Last mile delivery in Africa: A Review

The last-mile delivery is the final stage of the delivery process. It refers to all the processes, challenges, and stakes in getting products from the warehouse or distribution centre to the customer. This article reviews some of the challenges, solutions, and best practices of last-mile delivery in Africa.

The customer is the most important stakeholder in the supply chain, making last-mile delivery a critical component of any supply chain. In Africa, the same is true. However, unique challenges in the continent make it difficult to optimize last-mile delivery, which complicates getting products to customers on time and in good condition.


Challenges of Last Mile Delivery in Africa


1. Poor Infrastructure

The biggest supply chain challenge businesses face in Africa is the problem of poor infrastructure. Poor infrastructure is Africa’s soft underbelly. The African economy loses billions of dollars every year due to poor infrastructure. This loss affects most aspects of a supply chain, including manufacturing, supplies, and inventory management. 

The road access network in Africa is underwhelming. The poor infrastructure includes poorly maintained transportation modes like roads and rails, which cause accidents, traffic, and constant damage to delivery vehicles. Most times, businesses are forced to confront delays and rising transportation costs.


2. Limited Access and Implementation to Technology

Technology in last-mile delivery makes it easy to track and manage deliveries in real-time. In Africa, businesses and supply chains are often plagued with limited poor implementation and access to technology. 

These two challenges make optimizing the supply chain and delivery process difficult. When businesses and supply chains fail to optimize properly, it could lead to inefficient delivery routes, poor flexibility in delivery services, and poor lead times.


3. Poor Security

Security concern is a critical issue in Africa which hampers the optimization of the last-mile delivery process on the continent. Some security concerns include theft, vandalism, civil unrest, and other forms of criminal activities.

Security measures are another problem that falls on the Government. The annual global cost of conflicts amounts to $100 billion, about 54% of which is realized in Africa.

Because security concerns are rampant on the continent, businesses and supply chains hesitate when investing in infrastructure and technology. These security issues impact supply chains across the continent, ultimately affecting the optimization of the last-mile delivery process. In the end, downtimes are inevitable and cause delivery delays. You may consider the current crisis in Sudan for reference.


4. Shortage of trained delivery staff

Well-trained and skilled supply chain professionals are sometimes rare on the continent. The same issue applies to the delivery arm of it. Businesses need well-trained delivery staff because the staff interphases with the customer directly as a company representative. And because of that, they need vital interpersonal skills such as empathy, good mannerisms, and communication.

Without a well-trained and efficient staff, managing deliveries and ensuring that products are delivered on time to the customers can be difficult. A well-trained delivery personnel also ensures the business is presented positively to the customer.


Solutions to The Challenges of Last Mile Delivery in Africa


1. Investment in Infrastructure 

The problem of poor infrastructure is a massive challenge for businesses and supply chains on the continent. African nations need to spend more to speed up the development process. This article by business insider highlights the massive gap between current spending and what it should be to overcome a deficient infrastructure. It is approximately $100 billion.

Government and businesses should begin taking steps to overcome this gap. They can do so by drafting adequate strategies or policies to raise funds and start building to help companies to reduce costs and serve customers better. These will greatly help in last-mile delivery and reduce delivery times.

The thing about a good infrastructure is that supply chains save costs, allowing them to innovate, hire people, become bigger, and pay more taxes. Truly the real winner is the economy because it becomes much stronger.


2. Promoting the Adoption of Technology

Technology has proven to be a great benefit to supply chains and delivery companies across the globe. Subsequently, supply chains and delivery companies in Africa could adopt technology solutions that allow them to do the same.

The application of current technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning on last-mile delivery platforms provides a dynamic route optimization for each delivery every day. That alone can reduce the delivery times by 50%, reduce the cost of operation in the long term, and guarantee customer satisfaction.


3. Security Measures

As mentioned earlier, poor security directly results from bad governance or government policies. However, it is not enough to suggest Government draft and implement security strategies that would make people and businesses feel safe. Most security issues arise from civil unrest and Government takeovers or attempted takeovers.

