The added-value of proactive teamwork: You have been commended for your team-building skills. How much importance would you place on a team’s efficiency in terms of the success of a project?
The team is everything, and this cannot be stressed enough. Freight Transportation in East Africa requires a logistics company like Kumwe to have multiple people onboard to help ensure a project is successful. We currently have managers and technicians that not only deal with transporters, but also with laborers (for loading/offloading), clients, as well as a back office staff that ensures that data is correctly being recorded. If these teams cannot work together, a job can very quickly fail.
What to date has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has been to deal with very rapid growth in a market that is very seasonal. We have to employ people throughout the year, yet as most of the cargo we move to date consists of agricultural products, we are faced with extreme demands in certain moments of the year. This creates an extreme strain on resources (team labor, available transporters) as well as on our ability to keep up our service level.
What did you take away from the masters degree at ZLC? Has it proved invaluable in setting up your own logistics business?
I think every day of cash flows and financial planning, which was an integral part of the Supply Chain Finance course taught at ZLC. Logistics in East Africa suffers from a negative cash-to-cash cycle for logistics companies like Kumwe, so we have to ensure that our margin is greater than what we are losing in what is essentially supplier financing. The SCF course helps to understand not only the financial aspects behind the importance of cash flows, but the understanding of it also has been invaluable in order for us to offer solutions for our clients and transporters.
How did you cope with the culture shock of living and working in a country with such a strong identity as Rwanda?
The first step is to embrace where you live, and come to an understanding that in order to succeed in a new country, one has to cope with the realities present there. I think this applies to Rwanda as much as it does anywhere else. I am very thankful for the team that I have trained here, for we have had the opportunity to share many moments together and they have been instrumental in training me to understand the local history and culture. At the same time, Kigali does have residents of many other nationalities too, and I do enjoy that diversity as well.
Do you have a clear vision for the future of the transport and logistics in Africa? Can you give us a bird’s eye view of the future according to Ludovic Bernad?
I think that would be any person’s dream! Unfortunately, the reality is that Africa is a continent, not a country, and it is full of many different people, different countries, different circumstances, and different levels of development. The one thing that I can add with certainty is that the opportunities continue to increase with each extra level of development and collaboration.