Ghana’s Swiftly brings sharing economy to shipping

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The sharing economy is gradually coming to more and more aspects of African life, including home cleaning and ridesharing. Now, Ghanaian startup Swiftly is taking it into the shipping space.

Launched earlier this year, Swiftly matches people with goods to ship with spare space in containers, whether being sent by sea, air or land.

Chief executive officer (CEO) Edem Dotse told Disrupt Africa the service has benefits in terms of both the cost of shipping goods and protecting the environment.

“The shippers who collaborate in this eco-friendly manner will share the cost of the shipment, with each party benefiting,” he said. “Freight forwarders who do cargo consolidation will also benefit greatly, as we bring them business with no burden of marketing on their part.”

The aim of Swiftly, he said, is to make shipping more affordable for anyone who wants to send or receive cargo.

“We also want to take the hassle out of transporting cargo and preparing shipping documents for our users,” he said. “Country by country we will be available to take on that responsibility and provide our users with more convenience. This is part of our last mile delivery service,” Dotse said.

Individuals can download the app and sign up as either a “User” or a “Freight Forwarder”. On the homepage they are then able to arrange for their items to be shipped in somebody else’s container, post available space of their own, or place a request for space. They will be able to find relevant matches, and can contact matches via chat to arrange collaboration.

“It is just wasteful when someone has to ship a half full container by sea, or a half full package by air, or hire a delivery truck or van without fully utilising the space,” Dotse said.

“If there can be ridesharing or apartment sharing, there can also be the sharing of shipment space. Furthermore, if space can be shared by sea, then it can be shared by air and on land as well. We also realised that shipping could be done in a more Eco-friendly way by collaborative shipping practices.”

Though there are some competitors in the space, such as Shypmate, Kontainers and Share A Container, Dotse said Swiftly is unique in that it covers all modes of shipping, with a worldwide catchment area. It is also free.

“The great difference is we don’t charge users who get matched on Swiftly. It is completely free to find someone or a freight forwarder to ship collaboratively with,” he said.

This is because the burden of payment is placed on the freight forwarders themselves, who nonetheless see great benefits from using Swiftly. Five Ghanaian companies have so far registered for the service.

“Freight forwarders benefit greatly from Swiftly in that we spare them the burden of marketing and bring clients to them with no hassle,” Dotse, who has funded the startup from his own savings, said.

“In order for freight forwarders to benefit from our service, we register them for free and charge an annual hosting fee.”

Users can also pay for value added services, such as cargo pickups, processing of shipping documents and last mile delivery. Dotse plans to expand Swiftly outside of Ghana as soon as possible.

“We intend to expand fast by reaching out to freight forwarders across the globe and also pushing targeted ad campaigns to our users globally. For pickup and last mile delivery, we want to go into partnerships with on-demand delivery companies in other countries,” he said.

“After launch we noticed a huge awareness gap. If people could know there was a company facilitating this sort of peer-to-peer consolidated shipping, they would find a solution to their problems and they would jump on fast.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent’s most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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