Integrated Report 2020

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Our operating context

The supply chain and logistics industry serves the dynamic needs of a complex world and plays a pivotal role in the African economy – connecting manufacturers and consumers, and directing the flow of goods and services. Our deep understanding of our markets and industries underpins our competitiveness and resilience, and that of our clients, in full view of the emerging risks and opportunities within our strategic scope.

Imperial has a strong track record and experience in operating and growing in Africa, taking our clients and principals to customers in some of the fastest growing and most challenging markets in the world.


Across our regions, our businesses were exposed to increasingly difficult economic and market conditions – particularly in South Africa and Europe (including the UK). This tough macroenvironment was exacerbated by the negative impact of Covid-19 on volumes across most sectors.

Market Access

Covid-19 has significantly impacted Africa and its people, with reduced consumer and household demand. Oil-dependent markets were impacted by reduced global demand and lower oil prices, although the latter has recovered somewhat since May 2020. Negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth is expected across most economies and this is likely to weigh heavily on consumer sentiment and curb spending, particularly on non-essential goods. Currency weakness is likely to lead to high inflation despite muted domestic demand. Our sub-Saharan African markets are particularly vulnerable to this due to their dependence on international tourism, and trade and investment, as well as exposure to shifts in risk sentiment.

Most countries in which we operate have relaxed their Covid-19 restrictions and some level of economic recovery has been evident, although activity is not yet back at normalised levels. All our Market Access businesses are currently in operation but volumes remain impacted. We expect a steady recovery in revenue as lockdown restrictions continue to ease.

Despite the impact of Covid-19, ongoing subdued growth and lower consumer spending in certain countries of operation, our primary positioning as a leading market access partner in the healthcare and consumer industries continues to stand us in good stead in Africa. We remain optimistic about the opportunities inherent in Africa's rising consumerism, urbanisation, population growth and the strengthening of healthcare systems. These trends present growth opportunities and continue to drive demand for our market access and logistics capabilities. Our credibility, experience, innovative business models and commercial solutions position Imperial as a uniquely skilled partner to multinational manufacturers and brand owners.



Prevailing weak economic conditions, high unemployment and low consumer spending have been exacerbated by Covid-19 and volumes declined across most sectors. Tobacco, alcohol and fuel volumes, in particular, saw significant declines as a result of lockdown restrictions. We saw increased demand from fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and healthcare clients as the pandemic drove heightened demand and consumption of related products. Nearly 90% of this business is currently in operation (based on revenue). We anticipate normal trading to return in the short to medium term as lockdown restrictions are lifted.


With industry exposure still largely focused on mature German manufacturing industries – such as automotive, chemicals and steel – our European operation was most impacted by the pandemic. We experienced significant reduction in volumes and activities in March, April and May 2020 as our core industries experienced complete lockdown.

Many countries in Europe, including the UK, have now eased lockdown restrictions and there has been a noticeable increase in activity and volumes since June 2020. Although volumes remain impacted, all businesses in Logistics International are currently operational. In an effort to boost economic recovery, create employment and protect jobs, the European Union (EU) is proposing a comprehensive recovery plan to fully exploit the potential of the EU budget. Alongside the EU initiatives, each member country is providing emergency economic recovery packages. In Germany – our largest market – the government is acting definitively and systematically to protect the German economy and the emergency economic stimulus package in place is the largest in the country's history.

Global logistics trends

The global logistics industry is facing immense change, presenting both risks and opportunities for solution providers like Imperial. Key areas of potential disruption for the group include socioeconomic and political trends, the nature of our competition, our ways of doing business, and the changing needs and expectations of our clients, principals and customers. The emergence of Covid-19 has impacted the industry, however, it has also demonstrated the essential role played by the logistics industry and, at Imperial, has renewed our sense of relevance and purpose.


  • Africa presents one of the fastest growing consumer and healthcare markets in the world.
  • Healthcare and consumer sectors in Africa are expected to grow by a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18% and 9% respectively.
  • Pre-existing border restrictions, trade wars and other factors limiting the movement of goods and people have been amplified by Covid-19-related lockdowns and restrictions at national level.
  • Covid-19 restrictions are accelerating the shortening of global supply chains in favour of local manufacturing and 'on-shoring'.
  • The emphasis on local beneficiation presents significant opportunities for our Logistics and Market Access businesses.
  • Clients are likely to rethink their supply chain strategies, favouring opportunities for outsourcing, end-to-end offerings, innovative solutions, and increased supply chain visibility and resilience at lower cost.
  • The Africa free trade agreement provides growth opportunities, increasing efficiency, reducing complexity and promoting cross-border trade.


  • Alongside heightened activism from investors, non-governmental organisations, and the public alike, businesses must fully and holistically embrace ESG and shared-value principles and practices.
  • The need for digital and other scarce skills sets will intensify competition for skills in a tough economic environment.
  • To meet this challenge, organisations must create compelling employee value propositions that reach beyond traditional talent pools.
  • Consumer behaviour is shifting, with the contact free economy gathering momentum in higher adoption of ecommerce, online engagement and services such as telemedicine, which is reshaping traditional business models.
  • Data provides a significant opportunity.
  • Digital and data will be fundamental to accommodating remote and flexible working conditions that necessitate new ways of working and doing business, presenting opportunities for efficiencies and cost savings.
  • Digital and data enabled organisations will play a central role in meeting many current market and industry demands.
  • Advancement in digitalisation also provides increasing options for automating repetitive processes.


  • Disintermediation continues to present a threat to the group's client franchise, and the integrity of our end-to-end service offering. This is heightened by new competitors with highly innovative and disruptive operating models.
  • To compete and win, against existing and new competitors, requires that organisations become highly client-centric, digitally and data focused, able to understand the current needs of their customers, clients and principals, and to anticipate how these are likely to change in the future.
  • Changing consumer behaviour, rapid technological improvements and global competition are increasing demand volatility, impacting supply chain management and planning.


Trends overview

Sector trends1