The Zimbabwean arm of supply chain giant UTi Worldwide has gone from strength to strength in the country, leveraging its parent company’s global network to excellent effect to provide an unrivalled set of services to its clients.

Since entering the region in 1980, the company has weathered political and economic unrest to establish itself at the top of Zimbabwean supply chain solutions, providing quality services to clients in the mining and energy, retail, hi-tech/electronics and pharmaceutical sectors, amongst others, delivering to all major continents worldwide.

Air, road, rail and sea freight forwarding, contract logistics, distribution, customs brokerage, managed transportation services, supply chain analysis, warehousing and consulting are the company’s core services, much appreciated by such high-profile clients as Mimosa Mining and the multinational telecoms group Econet Wireless.          

UTi is also a successful exporter of tobacco and cotton on behalf of its Zimbabwean clients.

Headquartered in the capital Harare, where it also has a 6,000 square metre-warehouse, the company has further branches in all major Zimbabwean cities and ports including Bulawayo, Mutare, Beitbridge, Chirundu and Nyamapanda, putting together a strong network that mirrors the approach implemented on a global scale by its parent company.            

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Proud of the success to-date, Regional Consultant for International Trade and Custom, Timothy Nyanzira, believes access to UTi Worldwide’s network has been crucial to its success in Zimbabwe.

“One of our major strengths is our global existence, our network around the whole world,” he said. “That is something we have over some of the small players who only exist in Zimbabwe and whose contractual network arrangement with other countries does not necessarily work.”

With 313 offices and 245 logistics centres in 59 countries, the parent company develops and implements client-centric, global solutions for international companies with unique supply chain requirements.

By integrating IT platforms and developing a UTi-client team approach to the planning and implementation process, its supply chain solutions maximise efficiencies and cost-effectiveness.

By the same token, Zimbabwe is a key location for the worldwide group, and an important part of its African operations, bordering the similarly important South African region.

Skilled workforce

Equally important to UTi Zimbabwe becoming the country’s market leader in freight forwarding is the input of its 86-strong workforce, as well as its own efforts to continuously develop their considerable talents, both of which Nyanzira believes gives them the edge over rival firms.

He explained: “Our staff competence and skills I’d say is another major competitive advantage we have over other players. What we do besides the attributes or training those individuals have externally.

“Every month there is online training for all our staff to make sure they all remain up to speed in terms of the global trends that are taking place, and also to equip them with new skills to be able to assist or handle any business or any type of transaction.”

IT Investment

A recent major $250m investment from UTi Worldwide in the form of a new IT system, Oneview, will greatly benefit the Zimbabwean branch’s employees and customers alike, improving efficiency and providing instant access to important information.

Nyanzira said: “This is a huge investment that the shareholders have undertaken the world over, and one of the advantages of the system is that it will make sure that all the information for a particular client is readily available.

“The customers themselves will also have visibility; just with a click of a button they will be able to tell where their shipment is, and all the billing information will be available too. It will improve efficiencies and focus a lot on the customer.”        

This customer focus is a priority for UTi throughout its dealings with clients. The company is committed to maintaining excellent communications throughout its processes and ensuring that all needs are met and any issues are addressed efficiently.

Nyanzira explained: “We are an open-door type of organisation where the customer relationships are managed from operator right through to the manager. Every manager has a target of actually meeting and discussing with five customers every week to ensure the right level of service and that we are delivering on our promises to the customers.

“If there are any concerns, they are addressed immediately before they grow bigger. And all our supervisors and operators interface with customers, often on a daily basis, over the phones, meetings and through email communication.”              

CSR

Having enjoyed success in Zimbabwe itself, UTi is committed to sharing this success with the local communities, taking an active role in the company’s worldwide corporate social responsibility strategy, ‘Delivering Better Live’.

Recent programmes have included the construction of a new hospital in the Goromonzi district, already completed and commissioned, and a school in Tarua, close to Harare, is currently under construction.

Zimbabwean prospects

UTi’s strong performance in Zimbabwe is set to be further bolstered in the coming years by a strengthening of government policy.

Nyanzira sees some positive economic growth, and made clear that more robust improvement is expected in the coming years as the government moves to encourage overseas investment and take full advantage of the nation’s untapped mineral wealth.

“The government is actually trying to change some policies and shift in terms of indigenisation laws because they have seen that it is currently not working at all,” he said. They have taken a soft stance and now the ministry responsible for that legislation is having a sector-by-sector stakeholder discussion to try and find the best way forward.   

“Because of this softer stance, I’d like to believe that they will come up with a blueprint to attract further direct foreign investment and other forms of investment.”      

On the back of this, UTi can expect an even brighter future, and the growth brought by foreign investment will be complemented by that of company shareholders in the form of serious acquisitions that Nyanzira believes will add to the Group’s existing strengths.

He concluded: “I would like to think that we will have growth of about 20-25 percent within the next five years because what I see happening is a lot of changes in terms of the policies in the country and that will stimulate and attract further investment.

“We have the people, the resources and the infrastructure to attract this investment.” 

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