The world congress of International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (Fiata) will have an economic impact of about R25.6-million on the Western Cape economy, says Fiata world congress local organising committee chairperson John White.
The event, which is held yearly, will be held from October 1 to 5 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
White explains that this has a direct, indirect and induced economic impact for the City of Cape Town. “The congress promotes Cape Town as a premier destination to host meetings, conferences and exhibitions. These increased business events contribute to economic growth and job creation.”
This is the second time that the South African Association of Freight Forwarders is hosting this event, which brings together the global freight forwarding and transport industry, he notes.
“It provides an international platform for logistics industry leaders to gain insight into industry challenges and put forward sustainable solutions. The congress will afford scope for useful contacts through leading experts in the freighting field as part of the official programme and [during] private discussions.”
White says this year’s exhibition will feature 84 stands, with attendance expected to exceed those of previous years. More than 75 countries are represented at the congress every year and a strong attendance is expected from Fiata’s Africa and Middle East region this year.
Some of the exhibitors include customs regulatory body Saudi Customs, financial services firm First National Bank, insurance company Lombard, software company WiseTech Global, freight forwarding solutions provider Savino del Bene, transportation service provider Shipping and General, vehicle tracking provider Ctrack and consultancy Global Maritime Legal Solutions.
Further, the theme of this year’s congress – Where technology and logistics meet – is quite appropriate, as White explains that South Africa and Africa in general are in the fortunate position of benefitting from logistics technology more than many first world countries, because we are a “greenfields” opportunity and able to leapfrog legacy infrastructure.
The South African freight industry will leverage these benefits from the link between logistics and technology, which will drive the need for fast and cost-effective transport solutions over vast distances, he says.
He adds that blockchain is probably the most significant innovator, driving mission critical data and trade documents. Artificial intelligence (AI) will unlock traditional bottlenecks in trade, and has already shown benefits in certain applications in the airline industry.
Beyond that, Africa can lend itself to the further development of unmanned aerial vehicles, driverless vehicles (passenger and freight) and the movement of strategic material from one point to another. He cites nonprofit organisation South African National Blood Service’s use of drones to transport blood to outlying areas as an example.
The effect of these successful systems on the freight industry will initially benefit niche markets in the movement of strategic material and e-trade transactions moving goods of high value and low density, explains White.
“There will always be a demand for all types of freight solutions. Technology such as AI and blockchain, while rocking the boat, is not going to disadvantage or replace your typical freight forwarder. Rather, it will create a new space for the forwarders in which to operate.”
Subsequently, information technology solutions to date have become cheaper and more robust, making them readily available for small and medium-sized enterprises to embrace.