargo aircraft, the only one of its kind operating in the country.
For the majority of the time that DHL has been in existence within Nigeria its economy has been driven by oil and gas activities. While oil and has remained the economic lynchpin of the country, with DHL Nigeria continuing to operate services both into the country and out of it to major oil producing locations such as Scotland, Norway and the US for transportation of equipment and resources, the growth of other sectors have brought about the prosperity covered at the beginning of this article, and indeed the continued success of DHL Nigeria.
“We have watched consumer demands evolve massively in recent years, bringing with them an ever-increasing need for our services,” Okereke says. A sizeable percentage of this demand for DHL’s services in the country is today coming from players in Nigeria’s booming e-commerce market. “In the space of 18-24 months we have seen a tripling in the number of e-commerce related shipments that we are handling on a regular basis. The ability for consumers to make electronic payments has gone from being a rare luxury to a widespread activity and this has subsequently become a core driver for our own growth.”
The emergence of the country as Africa’s largest economy has also resulted in a surge of imports into Nigeria, particularly from the likes of the large supermarket and retail chains based in South Africa which are looking to capitalise on increasing consumer wealth.
Despite having watched Nigeria develop into the thriving country that it is today, DHL Nigeria continues to take great pride in its commitment to helping support the people, communities and environments around which it itself have managed to blossom since those humble beginnings in the late 1970s.
Aside from the previously stated fact that the company presently provides employment to more than 700 local individuals, DHL Nigeria carries out its corporate social responsibility efforts via three pillars dubbed Go Green, Go Help and Go Teach.
“Go Green is all about environmental conservation and it is through this initiative that we work with various NGO’s and agencies to ensure that the environments in which we operate are preserved for future generations,” Okereke enthuses. “Our work in this field also includes the monitoring of our own carbon footprint, supporting programmes that are working to conserve native flora and fauna, and encouraging people both within and outside the business to work towards guaranteeing a sustainable future for Nigeria.”
Go Help is all about supporting local people and communities in times of need. This can include undertaking tasks including the recent renovation of an old peoples’ residential home in Yaba, Lagos, supporting children with Down’s syndrome and blind members of society, all the way up to providing financial and material support to corporate and government agencies involved in disaster and emergency management.
“Go Teach is all about ensuring that the future leaders of this country have access to a high standard of education,” Okereke says. “Through this initiative we have partnered with other likeminded corporate bodies to build/renovate schools, and distribute books and educational materials to institutions within our areas of operation. We also continue to fund scholarships for children of both our staff and the wider community on a regular basis.”
In line with DHL’s global focus, DHL Nigeria’s priority going forward is to expand its activities and presence across the country. To do this the company plans to improve its logistical capabilities by expanding its fleet, specifically its more unique modes of transportation.
“We introduced our dedicated cargo aircraft in September 2012 and in less than two years we have already exceeded the capacity for that 737-400 model,” Okereke reveals. “As a result we have decided that, in order to continue delivering the same high level of service we pride ourselves on, we need to introduce a second aircraft as soon as possible.”
A separate, but equally unique, member of DHL Nigeria’s fleet is the boat that it launched only a matter of weeks ago, which is today being used to navigate the waterways surrounding Lagos and is resulting in a much faster means of transportation than that which is experienced on the heavily congested roads of Nigeria’s most populous city.
“We are also in the process of expanding our gateway facilities within Lagos International Airport,” Okereke says. “We are the only air express company present in Nigeria with its own separate gateway facility at the airport, however having gone from handling around eight or nine tonnes of goods per day to in excess of 16 tonnes in less than four years, we now longer have the capacity that is required. Therefore we will be working to expand these facilities in the coming months in order to meet ever increasing demand.”
During the first 32 years of its existence in the country, DHL Nigeria operated a total of 19 offices at its peak. In many ways this relatively small presence created a situation where the majority of the population felt they could not access its services. Today DHL Nigeria boasts a network of over 250 offices and collection points across the country, a rate of growth that has brought it closer to the customers on whom it places such a high level of importance. DHL Nigeria’s commitment is to make its services even more accessible to the teeming population by setting up more service centres in the months to come.
“We have just introduced a new concept within the business that we call our Insanely Customer Centric Culture (ICCC),” Okereke concludes. “This concept captures the essence of what we are about as a company. Everything we do and every action we take is carried out with the ultimate aim of satisfying our customers. At the end of the day we only ever gauge ourselves and our performance on how satisfied the customer is once they have dealt with us. This has been our approach since day one and will be as we continue to grow.”
Written by Will Daynes, research by Abi Abagun