Challenges facing Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management professionals in Africa

Once I started writing this blog, I realised my folly. The topic of my blog might sound simple, it was anything but, especially for me – (1) my knowledge of Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management (PLSCM) is entirely academic, and (2) I am not African, nor have I ever worked or even visited Africa.

But I do know that Africa is the future and has the potential for dramatic growth (if she is able to tap into that potential), and effective management of PLSCM will play a pivotal part in this future, given the resources in raw materials that Africa has.

And hence my topic, and my folly, and something I felt needed to be done.

What I didn’t realise when I picked this topic was the resources I had on hand. As of today, Robert Kennedy College (RKC) has a very large number of students from Africa who are doing or have successfully completed our 100% Online MSc programme in Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, and this is the resource I tapped into when writing this blog. 

I conducted an online survey of these students (of which about a hundred participated) and asked them about the challenges they face as PLSCM professionals in Africa, the image below indicates a country wise breakup of the response we received from our students to the survey.

Country wise breakup of the survey response received

The following are the top five responses I got back from the survey. Now, while this blog is Africa-centric, I find that these challenges are universal, and effect Africa as a whole, other developing nations, and even the developed or “first world” nations to some degree.

Top 5 challenges facing PLSCM professionals in Africa

Infrastructure – is the foundation on which a strong PLSCM function is built. The whole point of having a streamlined and efficient PLSCM department is to effectively purchase (at best costs) and move raw materials and finished products from point to point in a timely and less resource intensive manner. Efficiency also means having the products readily available, while at the same time not leaving them idling in a storehouse somewhere. To enable this, state of the art, physical infrastructure is needed – from roads and railways to airports, seaports, and safe and secure areas (such as industrial zones, etc.) for manufacturing and storage.

“A change in policy is required as there is a lack of willingness by African governments to invest in infrastructure development.”

Current student of our MSc programme in PLSCM

Corruption – the universal bane to businesses, and something that is global, encouraged and fostered by everyone involved, willingly or unwillingly. It is easy to blame a corrupt official for delays and holdups, until palms are greased to get thing moving without looking at the reasons why. Are you encouraging the behaviour by paying the bribe? Is your competitor paying bribes to hold you up? Why does the official need the money, is he paid enough? Are the laws strict enough to prevent corruption?

“Effective specially designed civic education programs at the grassroots level, to empower the people to make the right choice of leadership to drive the change that is needed.”

Graduate of our online MSc in PLCSM

Policy Change – As one of my former managers once told me “If you are comfortable then you are not growing”. And while this is true, who doesn’t like being comfortable? From our survey, this seems to hold especially true in Africa. For policy changes to take place, something big should have happened for the powers that be to even consider a change, and even then, comities have to be put in place to suggest the changes and then review the suggested changes, all this taking forever. By the time the policy change comes about, it will usually be outdated.

“A paradigm shift from traditional procurement method to e-procurement method. Also, government policies need to be critically reviewed across the board in order to encourage small and medium scale enterprises in Africa. Manufacturing sectors should not be left out as well as they are the process owners.”

A suggestion from one of our online MSc in PLSCM student

Stuck in time (Slow to incorporate modern methods) – A follow on to the previous point, it is not just the people in power who are slow to incorporate change, but also the people who do the work who are slow to embrace change as well. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But what people don’t realise is, it is not about fixing it, it is about bettering it. People get comfortable and don’t want to change or learn new ways of doing things, and then complain about the people above them making life difficult by not embracing change and current best practices.

“Changes in technology are associated with high set-up costs. Financial constraints are a major drawback, especially in some developing economies, when it comes to capital projects. Modern procurement is now taking place online, but many companies still haven’t adopted to these technological changes. Most functions now and procurement is done online while in Africa most countries still do their procurement manually. This is basically because of poor infrastructure, weak strategic alliances and reluctance to change that makes people not adopt these changes.”

A thought from one of our MSc PLSCM students

Cutting corners to save time – another universal truth. After doing a job for a period of time, we begin to believe that we know best, and can make a process better by cutting corners. But what we fail to understand is that we are but a single, small cog in the machine, and a process is in place to help the whole machine run smoother. By cutting corners and not following the process, all that might be achieved is to throw a spanner in the works. If you believe there is a better way to do something, take it to the management and make you case, it might just increase the efficiency of the whole machine.  

“Build Collaborative supportive systems and structures that work for both governments and stakeholders.”

Suggestion from a graduate of our online MSc in PLCSM

These are just some of the most basis challenges that a PLSCM professional faces in Africa. I am sure there are a lot more complicated and technical challenges out there that will confound even the most seasoned PLSCM professional. Constantly learning and getting your knowledge up-to-date is required to stay ahead of the curve. Robert Kennedy College, through our exclusive partnership with the University of Salford, UK, offers a 100% Online MSc in Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management to better prepare you for the challenges to come. Here’s what our students said about this in our survey:

This is what our students had to say when asked during our survey

You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on the programmes offered, application process, and for more information on any discounts we might be running in this rather strange period of our lives.

Sahil Devasia

Sahil Devasia has a bachelor’s degree in Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science with an MBA in Marketing. He has a wide gamut of professional experience, from the Merchant Marines to the Banking and Finance industries and has been associated with Robert Kennedy College since 2015.  His favourite song is Bon Jovi’s - It's My Life and his ambition in life is to be the “World’s best Dad”. 

6 Comments

  1. Newton Maganga

    Reading comments form graduates and student who are still studying towards the Procurement Logistics, and Supply Chain Management, I get the sense that Africa in general needs well trianed professionals in this field. Recently I read in paper how a government in Africa lost over 1.3 triliion sum of monies through corruption. It was evident that projects were given to people who were less qualified,unfortunately tendering processes were involved. Imagine if the procurement professionals were all very professional, and ethical, surely not all these kind of money would have been wasted.

