When we started FTW 47 years ago, South African manufacturing was on the way up as sanctions started to be introduced and the country needed to become more self-reliant.
Intermodal transport was in its infancy so shipping was still a complicated art. China was on its death bed after the cultural revolution. Yes it’s that far back!
Being a great advocate and thinker around improvements in shipping, FTW’s founder, John H Marsh, saw the opportunity that the introduction of containerisation provided for us in publishing. A decision was taken to focus on that rather than bulk, which was also massive because of mining, but where the logistics was more evolutionary.
At a recent function hosted by the Beira Corridor Group, I met up with several ‘proper’ businessmen whose livelihoods depended on supplying mines or moving the products of mines from the Copperbelt southwards.
Why do I say these were proper businessmen? Money and the amount they are talking. Their clients have the biggest turnover of all companies in the world.
Just multiply Glencore’s $40 billion by 14.5 – that’s R580 000 000 000. How many airlines get close to that! That revenue cannot happen without logistics. Getting supplies to mining camps in Africa is fraught with unimaginable problems from bureaucracy to insurgency. And then you have ineptitude, with mines closing in the Northern Cape because they cannot get their bulk products to market once mined.
Since FTW started China has risen up from the ashes and knocked out manufacturers around the world. No longer protected by sanctions and with super-efficient intermodal transport greasing the way to globalisation, our manufactured exports are no longer as important as they were.
Another game changer has been electronic communication. While it is still too expensive and slow to send printed copies of FTW to the people engaged in bulk logistics outside the main centres, FTW Online and the digital edition can reach those same readers in micro seconds.
Starting with daily reports on the status of the main land border crossings, FTW Online is moving to improve its coverage of the news and issues that affect bulk shippers and mine suppliers in Africa.