"The company that makes Africa work better”: A $7 million loan creates invaluable impact in East Africa
This is the first blog in a series showcasing the stories of the people and communities that have benefited from OPIC’s investment in development.
Alistair Group, a shipping and logistics company based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, has shown how an American-owned business can grow into an international role model, moving other companies and the government of an African country toward better policies, transparency, technology, and opportunities.
Alistair Group, established in 2007 with just two trucks, used a $7 million OPIC loan in 2012 to expand their fleet and operations. The company offers shipping and logistics services for major mining, oil, and gas companies as well as global relief organizations with routes to Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, and South Africa.
Now a regional logistics company with 152 tractor trailers, Alistair Group plans to expand operations further and create a new hub in central Tanzania that will speed repairs and get trucks back on the road more quickly.
Employees as the backbone of success
Alistair Group takes the wellbeing of its employees and stakeholders very seriously. The company’s corporate values emphasize hiring local employees for whom they provide extensive training. They invest in their professional development, make them industry specialists and empower them to solve problems. Drivers are trained extensively on safety standards, accident prevention, compliance, and regulations. All employees are incentivized by medical coverage, pensions, performance awards, and other benefits; unusual for most African workers.
Understanding the importance of empowering women, the company, which is partially owned by Clementine Jones, their head of Business Development, includes several women in senior management including Fatema Esmailji, Alistair Group’s Chief Financial Officer, as well as Anna Joyce, their lead logistics manager. The company supports women in non-traditional fields and has both a female mechanic and female truck driver on staff. Women at Alistair report that they are respected by their male counterparts as equals in all areas of Alistair.
Technology driven competition
Innovations are revolutionizing Africa. With Alistair Group’s focus on technology, customers receive constant updates on their shipments online and they are developing a new app referred to as the “Alistair App”. It is being created by a California company Flat Six. With this, customers will be use their phones to follow their shipments in real time, ensuring that Alistair retains its reputation for reliable, timely, and secure transport of their goods.
Alistair Group has an impressive control room and a GPS tracking system for their trucks that allows them to monitor the location of every truck and shipment. This helps safeguard cargo from theft or loss and reduces corruption. This has raised the bar for other logistics companies and their competitors are beginning to use similar technologies.
Standing up against corruption leads to economic opportunities
In many countries, customs clearance and border controls present opportunities for corruption. Tanzania has not been immune to this. Foreign companies interested in importing or shipping goods in the region have identified petty corruption as an obstacle to investment. Alistair Group has a zero-tolerance policy to bribery and corruption. Absolutely no bribes will be paid ever. Because of this commitment, corrupt officials no longer even stop Alistair Group trucks, knowing that they will not receive a bribe. It appears that the benefits of this hardline position is actually being noticed by other companies and the Tanzanian government. Alistair’s competitors and suppliers are looking at instituting similar policies and the Tanzanian government is realizing that there are strong economic benefits to improving the investment climate. Having ports, borders and export processing zones that companies can trust to be corruption-free spurs investment. Efficient, reliable transportation of goods encourages new investors to consider choosing Tanzania over other nearby locations.
Impact on suppliers, contractors, and customers
Alistair Group’s suppliers and contractors have taken an interest in the company’s standards and principles which include always paying invoices on time, investing in employee development, offering benefits, providing performance-based awards, and implementing innovative technologies. These companies are seeing Alistair as a role model and incorporating these best practices into their own corporate culture. For example, uniform manufacturer OpenSanit, an Alistair Group supplier, has trained workers to improve their manufacturing skills, gained new business and expanded operations. They also require their customers to pay invoices on time.
As for Alistair Group customers, the company’s technology innovations, ensuring safe and timely deliveries, customer service, and transparency has encouraged them to demand the same from other vendors. Alistair Group is clearly setting a new standard for doing business in Tanzania.
Ripple effect in the community and on women
Around the corner from Alistair Group’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam, the company is making a noticeable impact in the community.
Alistair pays for its employee’s lunch every day. As a result, Alistair Group has helped a small, women-owned restaurant to hire several additional workers- all female – to support the increase in business. More traffic near her sundries shop visited by Alistair employees has helped another business owner to increase her income and send her children to school.
Finally, as a result of their commitment to social responsibility, Alistair Group has installed a water spigot providing clean, potable water at its gates for use by nearby families in the community. Every evening, dozens of women and girls line up to take advantage of the clean water that they can access for free at Alistair Group.
Alistair Makes a Difference
As a result of a $7 million loan from OPIC, Alistair Group has created broad impacts not only on its own business potential, but on the professional development of employees, opportunities for women in leadership positions, the use of innovative technologies, reduced institutional corruption, ease of “doing business” in East Africa, growth of small businesses, and the well-being of the community. Through its resolve to conduct business with the highest levels of integrity and in full compliance with international and local regulations, regardless of the cost, Alistair Group is on the road to making an impact on the continent.