Serigne Mbaye, DHL Global Forwarding, Senegal
Getting Senegal back on track - Serigne Ndanck Mbaye's interest in logistics began when, as a biologist, he was responsible for the production and the transport of vaccines in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. It set him on a path that led him to becoming a country manager for DHL Global Forwarding, tasked with turning around the business in Senegal.
There are people who like a challenge - people like Serigne Ndanck Mbaye.
A decade ago, at 33, when working as a biologist for the Pasteur Institute, he took responsibility for the yellow fever vaccine production laboratory in Senegal. He was closely involved in ensuring the security of the vaccine’s cold chain, not only in Africa but for shipments to Europe and the US, too. "With a human vaccine, there are serious implications if things go wrong," Mbaye says, "so you need an excellent organizational set-up and discipline." The vaccines were transported in dry ice to keep them at minus 50 degrees Centigrade or below. Mbaye was deeply impressed by the coordination between origin and destination, especially for international shipments. "I was dealing with logistics providers, including DHL, and I learned a lot about the processes," he recalls. The high standards and attention to detail inherent in shipping vaccines appealed to him: "Even then, I wanted to learn about the details in a more formal way," he says. So much so, that at the age of 41 Mbaye was to return to university to study logistics.
But Mbaye's career at DHL began before that, back in 2004, when he joined DHL Express, working out of Dakar Airport. Later he took on a role with DHL Express in Angola before returning to his home country of Senegal in 2010. "At that time, DHL Express Senegal was the benchmark for Sub-Saharan Africa operations in terms of volume, value and quality," he says. "My career was going well at DHL Express and I had opportunities there." Then, in October 2011 the CEO of DGF Africa and South Asia Pacific asked Mbaye to join DGF Senegal as its Country Manager. "I took a look at the company’s performance," says Mbaye, "and thought 'wow, this could destroy my career'." What he found was a fledgling operation struggling to get off the ground. Established only in 2008, by 2011 DGF Senegal was making heavy losses, trailing its targets by over 500%. "The figures were all in the red. Every one of them," recalls Mbaye. But, he reasoned, DGF was successful in other countries. "So I started thinking about what could have been going wrong in Senegal. Was it the set-up, the structure, staff motivation? Finally I decided to jump in and take on the challenge."
Undaunted by the difficulty of the task, Mbaye set about identifying DGF Senegal’s problems and searching for solutions. "I like to work on new projects," he reflects, "especially those that have meaning for our growth or improvement of productivity." The first priority was to meet all the DGF Senegal employees one on- one. "My colleagues are my greatest asset," he says. "My goal was to get to know them personally, hear their concerns, discuss their duties, and try to identify if their job is a good fit for them."
Having moved from site to site, speaking to everyone, Mbaye was well equipped with ideas and solutions at the weekly Senior Management Team meetings he set up to decide on the way forward. The approach gave DGF Senegal the boost it needed. Just a year after Mbaye took the reins, in 2012, the operation was back on track. "Our company is definitely on a path towards continued growth and profitability," he says. "Investment will support this growth, and we will keep on working to maintain the trend. Our aim is to move from being a tier-four country, as most Sub-Saharan African countries in the DHL Global Forwarding network are, up to tier three in the next four years. We are on the right track for a bright - and healthy - future."