Logistics Exec navigate emerging markets challenges amidst recession apprehensions: Agility’s 2024 Index

Global logistics executives are still expressing concerns about an impending recession, reporting grappling with increased expenses, diminishing reliance on sourcing from China, and contemplating increased investments in Africa, despite the heightened risk associated with emerging markets.

According to the 2024 Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index, half of the 830 surveyed industry professionals anticipate a global recession in the upcoming year, marking a decrease from the nearly 70% reported a year ago.

Furthermore, over 63% of respondents reveal ongoing efforts within their companies to revamp supply chains by diversifying production across multiple locations or relocating it to domestic markets and neighboring countries. Notably, China, as the world’s primary producer, is expected to bear the brunt of these changes, with 37.4% of industry professionals expressing intentions to shift production or reduce investments in the country.

“Shippers and carriers are struggling to minimize supply chain risk and find new growth opportunities. Inflation and recession risks have eased, but the industry is still living with the aftershocks of the COVID pandemic. At the same time, businesses are worried about geopolitics — troubled trade relations between China and the U.S. and Europe, and the thicket of sanctions against a growing number of countries,” says Agility Vice Chairman Tarek Sultan.

The survey and Index represent Agility’s 15th annual overview of industry sentiment and the ranking of the world’s 50 foremost emerging markets. This Index assesses countries for overall competitiveness, considering factors such as logistics strengths, business climates, and digital readiness, making them appealing to logistics providers, freight forwarders, air and ocean carriers, distributors, and investors.

Despite shipping and logistics costs having surged during the COVID pandemic and its aftermath, the survey reveals that they are still on the rise, albeit at a slower pace. Shippers anticipate coping with this challenge by increasing the utilization of digital freight forwarding from the current 37.8% to an anticipated 52% in the next five years.

Concurrently, the industry is preparing for a substantial increase in investments in Africa. Nearly 62% of professionals indicate that their companies are planning additional or first-time investments in Africa, in contrast to only about 7% considering exiting or scaling back their operations in the region.

China and India, as the world’s two largest countries, maintain their top positions at No. 1 and 2 in the overall rankings. The top 10 also include the UAE, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Vietnam, Mexico, and Thailand. Notably, South Africa (No. 24) and Kenya (No. 25) lead among countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In terms of the best business conditions in emerging markets, three out of four are located in the Arabian Gulf: the UAE (1), Saudi Arabia (3), and Qatar (4). Malaysia (2) and Jordan (5) have seen upward movement in the business fundamentals rankings. China and India lead in domestic and international logistics, with China advancing three spots to claim the top position in digital readiness, followed by the UAE, Malaysia, and Qatar. India, however, has slipped from the top spot a year ago to No. 5 this year.

Beyond the top 10, significant fluctuations in year-to-year rankings are observed, particularly in countries grappling with conflict, international economic sanctions, or enduring chronic economic instability. Notable examples include Ukraine, Russia, Iran, Ethiopia, Argentina, Lebanon, and Tunisia.

2024 Index Highlights

• Supply chain restructuring – Executives anticipate India, Europe, and North America as preferred destinations for moving production in 2024 and beyond, surpassing China in rankings.

• China – 40% of respondents expect reduced reliance on China in the next five years. Key factors influencing decisions to de-risk in China include challenges in doing business, U.S.-China trade tensions, a slowing economy, and the stringency of China’s COVID restrictions.

• Climate change – 66% of participants indicate that climate change is a factor they are actively planning for or one that is already impacting their businesses.

• Emerging markets – A significant majority perceives increased risk and decreased rewards in emerging markets.

• India – Many anticipate India’s growing significance as a producer and market, but identify inadequate infrastructure and corruption as major obstacles.

COUNTRY RANKINGS

• In the Middle East and North Africa, overall rankings are: UAE (3); Saudi Arabia (6); Qatar (7); Turkey (11); Oman (15); Bahrain (16); Jordan (17); Egypt (20); Kuwait (21); Morocco (22); Tunisia (37); Lebanon (38); Iran (40); Algeria (42); Libya (50).

• Rankings in Sub-Saharan Africa: South Africa (24); Kenya (25); Ghana (31); Nigeria (36); Tanzania (41); Uganda (43); Ethiopia (45); Mozambique (46); Angola (47).

• Index rankings in Asia: China (1); India (2); Malaysia (4); Indonesia (5); Vietnam (8); Thailand (10); Philippines (18); Kazakhstan (23); Sri Lanka (26); Pakistan (29); Cambodia (32); Bangladesh (33); Myanmar (49).

• Rankings for Latin America: Mexico (9); Chile (12); Brazil (14); Uruguay (19); Peru (28); Colombia (27); Argentina (30); Ecuador (35); Paraguay (39); Bolivia (44); Venezuela (48).

• In Europe: Russia (13); Ukraine (34).

Transport Intelligence (Ti), a leading analysis and research firm for the logistics industry, has been compiling the Index since its launch in 2009.

John Manners-Bell, Chief Executive of Ti, said: “Supply chain managers are still coming to terms with the political and economic instability characterising the post-COVID global economy. Geopolitical relationships are changing rapidly, and this is having a major impact on international trade and risk profiles. Businesses need to be alive to the opportunities and threats that exist in emerging markets and use data, such as that the Agility Emerging Market Logistics Index, to inform agile decision-making.”


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