Intelligent mobile: the key to Kenyan FMCG logistics?

By Harry Menear
With its rapidly growing population, diverse private sector and central position in the East African economy, Kenya has the potential to be a regional s...

With its rapidly growing population, diverse private sector and central position in the East African economy, Kenya has the potential to be a regional success story, and become a major player in the African economy in the next few years. A sure sign of a flourishing economy is a rise in consumer purchasing power. “As markets and brands evolve, consumer preferences play a more prominent role,” said Jawad Jaffer, Superbrands Project Coordinator at Kantar TNS, which released its survey of Kenyan superbrands in early 2019. 

The survey found that, in addition to mobile payments solutions, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands carved out a larger chunk of the market than ever before. Three FMCG brands, Pampers, Weetabix and Supa Loaf, made their way into the top ten this year. 

However, the unique nature of Kenya’s logistics and supply chain infrastructure is reportedly creating problems that may see FMCG brands struggle to fully tap into the opportunities of the country’s economic growth. We take a look at some of the problems and potential solutions to FMCG logistics in the market. 

The Kenyan FMCG market is unlike any other. “The secondary distribution network in particular is where many issues arise, as the space is dominated by an informal main market where visibility and line of sight are extremely limited,” explains Andrew Dawson, Commercial Director at MACmobile, the South African purpose-built and adaptable end-to-end cloud-based FMCG value chain solution and platform provider. He notes that, although the formal FMCG market “is mapped out, well understood and generally accessible by fleets and delivery trucks, with line of sight easily achieved,” the secondary redistribution model is ripe for disruption. 


“This network is widely dispersed, with retailers spread from supermarkets in metropoles to small stores in rural areas. The distributor’s ‘fleet’ may consist of large trucks, pickups, regular vehicles, mopeds and wheelbarrow. There are in excess of 60 000 informal retail outlets, where the lack of formality makes tracking, managing and monitoring extremely difficult and creates a significant line of sight gap,” Dawson notes. “These outlets do not typically deal in presales either, so although the delivery route is generally known and repeated (efficient or not) the consignment of stock placed on a delivery vehicle and sold along the way is not guaranteed to all be sold by close of business. The result of this is that drivers may not always be able to sell their wares at the same locations on every journey, and returning with unsold stock contributes significantly to the cost of sales.” 

The solution, Dawson believes, is to harness intelligent mobile technology to track stock distribution trends in order to gain better visibility into the secondary market supply chain. “The key to optimisation is data that can be analysed for intelligence. This in turn enables distributors to plot more efficient routes, identify patterns and trends, highlight risks and figure out how to mitigate them for maximum sales efficiency regardless of the market.”

Harnessing the power of mobile devices will be key for any company looking to achieve a degree of digitalisation in Kenya. Like the majority of African nations, personal electronics adoption leapfrogged the adoption of personal computers, meaning that Africa “isn’t a mobile-first continent - it’s mobile only”.  

As such, mobile devices are being used across the Kenyan market in new and innovative ways to explore the opportunities created by an economy that’s capable of being permanently on the move.  

Founded in 2015, MPost is a Kenyan startup revolutionising the way the country gets its mail. The company has developed a platform that allows users to turn their mobile phone number into an official virtual address, “which allows notifications to be sent to clients whenever they get mail through their postal addresses,” according to a Disrupt Africa report. 

The opportunities for gathering mobile data for the purpose of business analytics may well be the key to unlocking the potential of the Kenyan economy. Phillipine Mtikitiki, General Manager of Coca-Cola East and Central Africa Franchise, believes that supply chain and logistics departments are, if managed properly, a great source of revenue generation and workforce growth. “If more organisations looked at their supply chains from an innovation perspective, therein lie numerous opportunities yet to be tapped and platforms to create thousands of jobs.”


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