SMEs must step up to further grow road freight industry – executive






Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a responsibility to scale up and take business to the next level, MLM Logistics CEO Mark Makhubalo told the 2023 Road Freight SME Summit on the first morning of the two-day conference in Sandton.

He said this was especially relevant in South Africa’s road freight industry where about 90% of operators in an industry of some 100 000 transporters were SMEs.

Focusing on sustainability within the industry, he said resilience was one of the primary characteristics of the transport sector but that being tough in and of itself was not good enough.

“We need to enhance business and foster growth,” Makhubalo said.

Speaking ahead of a panel discussion on the “SME Landscape; Critical success factors for SMEs in the road freight industry across Africa”, one of the speakers Makhubalo introduced was independent researcher and political analyst, Dr Ongama Mtimka.

Looking at politics and the road freight industry, Mtimka said a lot had been done to safeguard the sector after the first democratic elections in 1994.

Although it may not be a sentiment shared by most in the industry, especially given sporadic acts of labour-related violence that have been perpetrated against operators since 2018, Mtimka said there was a lot of safety and stability within the industry.

Considering the enabling environment of the sector, especially insofar as economic growth opportunities are concerned – to which Makhubalo also referred– Mtimka said more safety and stability could be expected in the near future.

He particularly alluded to the dilution of the ANC government’s power that is expected after next year’s national election.

Makhubalo said: “As political systems become more divergent you’re going to have institutions that become more efficient and independent.”

Another panellist, who was perhaps more critical of the state of the industry, was Kgomotso Selokane who chairs the Transport Sector B-BBEE Charter Council.

She said one of the biggest challenges facing the road freight sector was cost, as companies had to absorb delays on highways such as the N3.

That it took freight travelling from the Port of Walvis Bay to Gauteng probably 24 hours to be turned around compared to 72 hours on the road up from the Port of Durban, was to be deplored, Selokane said.

In addition, she said that transformation of the industry and value integration remained issues holding back the benefits that the road freight industry could have for equitable economic progress.

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