Stock - Mahmood Al Bastaki of DP World
Stock - Mahmood Al Bastaki of DP World: "In a new territory, we need the strong alliances on the ground, those who know the geographies better than any newcomer. For we will build our strengths step by step. This is about getting all of it right, not try and rush into profits.” Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: No one knows when container shipments will again start flowing smoothly worldwide – but Mahmood Al Bastaki of DP World is certain about one thing.

“With ecommerce growing the way it is, even after Covid, it’s the last-mile delivery that needs constant focus by operators,” said Al Bastaki, Chief Operating Officer at DT World, part of the DP World enterprise. “Because the last-mile is something that can be controlled, unlike with containers.

“Container availability has been a problem since the early days of Covid, and it has not gone away even after two years. Plus, this is causing a rise in freight rates and that too is slowing down trade growth for most countries.”

So, take control of what’s possible. This is where DP World’s ecommerce push into Africa with the portal assumes significance. The Dubai ports and zones operator also recently took complete ownership of South Africa-based Imperial Logistics, one of the biggest names in the Continent within its category.

“Africa is still a new market for us, and we launched only last year,” said Al Bastaki. “This is why we need to partner with as many companies from within those markets. Acquiring Imperial helps us get the warehousing space, the fleet and, most important from my view, knowledge of the road networks. Being an ecommerce operator in Africa, we need that specialized local knowledge to make last-mile services work.”

Online ambitions

Launching a dedicated portal for ecommerce sales in Africa seemed somewhat of a left-field choice initially. Because DP World’s strengths are into the intricacies of moving goods across continents through its ports and zones rather than packages. But in Africa, the Dubai entity is building quite a presence on the port management side in multiple countries. This was then the springboard for the launch.

So far, the portal has gone live in some of the key East African markets, and the plan is to have full coverage of Egypt by summer or just after that. “The whole of Africa will be covered – and that will happen sooner than later,” said the official.

“We are leveraging the Dubai brand to get Africa’s consumers buying through the portal. By end of this year and early next, we will have reached all our initial goals. will emerge as one of the trustworthy platforms – and that’s our pitch. There will be full compliance with all data regulations and no consumer data will be shared – ever.”

All for disruption

Al Bastaki uses the word ‘disruption’ to good effect. “ is about disrupting the way the African ecommerce markets had been operating. E-commerce will be a strategic priority for DP World – alongside all the ports and free zones we manage across the world.

“The next three to four years will see us build up that ecommerce presence. Right now, the build up is more important than thinking of breakeven or profits.”