The Logistics of Supplying African Food to its Diaspora with Kingsly and David Etabasi

[00:00:00] Kingsly:

Hi everyone. Thank you all very much. Once again for visiting and for tuning into cargo rant today, and we will be talking on the topic, The Logistics of Supplying African Food to its Diaspora. And our guest is David Etabasi and I would just like to give you an opportunity to introduce yourself to our audience and tell us a little bit about what you do.

[00:00:19] Etabasi:

Thank you for this opportunity, Mr Kingsly., as everybody calls me. I am the co-founder of Le Tabas and K Corporation the main occupation is to import and export food products worldwide, especially from Africa to Canada and as well as sometimes to Europe. 

[00:00:40] Kingsly:

How long have you been doing this? It’s quite interesting. I haven’t spoken to anyone, that is focused on food products, from Africa to Canada or even parts of Europe. So can you just tell me a little bit, how long have you been doing this and what kind of products are we talking about here?

[00:00:56] Etabasi:

I’ve been doing this now for say about three years. And basically, I focused on products like yams, our vegetables both dry and fresh, also smoke fish, our palm oil, because you might want to cook our local dishes and you don’t have the right oil. So we’ll bring in our palm oil here, back from Africa and we do this from countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon apart from the dry fish, we also get to bring our smoke meats depending on the country, which we are bringing in from sometimes some particular meats are forbidding into the country. So you have to make sure we stay within the right boundaries to import the right stuff.

[00:01:39] Kingsly:

This is quite interesting. I live in Germany, right? And often I go to, the local store by the corner run by someone from Africa who is importing foodstuff. And I have always been wondering about this supply chain and how you get to move these goods from Africa to here.

So with looked back, did you own the entire supply chain or do you have some suppliers, on the African continent who are exporting these goods to you? Or do you, have people on the ground who prepare, package and ship these goods over to you in Canada?

[00:02:17] Etabasi:

I do have a supply chain as well as I do have suppliers who get to supply me as well because sometimes the demand is very high.

I can accommodate that myself. So I get to contact some of my suppliers to supply me with some of the stuff I do on farms where some of these products have been produced locally. And half local workers who get to prepare this into packages for stocks, which have to come in as cold, as fresh, as well as those which has to come in as dry.

[00:02:48] And we do have a partnership with the co-packing company in Douala. When these have been packaged in a package with respect to the sizes and quantity, we demand me to transport them over here.

[00:03:01] Kingsly:

Wow. You have identified a really, niche market, but I think anyone who understands, the African cuisine and the number of Africans in the diaspora, will understand how huge this market is. Can you just tell us a little bit about those that you’re supplying this food production, how often do you move [00:03:20] containers from Africa to Canada? For the purposes of supplying, your fresh or frozen African food products?

[00:03:27] Etabasi:

This is a very, very demanding market because first of all, there are many Africans who want to go into food products, but they don’t have what it takes to bring products from Africa.

[00:03:40] They don’t have the importation license to import into the country. So when I bring, I don’t do it retail, I do wholesale. So this helps them now to buy and stop the away houses. And for the number of containers, I bring in pay year. When it comes to refrigerated containers, I bring three refrigerated containers a year.

For dry containers, it depends on the demand because they’re placing their orders most often before I bring them in. My warehouse serves as a passage; it doesn’t serve for me just to stop goods. Not that’s an additional cost, which I don’t like in curing. So bringing in stuff, there’s already demand. When your products get to Canada in less than a week, it’s all cleared off.

[00:04:28] Kingsly:

That is a very good business model, I think. But I think, this business model doesn’t come without it. challenge especially if you’re moving fresh or let’s say temperature-controlled, or temperature-sensitive goods from Africa to Canada.

[00:04:42] Just tell me a little bit about, the transport process. What are some of the challenges? That you’re facing to ensure that you maintain the cold chain from Cameroon to the port of Douala, and then all the way to Canada, what has been your experience so far.

[00:04:56] Etabasi:

Most of the challenges you face when, it gets to the refrigerated containers, for example, in Douala like when it’s been loaded up and you have to turn it on before they finished loading, sometimes they call you and they tell you there’s a power failure.

With power failure. If you don’t, if you’re not certain to have a standby generator, running products get bad and you lose money. So that’s one of the major challenges, but when it leaves coming wrong and it’s in the shape, it’s in the sea coming, we are very sure the temperature it’s maintained and well taken care of.

