Aristide Mbella

The Digitalisation of Ports in Africa: The Key Role of HR

The Digitalisation of Ports in Africa

The Key Role of HR

Due to the importance of ports on trade in Africa (90% of African trade is done by sea), it has now become crucial to think about the different optimisation and automation methods that will improve efficiency and the capacity of our African ports. This is also a major political objective of institutions such as the African Union and the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa.

In response, the maritime industry has started working on digital transformation due to its many benefits. Port management, which is one of the building blocks of this industry, has also accelerated digital transformation efforts under the leadership of those involved in running developed ports around the world.

The concept of a “smart port”, or an intelligent port, has developed thanks to innovations and technological advances, aiming to be always faster and more accessible. These are ports that use automation and new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data (or big data), the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain to improve their performance.

  • IoT technology makes it possible to connect all kinds of objects to the internet, to store the information they produce, to communicate between objects, and to give commands to objects remotely.

  • Digital Twin technology, on the other hand, is a technology that allows a device or system to be created in a virtual environment and constantly updated with information from its real twin. Real twin information transfer is usually provided by IoT technology. Fed with up-to-date data, the digital twin reflects the life of the real twin. Thus, the virtual world of the real world is created on the computer. In this way, applications, modifications, experiments planned on the real twin can be applied on the virtual twin, problems that may occur in the real twin can be detected and intervened in advance.

  • Technology that prevents digital data from being damaged is known as blockchain technology. It prevents accidental or intentional theft, deletion, modification or corruption of digital data. In this technology, digital data is saved on all computers connected to each other in a decentralised structure, using an encryption system that is very difficult to decipher. This way, security issues – one of the biggest threats of digital transformation – can be avoided.
LRMG Digital Transformation Ports

Have you guessed where the HR department comes in?

In smart ports that have achieved digital transformation, the uninterrupted and trouble-free operation of digital technology depends on measures taken regarding CYBERSECURITY. Yes, I would like to emphasise this! The main problems experienced by companies that have already started to automate their processes are security related. The most notable incident occurred in 2017, when one of the world’s largest shipping companies was the target of a virus cyberattack, which caused massive disruptions to shipping lines, international supplies, and resulted in damage amounting to $300 million.

How to solve this problem ?

In Digital Transformation, the key word is not digital but indeed TRANSFORMATION. It’s almost impossible to talk about transformation without putting people at the centre.

To prevent and prepare for cyberattacks on African ports, the countries concerned must take appropriate measures. This includes providing mandatory, CONTINUOUS cybersecurity training to system administrators, project managers, developers, security guards, harbour masters and other key personnel.

In this case, the classical training methods are obsolete. We should move towards digital training that will allow meticulous monitoring of the skills acquired and precisely determine the level of expertise needed. Not only does this minimise costs, but the impact would actually be measurable.

Beyond the aspect of technical skills, it is essential to have LEADERS 4.0 at the head of port institutions, because practically everything stems from this. The digital age requires a new way of thinking – more agile leaders who are more inclined to innovation, collaboration and who have a new approach to conflict management.

If the players in this industry want to succeed in their transition to digital (which is essential given the potential gains), they must go beyond the systems aspect, think strongly about the human aspect, and give back to HRDs the place that they must occupy at the heart of this transformation. Only in this way will the risks associated with this transition be minimised.

Africa is full of men and women capable of carrying out large-scale projects such as Smart Ports, provided they take full advantage of the advent of digital technology.

Read the French version of the above blog La Digitalisation des Ports en Afrique

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