Engineering Supply Chain Innovation in Africa

The modern business climate in Africa is more competitive than ever, and supply chain innovation is one of the tools that will give your organization an edge.

You want your business and supply chain to become a platform churning out innovations frequently to get ahead. 

Think of the major businesses across the continent and the world at large. Many of them rely on innovative practices and technologies to get ahead.

You see, innovation doesn’t just mean technology. However, technology helps it a lot. An innovative idea is any out-of-the-box thinking or action that propels the supply chain forward.

In this article, we are looking at how to engineer supply chain innovation for organizations across Africa. It would help businesses build a culture of supply chain innovation that gives them preference in the market.


What is Supply Chain Innovation?

As a business or supply chain manager, you always want to enhance your supply chain operations, especially in a dynamic market like Africa.

This is where supply chain innovation comes in. How can you improve without supply chain innovations? I dare say it is impossible.

Supply chain innovation is the strategic use of new ideas, technologies, and practices to enhance supply chain processes’ efficiency, flexibility, and sustainability, leading to improved performance and a competitive edge.

However, supply chain innovation is not a given. If your supply chain has any chance of birthing innovative ideas, you need a culture of innovation.

This culture of innovation ensures that staff and partners feel comfortable introducing these ideas, giving the supply chain all the equipment it needs.


Why is Supply Chain Innovation in Africa Important?

There are quite a few benefits of supply chain innovation for organizations operating across the continent. We will explore four of them in this article.

1. Competitive Advantage

Supply chain innovation gives your organization an edge in the market. Countless businesses have won over customers simply by integrating the culture of innovation into their supply chain.

Think of GIGM in Nigeria and how they became the undisputed king of roads on the continent. You also have Innovators like Henry Ford, who took over the automobile industry with an innovative idea.

There is ample evidence of innovative thinking or ideas that helped businesses overcome their temporary hurdles, and in many cases, they went on to become market leaders.

You can enjoy the same success in your supply chain simply by welcoming innovation and promoting it.

2. Customer Satisfaction

Your customers are the primary reason for your business and supply chain. Sure, making a profit will be great, but it is secondary. 

Do you think your business can make money if its customers are disenfranchised? This is where supply chain innovation becomes critical.

Think of Dangote and how he concerned the cement market in Nigeria and across Africa. 

Amazon did the same thing on the global stage simply by taking innovative steps to enhance their customer’s experience.

When you practice supply chain innovation, your customers tend to be satisfied and will thank you with their pockets.

3. Risk Mitigation

African businesses face unique risks, whether it is from the infrastructural deficit across the continent or the political instability plaguing different nations.

With these risks comes the need for innovative ideas that can help supply chains on the continent navigate them.

When such risks are mitigated, it helps improve efficiency and reduces the cost of operations that could otherwise have been astronomical.

4. Sustainability

The world is big on sustainability and practices that help enhance it.

However, with African businesses’ limitations, such as security, finances, and lack of uninterrupted energy supply, organizations need innovative ideas to make it possible.

Many benefits come along with sustainability, such as reduced carbon emissions, customer loyalty, brand awareness, and community development.

All of these are made possible because of supply chain innovations.


Strategies for Engineering Supply Chain Innovations in Africa

There are a few ways your supply chain can become an innovative platform.

1. Talent and Training

It all begins with the talents in your supply chain.

There are many avenues for growth in your supply chain, and the people in it will help you, but their level of expertise might hinder how helpful they are.

You want to hire well-rounded supply chain professionals or train people in your supply chain so that they can help identify areas that need improvement.

But more than that, you want them to be able to come up with or suggest innovative ideas that can turn that challenge into an opportunity.

No matter how good you are as a business owner or supply chain manager, you will find it difficult to see the entire supply chain, least of all the challenges it is facing.

This is why you surround yourself with a good team that can help you spot blind spots and develop ideas to solve those problems.

2. Tech Adaptation

Yes, supply chain innovation doesn’t necessarily depend on technology, but it makes it easier or enhances it.

Adapting and integrating tech solutions into your supply chain operations powers innovative ideas that can increase productivity and help your supply chain achieve its goals faster.

Think Amazon and its acquisition of KIVA robotics. That singular move catapulted the company to the world’s number one logistics and fulfilment company.

With tech solutions, you can achieve visibility and transparency throughout your supply chain, which helps identify bottlenecks and potential solutions.

Supply chains across the continent that hope to gain efficiency and improved solutions are rampant, but they would find it challenging without tech adaptation and integration.

3. Strategic Partnership

Any business wants the right people or businesses in your corner to birth or engineer innovative ideas. But your supply chain must see beyond mere procurement for this to happen.

It is all about the right and relevant partnerships, and you want to partner with businesses who share your goals and are eager to help you achieve them.

This way, innovative ideas flow smoothly between all parties.

Think of crowd logistics platforms across Africa. Most logistics companies help businesses receive, sort and deliver customer orders.

These businesses do not have any interaction with their customers. But with the aid of the delivery platforms, they have easy access to those customers.

Strategic partnership requires a lot of time to build a relationship where both parties are comfortable with and trust each other. That is the sweet spot where innovation lies.

4. Continuous Improvement

The road to perfection of your supply chain is paved with continuous improvement. A culture of continuous improvement is a good birthing place for innovative ideas.

When the culture is in place, every stakeholder, including suppliers and internal departments or teams, is eager to contribute ideas to better shape the supply chain.

To get the culture of continuous improvement going, you may use the lean or kaizen methodology to kickstart it in your supply chain.


FAQs on Supply Chain Innovation in Africa

These are popular questions regarding supply chain innovation in Africa.

Q1. What are the main obstacles to supply chain innovation implementation in Africa?

Funding for innovative ideas, skilled labour, limited infrastructure, and access to technology are among the challenges.


Q2. Is supply chain innovation exclusive to big African corporations?

SMEs can innovate through the implementation of agile tactics and cost-effective technologies.


Q3. How might supply chain innovation be supported by African governments?

Governments can implement legislation, provide infrastructure, and offer incentives to spur economic growth to encourage supply chain innovation.



Supply chain innovations in Africa are important if the market will continue to grow and prosper.

This article has provided an introductory discussion into what business owners and supply chain managers should expect and do to continue to enjoy the concept.