ASCA 2021 Focuses on post-pandemic growth for Africa

ASCA 2021 Focuses on post-pandemic growth for Africa


The 2nd Annual Africa Supply Chain in Action (ASCA) conference saw hundreds of African supply chain and procurement professionals from 30 countries gather online to examine what Africa has learned from COVID-19, how businesses and the supply chain profession can collaborate and innovate to ensure post-pandemic prosperity, and how supply chains can drive economic growth and success now and beyond the pandemic. Now in its second year, ASCA is the largest Africa-focused online learning, knowledge sharing and networking event for the profession.

ASCA 2021 was co-hosted by two leading role players in the African supply chain and procurement profession - Smart Procurement and SAPICS, The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management. The event featured 53 African and international speakers who covered topics ranging from the African Continental Free Trade Area, sustainability and climate change to technology and the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to community healthcare workers in Africa. French sessions were offered for Francophone attendees from West African regions.

“Covid-19 has disrupted our social and economic order at lightning speed and on a scale that we have not seen in living memory. We must marshal the determination of all - individuals, governments, businesses, and more specifically the supply chain and procurement community - to act decisively, ethically, and to act together, to protect lives and livelihoods,” said Pearl Marsh, Head of Content at Smart Procurement, at the opening of ASCA 2021.

In his powerful keynote presentation, Africa Business Group CEO Michael Sudarkasa discussed how the “prosperous Africa that we want” cannot be achieved without collaboration. He noted that Africa has fared better than many regions amid the COVID crisis. “We have a growing youth workforce, set to reach 830 million by 2050. We have a growing middle class and consumer market. The rapid expansion of mobile phone technology is enabling growth in financial technology and agricultural technology. The growing number of African women working outside the home has created opportunities in the agricultural processing space and is contributing to GDP growth. The pandemic slowed local and international travel, but despite that, we are seeing accelerated intra-African travel.”

However, he told ASCA delegates that the challenges for the continent include 600 million people who still do not have access to electricity and, with growing urbanisation, urban slums in Africa are expanding. “We need more jobs for our growing youth workforce. We need more entrepreneurially minded young people. We need infrastructure, housing and healthcare. The future is bright, but there are growing risks. A young continent needs skills, education, jobs, markets, funding and partners,” Sudarkasa stated.

To address Africa’s challenges, he said that stakeholders must work together, including the African Union and its organs, African governments, the African domestic private sector, African and international NGOs (non-governmental organisations), global and bilateral development partners, multinational corporations, and the African diaspora in all these areas.

Outlining the actions needed, Sudarkasa said that financial resources should be mobilised, and technology transfer accelerated. “It is also critical that we develop key infrastructure, improve and expand the continent’s education resources and pursue regional policy integration, including aligning tariffs and removing non-tariff barriers, removing or reducing visa restrictions and incentivising intra-Africa value chain development.” He stressed that collaboration will be key to achieving “the Africa we want”.

ASCA co-chair Debbie Tagg contends that events like ASCA and the “ASCA Nation” that it gave rise to have a role to play, too. “We are proud to be in year two of driving the largest collaborative platform in Africa for supply chain and procurement professionals, and I want to thank everyone that supported ASCA this year,” she said. “There are still obstacles to ensuring every supply chain and procurement professional is supported. To our leaders and seasoned professionals, I want to say that we must recognise that it is up to us to make sure we are giving all practitioners every opportunity to learn, collaborate and grow. That means making sure they are part of this movement.”

ASCA co-chair Jenny Froome noted that ASCA’s use of an online platform enabled meaningful networking as well as making it possible for people from all over Africa to attend and collaborate. “This is vital. We hope that everyone who attended found some gems from the outstanding content to take away with them which will enable them to prosper,” she said.

The second annual ASCA conference was enthusiastically received by delegates. “Thanks to ASCA for raising very pertinent questions which call for action to improve the business environment and growth in Africa,” commented Elizabeth Tchwenko-Fabu, Founder/CEO of Auth Afrique.

“Thank you ASCA for creating an environment that allows for collaboration, innovation and hopefully prosperity for our beautiful Africa. Let's make it happen,” enthused Anouar Ali Ammara, Head of Supply Chain Management at Siemens, Algeria.

Capital Berhanu, Inventory Management and Distribution Officer at the Ethiopian Pharmaceutical Supply Agency, said that as a young health supply chain professional, being a speaker and sharing his experience with others is what inspires him. “I have learned a lot from SAPICS and ASCA. I am honoured to represent young supply chain professionals and my country and be part of this event,” he said.



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