A visionary leader in the African supply chain
For our first article in a series about women in the supply chain, WhyAfrica interviewed Amina Imam, General Manager, Supply Chain Management at Abuja Electricity Distribution Company in Nigeria and asked her about the opportunities, challenges, and outlook of supply chain management in Africa.
By Leon Louw, founder and editor of WhyAfrica
How important is it to manage the supply chain effectively to ensure growth in Africa?
The importance of effective and efficient supply chains as levers to drive growth cannot be overstated. This is especially so in the African market, where low service delivery costs are critical to business success. Supply chains should necessarily be short and uncomplicated, to avert high social and economic costs. The poor supply chain infrastructure, which by estimates of the African Development Bank requires a USD90-billion to USD130-billion annual investment over time to fix, already poses huge challenges to supply chain management. Surmounting this challenge requires strategic, focused, and efficient management of supply chains.
How can women become more involved in supply chain functions?
Women will need to shrug off the notion that their place are on care-based roles and invest their versatility and unique strengths in supply chain functions. Programs and internships, which provide incentives for women to meet family and societal obligations will help. Also, local laws can help bridge gaps between Women led SME’s and large organisations so they can support the supply chain.
What are the challenges for women in African countries and are these challenges being addressed?
The challenges include economic exclusion, gender-based violence, harmful cultural practices, poor investment in girl child education. These largely stem from social-cultural contexts across Africa and the roles society has traditionally ascribed to women over time.
Yes, efforts are ongoing within governmental and non-governmental spaces to address these challenges. The UN and the African Union Commission (AUC) deserve commendation for their efforts in this regard. Agenda 2063; “The Africa We Want” and the AUC’s “Women’s Rights in Africa: Challenges and Proposals for Accelerated Implementation” provide a good framework for action. It is important that women take up the challenge to sensitise others and galvanise action to place the girl child in the fore of Africa’s development agenda.
How did Covid-19 impact the supply chain in Africa?
Covid-19 continues to disrupt supply chains across Africa. Its impact was significant, probably because the systems supporting the supply chains were fragile ab initio. Low levels of automation amplified the effects of the lock downs and restrictions in movement. Generally, operating costs spiraled, while business volumes dwindled.
Africa’s largely import dependent economies suffered on two main fronts. Firstly, disruptions to global supply chains restricted availability of raw materials, machinery, and parts locally. This in turn disrupted supply chains of local manufacturers and business, as they were unable to restock inventory. Furthermore, focus on pharmaceuticals, PPEs and other Covid-19 related items constrained investment and supply in other hitherto stable chains. As a coping measure, organisations are acquiring disaster recovery planning and supply chain risk management capabilities. Demand for professionals in these areas will continue to increase, moving forward.
How can we make sure that the supply chain operates smoothly, effectively, and that it is sustainable in the future?
To ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of supply chains it will be necessary to integrate ESG factors into business operations and planning supply chains. Visionary leadership is required to ensure that supply chain activities are adapted to the local environment. Implementation of best practice in this area will yield good dividends, now and in the future.
What problems do African countries still encounter in terms of supply chain management?
The key problems with supply chain management in Africa are centered around human capital, ethical issues, promotion of regional value chains and rules of origin. It is important to investigate and resolve issues in these key areas, to improve supply chain practice in Africa.
How will the African Free Trade Agreement impact supply chains in Africa and what opportunities will it open up for especially women in Africa?
There is an expectation that the African Free Trade Agreement will reduce bureaucracy and simplify customs procedures. Overall, risk will now be spread across a continent-wide market, to reduce trade cost and drive growth. It provides opportunity to empower women led enterprises and so improve prospects of reduction in poverty levels and social barriers.
What is your outlook for Africa, and women in Africa, over the next five years or so?
The African Woman has proven herself resourceful and resilient; always trying new ideas, taking initiatives and testing limits. I believe that this trend will continue. Excellence will be redefined. Women will take on increasingly important and strategic roles. Overall, the lot of women and the continent will improve.
Amina Imam is the General Manager, Supply Chain Management at Abuja Electricity Distribution Company. She has journeyed through an exciting 17-year career, having received training and acquired knowledge in engineering and supply management. She has worked at operational, managerial and policy levels in private and public sectors. Her approach is always to engage every stakeholder in the task of continuously improving outcomes. Amina is passionate about talent development and community service. In recognition of her work in mentoring younger professionals, the African Center for Supply Chain recently elevated her to the Fellowship of the institute. In her leisure time, she likes to learn, travel, and watch movies.
Amina’s core function is to improve the supply chain management processes at the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company. Her team reviews and optimises routine procedures and manages warehousing and fleet operations. Amina is responsible for anticipating evolving needs, managing the supply of equipment and services to minimise breaches in energy supply to the consuming public and mitigate against associated operational risks. In this role, she often mobilises and lead cross-functional teams to meet short term deliverables and ensure supply chain performance.