And as soon as the guests to Canada, you are informed, you know, and you prepare, we have a call store. Right. So all the cool products we don’t distribute, co-products like dry

All cool products. I removed from the GRI fast. I’m put into the core store because the reefer containers don’t slip out like dry for safety.

So once you eat arrives at my cost store, I have walkers, the empty, everything the container goes, and now we prepare the products with respect to the various demands from the various shops, and we get to supply them out for them to do their sales as they want.

[00:06:16] Kingsly:

So given, dealing with even with you moving this good stuff, or when it is left now satisfied that you’re not going to have pocket there and things like that in my experience, dealing with perishable cargo while doing that, damaged cargo in transit set by protocol, this of this business of this market.

What has been your experience so far? How often have you experienced damage to your cargo in transit?

[00:06:40] Etabasi:

Yes. I have. Sometimes things are not, well, they’re not well packed in the container. And as the challenge lift, picks up the content, as things move around inside sometimes things which are put like in bags, they get broken.

Sometimes if they put, like a liquid in a bottle and they put you right to the top, the container expands and it gets a crap. It’s I see that when, when he talks, it’s going to fit everything’s out. So these are some of the challenges you get to face, which has to do with loading the container, as well as unloading the containers.

If the container is not properly loaded, things get damaged when [00:07:20] it’s been moved from one location to the order and or one primordial form of transport to the order. And also when it gets here, because it was not well loaded. It’s not saved because you might open the container and things fall out and somebody gets featured.

And during that process of unloading that container, things do fall and they get, broken as well.

[00:07:42] Kingsly:

Right. And what you described, it sounds to me like, a problem which originated from their side of, either yourself or those that you used to stop your container. , In Cameroon or another sort of African country that is not necessarily the carrier’s problem is it?

[00:08:04] Etabasi:

Sometimes it is the carrier’s problem sometimes? Yes. Like for example, at times we do receive containers, the containers get to you and it’s damaged, or, you know, this is not how the container left Cameroon. Right. During the manoeuvring of stuff in the port when he arrives in Canada, sometimes there are accidents it happens once in a while, sometimes things the transport between when he leaves the port to your location, depending on how the driver is moving it things do get damaged.

[00:08:37] Kingsly:

Okay. And in those cases where you are established, That the cause of damage was the carrier, the shipping or, your freight forwarder., what have you in the past do? what are some of the things that you’ve done to ensure that you’re compensated for the loss that you have endured as a result of, the damage to the container, how maybe temperature fluctuations? We can, the container itself,

[00:08:59] Etabasi:

We always do file a claim and all my goats are always in shock. I always make sure I have insurance for everything. And I always do follow up with my claim with the shipping line as well, because it’s money. If I’m losing products means I’m losing money and somebody has to pay for that.

So what happens is they give me the cost price of it and the freight price of that particular item is deducted. They have a way of calculating it, so I don’t get lost. It’s true. I don’t make a profit on that, but at least I get the cost price and the transportation cost for that item. It’s a bottleneck to get that done. It’s whole stress.

[00:09:39] Kingsly:

Can you tell me how long it normally takes for some when you notice that there’s a claim? So when you know you finally get the money back into your account, how long does it normally take?

[00:09:49] Etabasi:

Sometimes it can take up to three months.

[00:09:54] Kingsly:

And what is the impact of that on your business?

So I imagine that, if you are moving, you know, X containers a month or a year from Africa to Canada, and sometimes your car, your container rights with damage, and you have to wait for the three months. And so cases up to six months before you get paid given the type of business that you’re running, given that, you know, it could be sometimes seasonal. what is the impact of that extended length of time that you spend in dealing with these scrapes on your business, on your own?

[00:10:26] Etabasi:

It has a huge impact because you need money. To get products from Cameroon or from Nigeria or from my just say from Africa or other parts of the world, you need money and if your budget, have you used any like say $10,000 and now you shot 5,000 and you have fun. it requests to bring in goods. What, $10,000. So you’re at a deficit of five. It’s very stressful. You have to see how to make the other five. Right. You got to look for the bank to borrow or somebody to give you a loan and you have to pay that interest.

