In the dynamic landscape of Nigeria’s burgeoning economy, the efficiency of last-mile delivery emerges as a critical component of the supply chain, deeply influenced by a blend of infrastructural, technological, logistical, and economic factors. Today, I want us to look into the multifaceted challenges that impede the smooth operation of last-mile delivery in Nigeria – a country where the rapid expansion of e-commerce and the retail sector is continually reshaping consumer expectations and delivery standards.
From the underdeveloped roads in rural locales to the congested urban thoroughfares of cities like Lagos, infrastructure deficiencies present significant hurdles to our nation’s last-mile delivery. Compounded by technological gaps, a fragmented logistics sector, and fluctuating economic variables, these challenges create a complex tapestry that businesses and logistics providers must navigate to ensure the timely and reliable delivery of goods.
Yet, within these challenges lie opportunities for transformative improvement. This discourse is not merely to list obstacles, but also to present a comprehensive view of the strategies that can revolutionise last-mile delivery in Nigeria. I believe that integrating advanced technology, building capacity, fostering collaborative models, leveraging data analytics, investing in infrastructure, and tapping into local knowledge has a great potential to enhance delivery efficiency and reliability in Africa’s most populated country.
Yet, within these challenges lie opportunities for transformative improvement.
If you’ve read this far, then spare me some and ride with me as I highlight the critical frustrations in Nigeria’s last-mile delivery and illuminate the pathways towards a more streamlined, effective, and customer-centric delivery ecosystem. But first, let’s look at the challenges.
Issues surrounding Nigeria’s last-mile delivery
A combination of infrastructure deficiencies, technological barriers, logistical fragmentation, and economic challenges significantly influences Nigeria’s disruption of last-mile delivery. Each of these elements contributes to the complexities and inefficiencies faced by businesses and logistics providers in ensuring timely and reliable delivery of goods to the end customer.
Inadequate infrastructure, especially in rural road networks, hinders efficient delivery. Urban areas, especially major cities like Lagos, suffer severe traffic congestion, compounding the problem. The inefficient road system causes delays, amplifying wear and tear on delivery vehicles. This elevates maintenance costs for struggling businesses in our challenging business environment, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive infrastructure development and maintenance.
That said, technological barriers worsen logistical challenges in Nigeria. Despite the availability of tools like GPS tracking and route optimization software, their adoption is limited, creating inefficiencies in route planning. The industry struggles to embrace advanced technologies, hindering effective management of delivery complexities, especially in poorly infrastructured areas. A noticeable gap exists in adopting essential technologies, impeding the industry’s ability to adapt to on-the-ground realities and optimise logistics operations for efficiency.
However, logistical fragmentation is another critical factor. A mix of formal and informal providers characterises the Nigerian logistics sector, leading to inconsistent delivery standards and practices. This fragmentation makes achieving a unified and efficient delivery system challenging, as different providers often have varying service quality and operational capabilities. The result is a disjointed logistics network where inefficiencies and miscommunications are common.
Economic challenges also play a significant role. Issues like fluctuating fuel prices and the high cost of logistics operations in Nigeria directly affect the cost of last-mile delivery. These economic factors often lead to increased delivery charges for customers, which can inhibit the growth of the e-commerce market. Moreover, businesses face the challenge of balancing the need for affordable delivery options with rising operational costs, which can affect profitability and sustainability. So are there any opportunities for growth?
Opportunities for improving the process of last-mile delivery in Nigeria
Improving last-mile delivery in Nigeria can be achieved through a multifaceted approach that integrates various strategies, each playing a crucial role in enhancing the overall efficiency and reliability of the delivery system. As I have always said, Africa’s productivity and likewise Nigeria’ is tied to its supply chain. If we can’t move goods and services quickly, we can’t be a productive continent and country.
In my book, The Potentials of Indigenous Logistics Systems to Drive Trade in Africa where I used Nigeria as a case study, I show how Nigeria can develop logistics innovations to drive trade, move goods and services across the continent faster than you thought possible, and best of all get access to never seen before facts and unbeatable data from cultural leaders, manufacturers, farmers, and consumers on Nigeria’s indigenous supply chain.
Instead of investing substantial resources in new logistics and supply chain systems in Africa, we should explore the continent’s centuries-old indigenous systems. Developed through diverse cultural interactions, these systems can be enhanced to boost cross-border trade under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Studying the existing indigenous arrangement, understanding its strengths, weaknesses, and potential, makes more economic sense. This approach can expedite intra-continental trade in Africa, fostering sustainable development.
I know that technology integration is a primary factor because it does not only aid in efficient routing but also enhances transparency and communication with customers. It enhances access to data analytics which also plays a transformative role for demand forecasting, route planning, and customer behaviour analysis can lead to more informed decisions, optimised resource allocation, and reduced delivery times.
We must adopt collaborative modelling, which involves partnerships between logistics companies, local businesses, government entities, and other stakeholders to create a more cohesive and efficient delivery network. By sharing resources, knowledge, and infrastructure, these collaborations can lead to more streamlined operations and reduced costs
We cannot forget the need for infrastructural investment, especially in Nigeria. Improving road networks, developing efficient public transportation systems, and establishing standardised addressing systems can significantly reduce the challenges associated with last-mile delivery.
Integrating local knowledge is crucial, especially in areas with intricate geography and socio-economic dynamics. Local couriers or community members offer valuable insights into navigating local terrain, addressing systems, and customer preferences. In parts of Nigeria, especially rural areas, poorly marked streets and lacking addressing systems are common. Locals familiar with these areas provide invaluable assistance, ensuring deliveries reach destinations more efficiently.
In conclusion, improving last-mile delivery in Nigeria requires a concerted effort from various stakeholders, including businesses, government entities, logistics providers, and the community. By working together towards common goals, leveraging technology, and focusing on sustainable development, Nigeria can overcome the current challenges and set a new standard for last-mile delivery in the region. This will improve the logistics sector and play a pivotal role in driving the country’s overall economic growth and enhancing the quality of life for its citizens.