Take a bow, South Africa!

Take a bow, South Africa!

The World Bank has released its 2023 Logistics Performance Index report… and South Africa has done surprisingly well!

Not a day goes by that I don’t get a complaint about South Africa’s dismal performance when it comes to logistics. Either trucks are stuck in queues at border posts, or customs is closed due to load shedding, or the trains are kaput… or all three at once.

The messy situation is confirmed over and over again in the pages of FOCUS. Our wonderful columnist, Nick Porée, has written regularly about delays at regional borders in Southern Africa, which cost the cross-border transport industry over R4.29 billion in the first quarter of 2022. His concerns are echoed by numerous other captains of the transport industry.

It was thus with some surprise that I read the World Bank’s 2023 Connecting to Compete Logistics Performance Index Report, because it doesn’t paint the gloomy picture that unfolds daily on our roads and railways (what’s left of them).

The seventh edition of the report comes after three years of unprecedented supply chain disruptions during the Covid-19 pandemic, when delivery times soared. The report, which covers 139 countries, measures the ease of establishing reliable supply chain connections and the structural factors that make this possible, such as the quality of logistics services, trade- and transport-related infrastructure, and border controls.

“Logistics are the lifeblood of international trade, and trade in turn is a powerful force for economic growth and poverty reduction,” notes Mona Haddad, global director for trade, investment, and competitiveness at the World Bank. “The Logistics Performance Index helps developing countries identify where improvements can be made to boost competitiveness.”

The report is a measure of countries’ ability to move goods across borders with speed and reliability – and it ranks South Africa 24th in the world (one position ahead of the United Kingdom and one place after Norway). South Africa has been a bit all over the place in this survey, which is not published annually; it was 20th in 2016 and then 33rd in the last report, published in 2018.

Lest you’re wondering, these are the top 10 companies in the Logistics Performance Index (LPI): Singapore, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Canada, and Hong Kong SAR, China. You can find the full report here

South Africa did fairly well in three areas: logistics competence and quality, timeliness, and tracking and tracing. I know that this will come as news to many within our troubled industry.

South Africa was rated quite highly when it came to container efficiency. “The average dwell time for con­tainers between May and October 2022 was three days for India and Singapore and four for the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, but seven for the United States and 10 for Germany,” the report notes. On average across all potential trade routes, 44 days elapse from the time a container enters the port of the exporting country until it leaves the destination port, with a standard deviation of 10.5 days.

According to LPI 2023, end-to-end supply chain digitalisation, especially in emerging economies, is allowing countries to shorten port delays by up to 70% compared to those in developed countries. Moreover, demand for green logistics is rising, with 75% of shippers looking for environmentally friendly options when exporting to high-income countries.

Turning back to South Africa, the country also made it onto the list of Top 11 upper-middle-income LPI scorers in 2023. It was joined there by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Malaysia, North Macedonia, Peru, Thailand, and Turkey. This is not a first for South Africa; it appeared on this list in the last four reports (2018, 2016, 2014, and 2012). Many of the other countries have made regular appearances on this list, with North Macedonia the only new entry.

Published by

Charleen Clarke

CHARLEEN CLARKE is editorial director of FOCUS. While she is based in Johannesburg, she spends a considerable amount of time overseas, attending international transport events – largely in her capacity as associate member of the International Truck of the Year Jury.
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