[00:11:03] Kingsly:

That sounds to me as if, you could be in a better position if shipping lines or other carriers could entertain your claim. And so long as you’ve got all the right types of evidence in place to bring this claim. It would serve you better if they could faster than payment be out sooner than later,

[00:11:22] Etabasi:

That would be great. Then I know it’s like I’m cutting the back of load and I gave you to somebody else is handling the claim and I’m focusing on just what I’m supposed to do because then are we focusing on bringing in products and know somebody is hunting?

They claim. We just got to auntie we’ll get to my accountant.

[00:11:41] Kingsly:

Right? Okay. So you, you didn’t mention that you engage in exports from, from Africa to Canada, but it’s also my understanding that you do move from Canada to Africa as well, which African countries do you export to?

[00:11:57] Etabasi:

I do export to Cameroon, Zambia, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ghana. Those are the major countries I’m exporting to in Africa.

[00:12:09] Kingsly:

These countries you have mentioned, and not a lot necessarily neighbouring countries. So what has been your experience, you know exporting goods from an African perspective to Canada and DMA, if you like. 

And exporting goods from Canada back to Africa, there must be a stark difference in the experience that you’ve had media at the level of the port clearly goods from the port and the documentation’s required, the duration it takes to pay your goods. And what has been your experience so far?

[00:12:39] Etabasi:

For every country the experience is different. For example, I will take Cameroon first. You export things to Cameroon when you get to Cameroon to clear them. If on Monday, this amount is given to you. This is what it’ll cost you to clear out these sets in this amount of goods.

If you come back one week after that same good. That’s a simple product you’ll be spending a different amount of money on. So it’s very difficult to plan. an exact amount for that. Another country, which is better, it’s Zambia, Zambia. Then, when I’m exporting to Zambia, my things are going, I don’t have any [00:13:20] stress, how much I’m going to clear up my stops for them to get to Zambia when I’m exporting to Uganda.

They go through the port of Mombasa. Kenya. Then I have to send them by trucks to Uganda because it has to go that way. They’re shipping companies in Uganda, I partner with, for them to help me with that stress. And then they have a policy of who knows who I mean, it’s how much you pay, right?

Like partnership with another company that is best in the ground. And I pay, then I take care of the transportation for it to get to Uganda. And in Nigeria. You can quickly know how much you will spend by the time you get to the port and they have If you bring things like, for example, I take the cost from Nigeria, newer, America, the less money you spend on cost.

[00:14:11] Kingsly:

That is interesting because I think the opposite applies in Cameroon.

[00:14:16] Etabasi:

Yes, the opposite applies in Cameroon. The newer the car in Cameroon you spend more, but for Nigeria, it’s the opposite because they encourage you to bring in new cars into the country. Because the new one, the car, the lower, the pollution rate of that car and the safer it is but it’s opposite in Cameroon.

[00:14:36] Kingsly:

That makes sense and you mentioned earlier that you [00:14:40] normally take out insurance for your products or your good study moving from one country to the other, is it typical for you to pick out insurance in Canada or do you also take out insurance with the African continent as well?

[00:14:53] Etabasi:

It all depends on what product I’m shipping. If I’m shipping something, which is very expensive, honestly, I’ll get it out. I’ll get the insurance from here from Canada. But if it’s, if it’s a dry container, I get insurance from, if it’s from Cameroon, I get it from Cameroon.

[00:15:13] If it’s from Nigeria, I get it from whichever country I’m exporting from. That’s where I get my insurance.

[00:15:19] Kingsly:

Okay. And have you, have you filed claims in these countries? You know, I guess your insurance company or with your insurance company, what that means me has occurred to inland transit. Let’s say, for example, you’re moving into Uganda and you use the port of Mombasa obviously it’s going to go by it by route of opinion to Uganda. And if anything were to happen, perhaps have you experienced scenarios like that where you’ve had to make a claim in Uganda itself?

[00:15:49] Etabasi:

I have five claims in Nigeria, Cameroon, no, I think only Cameroon and Nigeria five claims the one in Nigeria took about six months.

one income around took about eight months for me to be paid back. Canada was a little bit fast. Because from the moment there was an incident at the port when it arrived on. The insurance was even contacted before I knew what was happening, the shipping line contact because it’s the same insurance they are using, they were informed. So that was a little bit faster, but the one about it.

