"With the extent of our geographic reach and established reputation, ConnexAfrica is likely the strongest agency in the country in terms of resources, flexibility and presence."
After 66 years of experience in the DRC, Comexas Afrique is now rebranding to ConnexAfrica. How has the company’s presence evolved and could you explain the rebranding?
The rebrand is an opportunity to clearly mark our position in the changing landscape of logistics and to align our mission and values with the new chapter in the history of the company.
From the start of the company in 1953, Comexas Afrique, now ConnexAfrica, has continued on an ever-evolving journey of growth and business expansion, widening our scope of services and increasing our reach across the country as well as globally. Starting in Kinshasa at the port of Matadi in the 1950s and expanding into the Katanga region in 2006, we now have 26 branch offices spread over three regions countrywide with a team of approximately 270 agents in the Katanga region south of the country, about 50 agents in the north and just over 200 employees in the West. We also have a strong and steadily growing presence in the east of the DRC. ConnexAfrica is specialized in various areas of logistics, offering its clients solutions in freight forwarding, customs clearance, warehousing and transport. ConnexAfrica is also the official representative of Federal Express in the DRC.
With the extent of our geographic reach and established reputation, ConnexAfrica is likely the strongest agency in the country in terms of resources, flexibility and presence. 55% of our work in Katanga and in the east of the country stems from the mining sector, while in the west region, we are the exclusive representatives of NileDutch shipping line which is responsible for up to 30% of the container volumes coming into Matadi and Boma. ConnexAfrica handled over a million tons of cargo and approximately 400 000 tons of exports in 2018, which represents 35% of the total volumes transiting through Congolese ports.
The last six years have seen the company heavily invest in the purchase and development of various assets including warehousing, an area which has been of significant growth for us since we were the first company in the DRC to make a pioneering move and establish a bonded warehousing facility with a fully independent customs office on site.
As part of those investments and with the needs of our mining clients in mind, the construction of our logistics hub in Kolwezi will provide a 9.5 hectare fully bonded area with onsite customs offices. These developments are in keeping with our goals for the future of the company as we are determined to evolve into a “one-stop-shop” logistics solution provider.
How does ConnexAfrica deliver service excellence? Particularly in meeting the needs of mining companies in the DRC where logistics often presents some unique challenges.
At the heart of ConnexAfrica is a seasoned team of diversely competent agents and representatives who bring a passionate drive to hit targets and deliver the best solutions. We put a great emphasis on building the skills and knowledge of our agents by offering comprehensive training that is often on going to keep up with industry demands, client expectations and the ever changing regulatory landscape in the DRC. In fact, we are so committed to being the best at what we do that we offer Customs Risk Consulting to our clients at no extra fee.
Another part of our investment focus has been on our internally developed IT systems. Due to the unique customs regulatory requirements and processes in the DRC, we created our own platform to give us the flexibility needed to keep up with the constant changes and the specific needs of our clients. We’ve designed the system to detect any discrepancies in customer documents at the pre-alert stage; this early detection helps to avoid any potentially costly mistakes. ConnexAfrica is also dedicated to maintaining clear and constant communication; in our line of business this is of utmost importance. We have maintained ISO certification for five years and are constantly working to improve in order to provide the best quality service.
What are some of the most common challenges your clients face and how can ConnexAfrica help?
Before the new parking was introduced at the border post, delays were a common problem. Another common challenge is the penalties raised by the customs authorities for any mistakes made in the clearance process. ConnexAfrica spends a significant amount of energy ensuring that the customs process runs smoothly and that there are no mistakes that can often be costly for the customer. Over the years, there have been improvements in the custom process, particularly with the move from a manual system to a digital system, however the new challenge now is connectivity; we try to navigate this by being flexible – if the system is offline during working hours, we will make ourselves available around the clock to access the system as soon as it comes online again, minimizing potential delays and the impact on our clients.
What are the main objectives for ConnexAfrica moving forward?
A primary objective of ConnexAfrica is to extend our service capabilities and, even though our core business will remain concentrated within the DRC, we aim to expand our presence in other countries. This will give us an opportunity to have greater control over the corridors that feed into the DRC. Operations in Zambia have already begun and show positive results. Through this latest venture we are already able to provide our customers with an innovative solution, drastically improving timing and efficiency on transit formalities at the Kasumbalesa border.
We will also continue to develop our warehousing capabilities and invest into diversifying our operations in order to control all aspects of the entire logistics chain and provide our clients with an all in solution.