Basic Concepts of Supply Chain Leadership in Africa

The modern economy is powered by supply chain management, and nowhere in the world is it more significant than in Africa, which begs the question of supply chain leadership.

No matter how promising it is, supply chain management on the continent still needs much improvement. This is why good leadership is important.

In this article, we will dive deep into the concept of supply chain leadership in Africa and explore the types, pillars, and quality of good supply chain leadership.


Who is a Leader?

There are many definitions of a leader, but ultimately, a leader guides, influences, or motivates people and systems towards a common vision.

A leader may do this through inspiration, collaboration, and building trust.

Leadership in the supply chain is similar. The leader in this context directs and coordinates people and supply chain activities towards a certain goal and vision.


Types of Supply Chain Leadership

There are three main types of supply chain leadership.


1. Command and Control

This type of leadership works best in a well-defined hierarchy. Most African businesses and supply chains are what many dub “one-man business”, where the top-down approach is highly favoured.

This type of supply chain leadership suits this type of business. However, this type of leadership does poorly in much larger companies with a more complicated structure.

2. Consensus

Some organizational structure demands that decisions be made in teams and a consensus. This type of supply chain leadership will work, but where speed is important, it derails operations.

This type of leadership is also best for the tactical level of supply chain management.

Read more about the different levels of supply chain management here.

3. Collaborative and Shared Leadership

This type of leadership is for big businesses and supply chains that entail different stakeholders and parties (internal and external) working together towards a shared goal.

In this type of supply chain leadership, there is a strategic approach to it. The leadership has a long-term goal, and it needs the collaborative effort of different aspects of the supply chain to achieve it.


Qualities of a Good Supply Chain Leadership in Africa

There are seven key qualities of any good supply chain leader. In this section of the article, we review them.


Cultural Sensitivity

Africa is a vast and diverse continent with many cultures, languages, and traditions, which calls for a supply chain leadership that is culturally sensitive.

The continent is so diverse that you may have anywhere from 5 to 50 indigenous languages in any given country.

A good supply chain leadership has to be culturally sensitive and be inclusive for all if the supply chain will succeed.


The African business environment can be quite dynamic. Economic instability, political crisis, and disparities in infrastructure can cause problems for the supply chain.

A good supply chain leadership has to be flexible and adaptable to sudden changes that may occur to survive.


The world looks like it did a few years ago, but a lot has changed underneath. This is where supply chain strategies play a significant role.

Effective leaders in Africa must have long and short-term visions that will ensure the continuity of their supply chain even while demand and consumer behaviours change.

When setting strategies, consider factors such as market trends, technological advancement, and sustainability.

Collaborative Skills

Two key pillars define modern supply chain management. These are technological adaptation and collaboration.

Collaboration with suppliers is key to the success of most supply chains across Africa.

A good leader is one well-versed in collaborating with stakeholders, governments, and locals to achieve the goal of the supply chain.

Local Knowledge

A good supply chain leader in Africa is one with adequate knowledge of the local market, regulations, and customs in the various regions where the supply chain operates.

But it doesn’t stop there. The leadership team should be able to leverage this knowledge for strategic advantage.


Every good supply chain leadership team should be able to communicate their expectations and goals effectively, whether it is to the team or suppliers.

Communication ensures all parties are properly aligned with strategies and objectives.


Africa often presents unique challenges for supply chains on the continent, from security to poor infrastructures or political instability.

A good supply chain leader should excel in problem-solving and be able to find innovative solutions to logistical, regulatory, or operational issues.


Pillars of Supply Chain Leadership in Africa

The pillars of supply chain leadership are foundational principles that govern its success.


The Operational Pillar

Supply chain operations can be quite robust and complicated.

Managing these operations involves in-depth supply chain management knowledge that is only attained via education and experience from real-world applications.

To manage operations, risk mitigation, and growth plans, the supply chain leader needs both tactical and strategic experience and a deep understanding of the organizational culture.

Although supply chain management is essential for businesses, most of the businesses in Africa do not have a dedicated department or team for it.

The supply chain manager or chief supply chain officer has to effectively represent this crucial company function at the executive table.

Supply chain leadership members must sharpen their strategic abilities.


