This month Rob Bell, founder of the Transformational Logistics Blog, is giving talks on “the Brands New World” at Business Schools across the UK. Starting with Durham and moving on to Hull; Aston; Sheffield and Aberdeen Business School Rob Bell is focussing attention on the challenge facing brands across diverse emerging, developing and devastated markets. There is no one best way and a need for business thinking to adapt.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, the rise of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as well as the MINTS (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey and South Africa) is well documented and yet, the approach adopted by many companies is to continue to do the same things as they have done in the developed world and expect a different result. What’s different?
The literature on Aid and the plight of those in poverty is extensive with Paul Collier (2007) identifying four “traps” to blame for the misery of “the bottom billion”. Conflict, natural resources (too many or too few), being landlocked with bad neighbours and bad governance are the traps that must be removed to move countries out of poverty. Hernando De Soto (2000) argues that the reason is “dead capital”, not the absence of capital, that is responsible for poverty in the third world countries.
There are several aid optimists led by Jeffrey Sachs (2005) emphasising how aid can make a difference and aid pessimists such as William Easterly (2006, 2010) and more recently Dambisa Moyo (2009) who focus a lack of value for money and a dependency culture. Continue reading
Last week, I met with a number of Groups working together on the Wilberforce legacy from the Hull Freedom Centre – a community centre in East Hull, England. Several groups are working on a variety of initiatives geared to promote the Wilberforce Anti-Slavery ethos in the modern world. People like Karen Okra and Hull Identity are seeking to promote sporting and arts events to raise awareness about diversity; David Murden of the And Albert Foundation is working with Northern Gateways to develop viable trade corridors across Africa driven by ethical business principles and, then I spoke with Gifty Burrows of the Wilberforce Monument Fund.
Who was William Wilberforce and what are aims of the Monument Fund?
William Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833) was born in Hull and became a leading English politician, and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. That campaign led to the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire; Wilberforce died just three days after hearing that the passage of the Act through Parliament was assured. It had been a long hard struggle and the campaign had used a series of highly innovative campaign initiatives to raise awareness and change opinion.
The William Wilberforce Monument Fund is a fundraising campaign to improve the cultural and historical awareness of the Wilberforce legacy. It aims to light the monument of the world famous slavery abolitionist, in time for Hull’s year as the UK City of Culture in 2017. Continue reading
The UK is suffering from a significant South North divide. Measured in health, culture as well as economic prospects, London and the South East has all the characteristics of a different – more prosperous – country. This is exacerbated by fiscal centralisation. As Neil McInroy highlights in an article 80 years of pain “Central government’s share of public spend in Germany is 19%, but it’s a whopping 72% in the UK. For example, New Economy Manchester has detailed, that of all the £22bn of public funds spent in Greater Manchester, central government controls how £16bn is spent and has significant say over the rest.
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.
In the late 1920s Henry Ford was looking for ways to reduce operating costs and, against a backdrop of cartel price hikes for British (Malay) rubber he moved to set up a Brasilian plantation that would produce latex for tyres using all the best practice that the king of the assembly lines could muster. By the 1940s, the Ford Motor company had invested over $200 million (current day pricing) in the Amazon region on a spectacular failure that acts as a stark reminder of what can go wrong when developed world logic seeks to plug and play in emerging and developing markets.
And we lived at 22 Amazon Street
Fordlandia, 10,000 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest, was styled on the Mid West towns of Fords experience with a healthy lifestyle – hamburgers were the staple diet – and, moral values. Alcohol and tobacco were forbidden. Line dancing and poetry readings of Longfellow and Wordsworth were encouraged. The factory and plantations were similarly based on the one best way of Fordism and the scientific management methods of F W Taylor (1911) – that Lenin and the Bolsheviks used to turbo charge industrialisation. Industrial engineers laid out the plantations in the Amazon – there were 200 rubber plants (hevea brasiliensis) per acre versus the 7 per acre of the primal rain forest. By 1930s riots broke through the social strait jacket to wreck the town and, the close proximity of the trees facilitated tree blight whilst sap eating insects reduced the trees to useless stumps. There followed a fresh attempt to “take the white man’s magic to the wilderness” (Washington Post) at Beltera but, after producing 750 versus a planned 30,000 tonnes; Ford accepted $200,000 from the Brazilian Government and withdrew. There is one best way to disaster – ignore local context. Continue reading
Ideas, knowledge, science, hospitality, travel – these are things which should of their nature be international. But let goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible and, above all, let finance be primarily national. Yet, at the same time, those who seek to disembarrass a country of its entanglements should be very slow and wary. It should not be a matter of tearing up roots but of slowly training a plant to grow in a different direction. 
More than a decade ago Jim O’Neill was working with Goldman Sachs and coined the term BRIC; an acronym for Brazil; Russia; India and China – countries characterised by high growth. South Africa was added in 2010 to give us BRICS. All five are now G20 members. There followed a focus on the next eleven – based on population size. Over the next few years, this second string was refined to focus on the MINTs (Mexico; Indonesia; Nigeria and Turkey) – countries which look set to join the world’s economic A-list. Places like Pakistan passed over because of the huge problems to solve and South Korea because it has arrived. In fact, Jim O’Neill sees South Korea as a template for the MINTs.
This last week, Jim O’Neill presented a series of programmes on the MINTs on BBC Radio 4. Hugely informative, I was struck by a number of insights on key drivers from demographics (a young population relative to a dependent population) and productivity to the need for governance and above all energy. One word kept cropping up – transformation. Of this more later! Continue reading
This last week the BBC has run a series of programmes on Africa’s Lions – the growth opportunities that are opening up all over that vast continent. I was struck by the youth in abundance but the need for education and skills to make growth sustainable pulled me back to Debbie Bartlett, an inspiring woman who works in the logistics sector and is using her skills to help transform lives. A few years ago, Debbie went on holiday to Kenya with her family and a chance trip to a local school opened up fresh perspectives. This is her story.
Learning in Shansu, Mombassa Kenya
1. Who are you and what are you up to? I am the Business Development Director at the Port of Tilbury – I specialise in international supply chains and making connections to assist companies to relocate to the Port – portcentric logistics. Tilbury is the closest international port to London – a diverse multimodal hub taking goods to the heart of the UK’s main population in the South East. I work with a number of shipping lines, forwarders, 3PLs, retailers etc.
In my spare time, I am the Business Development Manager (unpaid) for Better Life: Africa – a small UK based charity which works with a school in the Shanzu district of Mombasa in Kenya. This is a transformational project geared to provide schooling – a first step on a career path – for the very poorest children in an area where schooling is not easy to have. I see this school as part of a wider solution – a wonderful, inspirational place full of happy children who just want to learn and dream of being engineers and teachers as well as a project that challenges business to make things happen. Continue reading