[00:16:26] Kingsly:

And, can you just tell me a little bit about the cost? Insurance penetration in Africa is quite low. It means a disappointing less than three. 3%. So many people on the African continent choose to treat without insurance.

But if you are using insurance what can you tell us regarding or relating to the cost of your, your premiums from, from Africa, if you had to compare them with, with Europe, for example, are they comparable in any way or do you find that those.

[00:16:56] Etabasi:

Getting insurance from here, it’s expensive than getting insurance from Africa, but why sometimes I prefer getting from Canada is because I am a hundred per cent sure if there is an issue or easily get paid. Africa is very uncertain and the insurance premium keeps changing. I see. So they don’t do the insurance premium based on the cost of the product.

Only they do it based on who is the customer and how frequent you be getting insurance from them. Sometimes if it’s very busy if it’s a very busy season, I get insurance, not based on the number of containers, but I get it based on the season. So everything that happens within us is in, within that range.

[00:17:51] Kingsly:

Right. I see., some people could argue that you know there are various risk factors that are taken into consideration. For example, if you are a regular shipper with low claims that you filed against the insurance company, then obviously your premiums should be managed in such a way that it reflects your risk profile.

If you are an exporter that you’re exporting during a peak season and. Let’s say in the peak and the insurance companies have determined that it is likely or, or damaged to arise to or to occasion to your containers. Then obviously that would also inform them about your risk profile, at least the risk profile of the cargo, which about to transport.

So but it’s quite interesting, you say that the price, your premium based on. Who you are.

[00:18:44] Etabasi:

Not just based on the product, maybe also go with who you are, then the amount of time, how often you move things. It has affected that as well because I’ve had a case I was to bring in something and they give me different pricing for insurance.

And I talked to somebody else. He went to that same company. Got a rate half what I was getting.

[00:19:12] Kingsly:

That is interesting and you covered for the same insurance.

[00:19:18] Etabasi:

Same insurance I was going to get from there. That happens especially when importing from Cameroon

[00:19:26] Kingsly:

This is, this is a problem that, you know, for many years now, I’ve been looking into it to try to understand what it is that causes the insurance penetration levels on the continent to remain this low.

And one conclusion, which I keep coming to is two things. One that people are perhaps not. Aware of their benefits of using insurance, but also I think a huge factor is the lack of trust in the insurance companies that are providing this insurance product on their own continent, or let’s say in Cameroon or in other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. We do see that that is the piece or that you’re experienced as well.

[00:20:09] Etabasi:

That’s true. Let me give you a simple example. When it comes to like it’s a simple, common one where everybody in Cameroon everyone gets auto insurance. They don’t give you auto insurance based on the cost of the car. They give you the insurance based on the hospital, the car they can give you based on the horsepower, the car, not based on the cost of that car or something.

At certain points, you are losing. Let’s go to the fact that they are giving you. Let’s say you pay insurance of 25,000 and that’s what you pay for a year. You pay, you don’t pay more for you pay yearly. Once you pay for your car in an accident, how many Cameroonians have ever filed a claim with insurance?

And they get reimbursed for money. They spent fixing their cars, insurance doesn’t pay. They won’t pay you back.

[00:21:04] Kingsly:

And what is the reason they advanced for not rejecting your claim?

[00:21:08] Etabasi:

They always read, always tell you if you were off. I worked in Cameroon before leaving, I worked at the Seaport, my company we did transportation.

I knew how much we’re spending every day to move a truck out of Cameroon to any neighbouring country. Right on what we had. We had an accident, they were supposed to replace the truck. They started bitching around and we told them, if you don’t pay by this day, we’ll cut out the contract and then new will lose.

And it’s because we threaten and they had to give us a new truck, but Harding in the company, wasn’t a big company to put such a treat on them, what would have happened.

[00:21:51] Kingsly:

They probably wouldn’t have paid. This is interesting. I spoke to, some guys in Kenya a few years ago when I went to the burglar’s conference in Kenya.

And one of the topics of the day was really insurance penetration on what it. What insurance companies could do, to move their profile, but also to be able to communicate directly with those who really need this insurance. in such a way that they can trust, they can believe in it.

But also keep them an understanding of what is covered under insurance policies, pay some tax. For example, what you’ve just mentioned for all the insurance. Many people buying insurance because it’s compulsory. Not because they find the need. And so the government had many components to buy third party insurance.