    • Hello Newton, thank you for your interest in our blog and for your comment.

      While this blog was Africa centric, and based on the feedback from our African students. And while I agree with your sentiments with in this regard, I believe the issues faced by Africa is not limited to only Africa, but is global in nature. It is after all only human nature.

      For the sake of prosperity, it is a challenge that will need to be overcome, and training and education will play an important part in making this change happen.

  2. Fredrick Omamo

    As much as there is need for more well trained procurement professionals in Africa, the public procurement and supply chain management environment is fuzzy and the contending external forces are so fierce that the professionals are unable to withstand.

    One way to deal with public procurement issues in Africa and other regions with similar challenges is to implement transparency in public procurement, right from the tendering process to the contract award and payments. OECD (2003) contends that through transparent procurement, resources are allocated more efficiently, procurement quality is enhanced and both governments and tax payers benefit from budgetary savings. At least the taxpayers would be able to know who has been shortlisted, who was eventually awarded the tender, the variations between the original bid price and the final award price, the directors of the firm awarded the contract, and follow through the performance and delivery of the services and goods as tendered. This is in line with the recommendations of Transparency International (2015) in its position paper on promoting integrity in public procurement.

    Once funds can be channeled properly as planned and transgressors are made responsible and accountable for their actions, all the other challenges such as poor infrastructure, ‘stuck in time’, cutting corners to save time will fall.

    Information technology systems should also be put in place that can detect and alert funds diversion or illegal payments before they occur, forensically trace the accounting officers and the movement of public funds paid electronically to any person or entity, and support prosecution in court for conviction to deter encourage professionals to stand their guard.

    A number of Africa countries have created public procurement oversight bodies. Such public procurement oversight authorities should be mandated to implement and enforce public procurement transparency laws in line with Transparency International recommendations, EU Directive 2014/24/EU on the public procurement, or other similar legislation.

    References:

    Ernst & Young (2015). Overview of government procurement procedures in
    sub-Saharan Africa: Angola, Botswana, Namibia & South Africa. Available from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/431557/Overview_of_government_procurement_procedures_in_sub-Saharan_Africa.pdf [accessed 23 Aug 2020].

    EU. Directive 2014/24/EU on public procurement and repealing Directive 2004/18/EC. Document 02014L0024-20200101. Available from https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:02014L0024-20200101 [accessed 23 Aug 2020].

    Oyegoke, A. S. (2012). Transparency in public procurement: A study of the European Union directive for public works, supply and services contracts. International Journal of Business Excellence, 5(3), 195-219. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264837773_Transparency_in_public_procurement_A_study_of_the_European_Union_directive_for_public_works_supply_and_services_contracts [accessed 23 Aug 2020].

  3. Ravi Kirpalani

    Greetings.

    Firstly I would like to apologize to all my African brothers, but what I would like to say is the brutal truth. And yes the truth does hurt. So my sincerest apologies in advance.

    I think for me the first and most important issue in Africa (likewise in India, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia etc) is CORRUPTION. Corruption not just at state Government level but also grassroot level.

    All this Procurement, Logistics, Supply Chain Management, Legal Issues etc, all come down to corruption and theft.

    The point of infrastructre not being upto par, the seaports are under developed, the rail tracks are broken, points to corruption. India is the same. China is the same. Philippines is the same, as well as many part of South America.

    Government Official: How much money will you give me to pass your tender?
    My company: Sorry boss, ZERO
    Government Official: GET LOST

    Corruption and Prostitution, are the 2 oldest professions that have stood the test of time.

    The amount of corruption which exists in nearly all of Africa is unfathomable. I wouldn’t know who would come out on top, should there be a competition between India and Africa.

    I have lived, breathed, worked Africa and till date I still do. Nothing gets by without flashing the all powerful green currency. Should you flash the currency with Mr. Franklin’s face on it, trust me, you can go a long way. And this has happened with me time and time again.

    Our company has lost major contracts for Government Tenders due to our unwillingness of greasing the hands of the officials. This is at Government level. If you want to know about corruption at grassroot levels, I have a lot of experiences.

    Ernst & Young, KPMG, PWC, Deloitte, they can make and publish all their fancy presentations. But trust me, they too are susceptible to the corruption, whether in India, Africa, Philippines whereever. Corruption is pervalent in nearly all the 3rd world countries and it is evolving day by day.

    Always remember, 3rd world countries (Africa – well Africa is a continent, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines etc), corruption WILL NEVER die because it is so deeply embedded into the veins, that it has now become a norm.

    I remember when Westerners used to travel to India, they used to be appalled at the fact they had to bribe somebody to get their work done, as this was not the norm in the US or Europe. Now you see companies like Walmart, Amazon, Apple thriving in India (this really has nothing to do with cheap labour or smartness). This has all to do with how much money these large corporations have “donated” or are “donating” to the ruling political party.

    Now that I travel to India / Africa / Philippines etc. I notice how the westerners have acclimatized themselves to the norms of corruption.

    Without Procurement, logistics doesn’t exist, without logistics, supply chain management doesn’t exist. Without corruption, nothing exists – not infrastructure, not seaports, not airports, no railroads, nothing. With greasing of hands, everything exists and everybody works in tandem and harmony.

    And on a lighter note, corruption actually starts in our own house. We as fathers or mothers, do bribe our own kids. My child, please keep quiet, daddy will give you a chocolate – CORRUPTION.

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