Two years ago today, Ife and I started Kobo360. Our goal? To tackle logistics in Africa — more specifically, to get the continent moving. Having both previously worked in the business and transport sector on the continent, we were both frustrated that the continent’s economic prosperity was literally being held hostage by moving goods from A to B.
Logistics for the entire continent were hampered by poor communication and lack of transparency between cargo owners and truck drivers. Records were literally a paper trail. Ineffective, inefficient and cumbersome. The sector was ripe for disruption, but there had been little progress made in trying to take positive actions in delivering a better, more joined up, service. This was how the sector was, and no-one could change it.
Enter a couple of guys who thought [and still think] they can make a massive dent in the market, using the power of technology.
Naysayers, sceptics, even critics, warned us of our youthful, perhaps misplaced naivete that a couple of young guns [under 30 = young] could make any inroads [excuse the pun] on a sector that was so vast and mis-matched and somewhat archaic in terms of “how things were done”. We were battling against a multi-billion dollar, pan-African sector that had not seen any major innovation or disruption in over a generation.
If you meet either myself or Ife, you know we very rarely take no for an answer. Belligerent? Yes. Focused? Absolutely. Passionate? That goes without saying. Traits all entrepreneurs on the continent must possess if they are going to succeed. Back in 2017, we were idealistic and bullish, but we were never naive. We knew exactly what we would be battling against, who we had to win over, the sacrifices we had to make and the scale of the problem we were tackling. Today, in 2019, two years since we incorporated the company — we are still belligerent, focused and passionate; gaining a couple of years hasn’t mellowed us; it’s made us sharper and hungrier to succeed. We’ve seen what can be done in just 24 months. Our hypothesis has been tested, proved and the results have exceeded even our own wildly optimistic expectations. Now, we can truly anticipate and plan for what can be achieved with a decade. And it’s tantalizing.
But passion and youthful idealism only get you so far. Execution, the ability to deliver on promises, the ability to build, service and maintain a community of users and clients and, in the crudest of terms — the ability to move goods from A to B faster, safer and cheaper than before — these are the metrics we work on day in, day out.
Speaking with some of our drivers last week, I was again re-energised by what they had to say about their Kobo360 experience; how our business has had a wholly positive affect on them. Because of us, they are able to pay for their wife’s antenatal care, send their kids to school, or simply earn more money. Be under no illusion. Job and wealth creation was always a central tenet to what we wanted to achieve with Kobo360 — creating thousands of jobs, and vastly improved job security and remuneration in a sector that has historically been left wanting in these areas, was something Ife and I were completely aligned on from the outset. Building businesses for the many, and not for the few, is the only way Africa will solve its own problems in terms of economic prosperity and growth.
Working with over 17,000 drivers, and the ripple effect that it is having on families across the continent, is not a by-product of us pushing out a logistics app that services big business; it’s a deliberate and core focus of what Kobo360 is as a business. We are nothing without our drivers and we continue to build our business around them. Over the next decade, we hope to have a team of over 100,000 drivers who are proud to call Kobo360 their business partner.
And that’s what this is — a partnership. Just as we partner with thousands of drivers across Africa, we have also partnered with and developed incredibly strong working relationships with some of the world’s biggest brands, whose goal is the same as ours; getting their goods from A to B quickly, safely and cost effectively. Over the last two years, we have already moved over 500M kg of goods and partnered with over 700 SMEs and large enterprises such as Dangote Group, DHL and Unilever. We continue to build pan-African partnerships with companies large and small, as we deliver value across new territories. After covering 80% of Nigeria in year one, we expanded our footprints to four different African markets across East and West Africa — we’re now in Ghana, Kenya, Togo and Uganda, with plans to expand further in 2020. The expansions saw us add to our leadership team, and I continue to be inspired by the wealth of experience and dedication we are accumulating as a team. As we broaden our scope at Kobo360 and build out our world class team across Africa, I continue to be inspired by those who have chosen to join Kobo360 and build with us.
Today, I’m thinking about the past two years of the company, but even just the last year on its own has shown what a difference 12 months can make. This time in 2018, we were celebrating our Seed Round of US $6M and today, Kobo360 has raised a total of $37.3M from our supportive investors including Goldman Sachs, International Finance Corporation [IFC], Y Combinator and TLcom. The investment not only brought new strategic investors into the Kobo360 family, it also allowed us to invest heavily in building out our driver workforce, develop our technology offering, accelerate supply growth and scale quickly.
Many are opposed to looking back; I, on the other hand, look back to look forward. We are only just getting started. Looking to the future, we will continue to take unprecedented steps to reconfigure the entire logistics sector for Africa, and are excited about what the coming months will bring as we build a Global Logistics Operating System (G-LOS) that will combine all activities in the lifecycle of the Supply Chain ecosystem into one robust platform.
As we march headstrong into our third year, we remain focused on executing and building a sustainable business that moves Africa. We look towards working harder, smarter and faster for all stakeholders on the Kobo360 platform. We look forward to delivering a seamless support system for the AfCFTA. We look forward to growing our team of professionals who, like Ife and I, are so completely focused on solving Africa’s problems and taking positive steps to build our continent’s economies. We continue to fixate on building big, building for Africa.