 So you buy it because you don’t want a police officer to stop by the roadside and ask you where’s your insurance certificate and we’ll have one. So you might purely for the purposes of compliance, but now, because you want to buy it for compliance reasons, you go for the cheapest one possible.

When you go for the cheapest one possible, then it is a third-party liability with maybe that coverage. So if your car is damaged, then obviously we should, the insurance companies that will pay for it because you have a third party like meaty. So for example, you had a collision with someone and the deaf guy was only slightly debt.

[00:23:13] Kingsly:

Then you may get a small compensation or that person will get us more competition and the insurance policy, but you get nothing because you had a third party liability cover. But unfortunately during times like this. Being sure because of all the emotions that are running wild, they expected to get, you know, compensation from the insurance company.

And when the insurance company says, no, I’m not going to pay because you’re not covered. You know emotional wild. And now I understand, I think the insurance companies also have a role to play here. They, it is their responsibility, even not there. So already then perhaps that of their brokers who are selling this.

These insurance covenants to educate, you know, those that are taking out insurance policies to say, look, you’re taking out the most basic insurance cover, then know that for these types of risks are not calling so we can do an event of an accident.

You only need a third party who is injured as a result of that accident. We get paid up to a certain amount from the insurance company.

[00:24:10] Etabasi:

Even at that, the third parties don’t get paid. Yeah, I’m talking about cases. I move cars and I go to Cameroon, just a practical example. I went to the insurance company itself, not through anybody, but I want to get they’re like, okay, give me the car registration documents.

How many companies give them? Like, okay, this is what you’re supposed to pay. I know about insurance, then that asks the person, okay, what does my insurance cover?

She says covers everything. And I’m like, if my insurance covers everything, give me, let me give me something, right. Let me sign it and I’ll pay this amount. Or at least they didn’t have to just like pay. We’ll give you a receipt. I’ll give us if you need it really, they do. They don’t, they don’t give any booklet where you sit and you read everything, which you have a very limited number of insurance companies give you a full copy of the policy, where you go see our read to see what it covers. They don’t even tell you just, okay, sign here, sign you. Okay. That’s the insurance that you go through that must be unlawful. 

[00:25:20] Kingsly:

That is a discussion for another day. Let me just send us back to our topics of discussion.

So now our listeners are typically those that are involved in the movement of goods around the world, perhaps from Africa to other African countries or even within Europe and the United States. So, what I want to find out from you now is what would be your advice to someone who has just started off in the business of international trade.

Tell us some of the pitfalls that you would want them against? What are some of the tips and tricks that you would like to share with them as they engage in international trade to ensure that they have a smooth ride and do not experience some of the challenges that you have experienced?

[00:26:05] Etabasi:

The first thing, they need to get themselves ready. They need to make sure there’s already a market and they need to decide if they want to be a distributor, a wholesale distributor or a retailer. The moment you try to do both, you need to make sure you start spending more on warehousing and preservation of goods. And also they should decide to get a brand of products, which they walk on, they shouldn’t be all over.

When you are all over the place, you don’t, you must hire out. So you know, your products or, you know what the market wants. You make contact with people from back from the country where you’re exporting from. So once you are bringing the products, hit the C or the heat, the plane and 90 air. Get your customers ready to know when products are arriving.

It’s very important stuff. We don’t want products to arrive. I go to the customer says, give me five days. I need to make all this money. Time factor and communication is the key. And you need to be trustworthy. If you tell people $1 or one Euro, you shouldn’t be one Euro or $1. If it’s changing, you should give them a practical reason why it’s changing and you inform them before.

It arrived. So he knows, and he prepares ahead of time. And also you should avoid taking shortcuts. People want to use shortcuts. Now I know this person, I’ll give this some more money at no avoid that. Pay everything legally, get all your documents, keep your documentation and move straight forward.

Those are just, that’s just the principle that has been guiding me. And with God helping, we are moving forward, it’s never perfect, but we are getting there.

[00:28:05] Kingsly:

Thank you very much for that. that we come to the end of our discussion today, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been listening to the cost of nuclear glass and the key they involved with the movement of goods between Canada and about four or five countries in Africa.

So thank you very much for sitting down with us today. And I look forward to talking to you again in the future.

[00:28:27] Etabasi:

 Thank you very much.