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Building supply chain talent for Africa

Chaotic supply chains are negatively impacting health, development and economic outcomes in Africa, according to Nigeria-based supply chain transformation expert Azuka Okeke, who is overseeing powerful healthcare supply chain interventions around the continent.

In a presentation at the recent SAPICS Spring Conference in Johannesburg, Okeke, who is the Regional Director of the Africa Resource Centre (ARC), highlighted the strides being made in Nigeria to professionalise supply chain management. She outlined lessons that can be learnt from the successful public health and private sector collaboration that is improving healthcare delivery in Nigeria. The inaugural Spring Conference for supply chain professionals was hosted by SAPICS, The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management.

A key focus of Nigeria’s supply chain transformation has been building in-country supply chain talent, Okeke revealed. “The shortage of skilled supply chain personnel has been identified as a key driver of logistics under-performance in countries. A functional supply chain ensures that health facilities are always stocked above a certain minimum level, ensuring the availability of commodities. Since logistics costs represent 20 to 40 percent of commodity costs, it follows that efficient local supply chain management can help to achieve a significant reduction in commodity prices, too. If less money must go out of Africa to design, plan and implement healthcare supply chains, there will be more left to get medicines to the last mile.”

To this end, the Africa Resource Centre (ARC) has spearheaded an integrated centre of excellence model for supply chain and logistics management, to help build more efficient and effective supply chain systems in Nigeria and across Africa. ARC, an initiative of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is an independent strategic advisor, promoting collaboration with the aim of improving the availability of medicines and health products in Africa.

“Our model encompasses short, medium and long-term elements to rapidly develop supply chain management and logistics expertise in Nigeria and beyond,” Okeke expanded. “Our key objectives are to rapidly strengthen and scale-up in-country capacity, skills and expertise to meet local and regional needs, and to leverage and contribute to the global network focused on advancing supply chain excellence.” Already well underway and contributing to improved healthcare outcomes in Nigeria is the capacity-building ARC Academy, which represents the first part of ARC’s strategy. “ARC Academy has to date enrolled more than 120 participants from government, private sector and academia with several participants now equipped with industry leading certifications from the International Supply Chain Education Alliance (ISCEA) and other bodies. Our medium-term strategy supports in-country institutions to develop industry-aligned supply chain and logistics management degree and certificate programmes. Eight institutions including six universities are supported to date,” Okeke revealed.

She said that for the long-term, ARC is actively building coalitions with leading American and Nigerian business councils, government agencies and development finance institutions in order to deliver Africa’s first Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Global Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence (SCALE) Centre in Nigeria, for long-term improvements across Africa. The MIT Global SCALE Network is an international alliance of leading research and education centres dedicated to supply chain and logistics excellence through innovation. The MIT Global SCALE Network was formed in 2003 with the opening of the Zaragoza Logistics Centre (ZLC) in Zaragoza, Spain. The network now encompasses six centres of excellence on four continents, with more than a dozen educational programmes (both online and in residence), more than 55 academic partners, 80 researchers and faculty, 150 corporate partners, and over 1 000 alumni working worldwide.

“This is ARC’s long-term plan to build supply chain talent for the continent. We must institutionalise the learnings, to ensure that every person in Africa has access to basic healthcare and medicines to live a healthy, happy and productive life.  Collaboration with like-minded partners such as SAPICS is essential to achieve this,” she concluded.


ISCEA's mission is to provide total supply chain knowledge to manufacturing and service industry professionals through Education, Certification and Recognition. ISCEA is the developer of internationally recognized certification programs of Certified Supply Chain Manager (CSCM), Certified Supply Chain Analyst (CSCA), Certified HealthCare Supply Chain Analyst (CHSCA), Certified Demand Driven Planner (CDDP), Certified Lean Master (CLM), Certified Supply Chain Technology Professional (CSCTP), and others. ISCEA is the governing body for the Ptak Prize. ISCEA members hold mid to upper supply chain management positions in Global 2000 companies. The International Supply Chain Education Alliance (ISCEA) was the first organization certifying supply chain professionals around the globe, and it remains the worldwide authoritative resource for supply chain career development with thousands of certificate holders commanding top-tier salaries.

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