Nineteen countries across the continent are currently suffering or have recently suffered from civil unrest or crisis. It makes economic sense to bring African countries together to try and resolve issues like this. After all, Africa is a very interconnected nation, and one crisis in a nation can affect more than just the nation but surrounding countries as well because of trade routes.

Although policies and security measures are great, the African Governments might want to set up a continuity plan for people’s democracy to avoid the constant threat of violence.

Delivery companies in Africa can also implement security measures to protect their products from theft and vandalism. The measures can include tamper-proof packaging, hiring security personnel, and using GPS tracking devices.


4. Training and Recruitment of Delivery Personnel

Although there is a shortage of trained delivery personnel or staff, it is one of the challenges companies can address easily. Delivery companies can do this by investing in the recruitment process and training programs. 

Investing and training staff and personnel enable delivery companies to effectively have control over the staff, guaranteeing the effectiveness and pleasantness of the delivery process for the customer.


5. Collaboration and Partnerships

Delivery companies in Africa should collaborate and partner with other businesses, governments, and organizations to share resources and reduce costs. 

This can help to overcome the challenges of last-mile delivery in Africa.


Best Practices for Last Mile Delivery in Africa



There are indeed quite a few challenges that last-mile delivery companies in Africa have to contend with. Some of them are unique compared to other parts of the world. There are factors the last-mile delivery companies can and should control to get the best results. Considering the main competitive factor with last-mile delivery is delivery time, most of the practices mentioned will focus on that.


1. Utilize Technology

We have gone over the importance of technology in the article and why its application in the last-mile delivery process should be a no-brainer. However, its adoption and application rest solely on businesses. 

Adopting technology solutions such as GPS tracking, route optimization software, and real-time delivery tracking reduces delivery times substantially. It ensures visibility across the entire supply chain and last-mile delivery process.


2. Collaborating with Local Delivery Partners

Experts cannot say enough about localizing the supply chain and the last-mile delivery process, especially considering what the world has endured in the last few years.

Collaboration with reliable local last-mile delivery companies and agents allows you to tap into their knowledge and experience of the terrain. This type of collaboration automatically gives your supply chain a massive edge.


3. Customer Service

Did you know that 94% of customers will recommend your company to friends, family, and colleagues if they rate you well? Great customer service pays for itself in the short and long term. There is no downside to it.

As a last-mile delivery company, you can provide great customer service by communicating properly, ensuring timely deliveries, carrying the customer along every step of the process, and giving necessary updates. 

An important fact about updating customers: Most customers will forgive delays if you carry them along. Over 60% of customers will rather you keep them updated than not. What customers hate most is not knowing.


4. Warehouse Optimization

A chaotic warehouse will cause confusion, delays, and mixed customer orders, which are all nightmares for any last-mile delivery company or process.

An optimized warehouse or delivery will reduce the delivery time by up to 60%. Amazon achieved this when it bought Kiva robots in 2012 and applied its technology to optimize its distribution centres. 

The results from your warehouse optimization mostly depend on the level of optimization. Optimizing your warehouse guarantees you an efficient and cost-effective last-mile delivery.


5. Vehicle Maintenance

Regularly maintain vehicles and other infrastructures in the last-mile delivery process to ensure they are in good condition. When your vehicles are in good condition, they are more reliable and can complete deliveries safely and efficiently.


6. Continuous Improvement and Innovation

The world constantly changes, and supply chains are always improving. Your last-mile delivery should do the same. Regularly review and improve last-mile delivery operations to stay effective and ahead of the competition.

You can improve and innovate through customer feedback, taking ideas from drivers, staff, and other stakeholders.



Last-mile delivery is critical to any supply chain, especially in Africa. The challenges it faces on the continent can significantly impact the success of businesses and supply chains. 

Businesses can enjoy successful and effective last-mile delivery operations by implementing the solutions highlighted in the article and applying the suggested practices.

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