With Oscar nominations galore, Steve McQueen’s film 12 Years A Slave is sure to make the headlines and the focus will be back on the slave trade in all its sordid detail. Working with And Albert Foundation, the Transformational Logistics team is working to link a former slave trade route in Ghana to the work on trade corridors worldwide. Northern Gateways starts with a drive to grow the corridor from the Mersey to the Humber as part of efforts to balance the UK economy and challenge the North South divide. The inaugural Northern Gateways Conference held last November at the Hull Freedom Centre had the backing of Lords Prescott and Heseltine and a number of business and public sector leaders.
Opening the Conference Steve Brady, Leader of Hull City Council, pointed to the historical relevance of the Hull to Liverpool corridor for the millions of migrants looking for freedom and opportunity. Looking to relevance today, Lord Prescott made it clear: the ambition for Northern Gateways is to drive growth and opportunity across the North and, share this experience with a family of trade corridors across the globe – including this former slave route in Ghana from Fort William Anomabo due North to Burkina Faso and on to Mali. Have a look at this introductory VIDEO.
Trade corridors worldwide are hugely significant. There are 14 landlocked countries in Africa and without their trade corridors to the coast and port operations for import and export, their potential is lost. In India, trade corridors from Delhi to Mumbai and, Bangalore to Delhi are opening up greater investment in infrastructure, energy, connectivity, skills development and jobs. China has long since focussed their port cities and now is developing links to the hinterland either by river, road, rail or air. Saudi Arabia is looking to connect the west and east coasts by rail and, South America and Asia are working to bolster synergies within and accessibility to global markets beyond individual countries through trade corridors.
So how can the Northern Gateways initiative make a contribution to a former slave route in Ghana? The objective is to build a viable network of producers along an old slave route to build global market access – this can erode a cloying slave mentality by wiping away the stigma of the past and help to build local capacity and sustainable livelihoods. This approach is led by the And Albert Foundation (AAF).
AAF is the result of over 20 years of forming a pioneering model of development a world away from the race to the bottom price and the havoc this causes. The project links closely with the Trade Corridor approach from Mersey to Humber and to the Transformational Logistics model with a focus on trade, trees and training.
First, AAF is working to create a viable trading model focussed around Ghana’s Northern River, the White Volta – a former slave trade route. Purpose built boats using innovative and resilient materials have been made and designed in Hull to accommodate the trading potential of a hundred villages with no existing road access. These boats ensure that any investment up river is not stranded and cut off from markets that can help locals pay their own way.
Second, AAF wants to strengthen local livelihoods by planting 10 million fruit trees for health and wealth along and around this route – each tree representing over 10 million slaves from tribes who were rounded up and forced to the Coast and waiting galleons bound for the West Indies, Americas and Britain.
Thirdly, AAF highlights the need for qualified workers, teachers and pathways for children to grow up, learn and contribute to sustainable growth. Give a starving man a fish and feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime. AAF has been working to empower them with information and education using solar powered computer libraries offering access to 100,000 books. This project could extend to partners across the Mersey Humber trade corridor contributing to distance learning initiatives using techniques developed in telemedicine. Trade, Trees and Training can transform lives and give locals the dignity to forge their own sustainable futures.
This project to build a viable trade corridor on the footprint of a former slave trade route starts with mapping the old slave route and then, working with existing communities, businesses and services to build sustainable growth.
Conventional supply chain thinking and practice is all too often geared to engineering better, cheaper and faster routes to markets in the developed world – some would say to source commodities and products from those with fragile livelihoods in frontier markets to those with comparatively wealthy lifestyles in the developed world – this can be taken to an extreme with some footloose multi-nationals move from one low cost area to another in the race for the bottom price. This is no way to help local communities generate a surplus and be able to invest in their own sustainable futures. As Rob Bell, who coined the term transformational logistics puts it: “it is time that logistics and supply chain leaders stopped pushing convergence to a one-size-fits-all developed world business model. This is more bullock cart to Walmart, traditional to modern, than one size fits all. We need to shift the emphasis to respond to real needs – developing world livelihoods and not just developed world lifestyles.”
The next few posts will explore a number of initiatives as they progress.