The People’s Pillar

As much as more businesses are now embracing tech solutions in their supply chains, people are still the principal contributing factor to any supply chain.

People management in supply chain leadership is all about finding potential talents and assisting those prospects to advance within the organization.

It entails encouraging on-the-job training and making investments in professional growth as individuals advance through the supply chain ranks.

For any supply chain to succeed, the people within it should be able to develop in personal education and experience they get on the job. As a supply chain leader, you should be able to guide them on how to do this.

The people in your supply chain need instructions on correcting errors and growing from them when they make them. It builds confidence and valuable experience.

Encouraging growth among the people directly concerned with the supply chain ensures your supply chain has a future.


Crisis Management

Africa is unique compared to other parts of the world. This uniqueness isn’t all good though. This means the unique challenges on the continent are seldom prevalent in other parts of the world.

Think about it: When was the last time there was a national political crisis in Europe, Asia, or the Americas?

In Africa, five countries have experienced successful coup d’etat at the highest level of government. This has led to varying degrees of insecurity, economic crisis, and so on.

A good supply chain leadership team in Africa should be able to manage crises and get the supply chain over the hump in dire situations.

Typically, when a supply chain collapses, it is usually a failure on the part of the leadership to build resilience or flexibility and draw up risk management strategies that allow the supply chain to pull through difficult situations.


Customer Centric Approach

Every supply chain leadership understands that the customer is the whole point of the supply chain, even in Africa.

The leadership should take steps to ensure every supply chain KPI with regard to customer satisfaction is met. This includes delivering the right goods on time and in the right conditions.

However, customer behaviours change. For example, variations in demand due to seasonal changes or whatever trend is currently in vogue.

To ensure customer satisfaction, the supply chain leadership has to work with various stakeholders including accounting, media, and logistics partners.

That way, there is direct feedback on what the supply chain is doing well or doing wrong. This is where the collaborative and communication skills we talked about come into play.



Supply chains can be complicated, it can be robust, it can be small, and it can be quite difficult to manage. None of these is a good enough excuse not to welcome optimizing the supply chain.

If the supply chain leadership does not do it, the competition will, and this could spell a world of trouble for the business.

To successfully embrace excellence and optimization, supply chain leaders must be willing to seek out innovative strategies that help the supply chain achieve its ultimate goal.

A part of excellence and optimization is achieving visibility, flexibility, streamlining, and creating a system that allows for sourcing quality suppliers.


Growth or Forward Thinking

Look, Africa is growing. Everyone is growing, and their business and supply chains are growing as well, so why not your supply chain?

A supply chain leadership should possess all levels of the supply chain management from operational to tactical and then strategic.

This way, the supply chain has a long and short-term vision. It also has the how. “How it can go about it”. And then the day-to-day activities that get the supply chain there one day at a time.

A growth approach ensures the future of the supply chain and gives everyone in the supply chain something to look forward to.


Importance of Supply Chain Leadership in Africa

1. Africa is growing, and it is important for supply chains to be properly equipped to seize the opportunity this growth offers. Supply chain leaders are in the right position.

2. Because the continent is vast and quite diverse, it is important for supply chains to be adequately positioned to navigate the challenges these traits come with.

3. To successfully satisfy their customers, businesses need a well-functioning supply chain with suitable leaders spearheading it.


FAQs on The Concept of Supply Chain Leadership In Africa

Q1: What principal difficulties do supply chain executives in Africa face?

Difficulties could include, among other things, a lack of suitable infrastructure, political instability, various regulatory environments, cultural differences, and logistical difficulties.


Q2: How might technology affect African supply chain leadership?

By enhancing visibility, transparency, and efficiency in supply chains across Africa, technology such as blockchain, IoT, and data analytics may support decision-making by leaders.


Q3: What sustainable supply chain leadership techniques are useful for African companies?

Incorporating eco-friendly logistical procedures and ethical sourcing are just a few examples of sustainable supply chain activities in Africa.



In conclusion, supply chain leadership in Africa is important and the driving force behind the continent’s economic development and global integration.

All through the article, we have reviewed the various concepts of supply chain leadership on the continent. These included types, qualities, pillars, and importance.

With these deep dive into supply chain leadership, your business can start driving the supply chain in the right direction.