Supply Chain Mapping in the Africa Context: The Why and How

As businesses in Africa continue to grow, they pay more attention to their supply chain, exploring and tweaking new methodologies such as mapping.

Supply chain mapping has emerged as a strong tool for improving and scaling supply chains. Maybe more than that, it is also an economic tool shaping development on the continent.

I believe the reason is that it simplifies the flow of the supply chain and showcases it on one platform, whether on a technology screen or a traditional board.

In this article, we will explore supply chain mapping and how to go about it, especially for small businesses and platforms in Africa.


What is Supply Chain Mapping?

Supply chain mapping is the visual representation of your supply chain operations, including the activities of stakeholders and how processes are carried out.

With supply chain mapping, you have immediate insight into the flow and shape of your supply chain. You have a complete picture, allowing you to identify flows easily.

There are two elements involved when mapping out your supply chain. The stakeholders (internal and external) and the activities or processes going on across the supply chain.

With these two in place, you will have the entire supply chain picture, from sourcing raw materials to production, storage, and delivery or distribution to consumers.


Why is Supply Chain Mapping Important to Businesses in Africa

Although the benefits of supply chain mapping are clearly documented, its importance to the African economy is a bit nuanced, and we will explore some of those.

1. Identify and Mitigate Risks

The risk, in this case, can be both internal and external. In Africa, there are several external risks; businesses and their supply chains are exposed.

These risks include poor infrastructure, political, security, and civil unrest. With supply chain mapping, you can easily identify and explore alternatives or options to help you mitigate them.

2. Visibility and Transparency

With mapping, it is easy to enhance the visibility and transparency of your supply chain operations, allowing you to view all the possible challenges and complexities.

With visibility and transparency, you can ensure compliance, sustainability, and operations align with business or organizational goals.

3. Operational Efficiency

With mapping, you can identify operations in your supply chain that are not pulling their weight or slowing down the rest of the supply chain.

You can improve, promote, or streamline these operations for better output and speed. When this is done successfully, you can improve the entire supply chain.

4. Compliance

Compliance is increasingly becoming a big deal in many African nations, so businesses must be more sensitive to avoid the fallouts.

It could be with the government, consumers, or general disruptions that may occur. With mapping, you can identify areas of the supply chain at risk and work to get them in order.

5. Reduce Cost

Supply chain mapping is a good strategy for reducing the cost of supply chain operations.

It helps magnify the stakeholders and operations, costing the supply chain more money and less value.

With that, you can take measures to curb the leaking areas.


How African Businesses can Map out their Supply Chain Operations

Although the benefits are great, your supply chain won’t matter much if you cannot set it up properly. Here, we discuss how to Map out the supply chain.


Step 1: Identify Relevant Stakeholders and Processes

Before mapping out your supply chain, you must know or identify all the relevant stakeholders and processes that comprise your entire supply chain.

Stakeholders include internal supply chain teams such as sourcing or procurement, production, and logistics. External stakeholders are the suppliers facilitating each supply chain process or facet.

The processes here are the activities that ensure the goal or objective of the supply chain is being actualized.

When you have correctly identified both, it makes it easier to put them together visually in a step-by-step flow.


Step 2: Collect Data on The Identified Parties and Processes

Identifying the parties and processes involved in the whole supply chain operation is great, but it won’t do much for you until you collect actual data or information on them.

For example, what is the supplier’s performance? Is the supplier effective? What does the vendor supply your business, and how necessary is it to the success of your supply chain?

For your supply chain processes, you will have to gather information such as the relevance of the process to the entire supply chain. How much does it cost, and how long does it take?

With these pieces of information and many more, depending on the nature of your business and supply chain, it makes it much easier to map out the entire picture of your supply chain.


Step 3: Create the Flow of Your Supply Chain

You can start outlining your supply chain’s flow or visual representation when you have successfully identified and collected information on your stakeholders and processes.

You may do this using digital platforms such as source maps, or you may do this using traditional methods or platforms.

When creating the flow of your supply chain, it is important to go step by step, from the beginning to the end or until the customer receives the product.

This way, it makes it easier to capture every single stage of the entire supply chain operation. When you are done creating the flow of your supply chain, then you are ready for the final step.


Step 4: Analyze Your Supply Chain

This is what you have been working towards. When your supply chain mapping is complete, the supply chain analysis begins. Start from the beginning and review all processes and stakeholders.

When done right, you will be able to find loopholes or potential disruptors hidden in between processes. This could be in how the processes are executed, or it could be in how the decision-making process is carried out.

Mapping gives you a holistic view of your supply chain, empowering you to easily identify potential issues before they become too serious and lead to breakdowns. It also helps you come up with workable or tailored solutions.


FAQ on Supply Chain Mapping For Businesses Operating in the African Market

These are frequently asked questions concerning supply chain mapping for businesses in Africa.


Q1: What are the main obstacles facing African supply chain mapping?

Data collection in various and isolated locations, a lack of adequate technology infrastructure, and occasionally inaccurate data are challenges.

Furthermore, supply networks in Africa might be quite dispersed, making mapping each chain link difficult.


Q2: What is the role of technology in supply chain mapping?

Technology such as blockchain, RFID, and GPS can improve mapping accuracy and expedite data collection. Real-time visibility is made possible by cloud-based technologies, which improves decision-making. 

Because mobile technology is widely used in Africa, it frequently changes the game.


Q3: How does supply chain mapping help Africa achieve sustainability?

Supply chains can reduce environmental impact by mapping to identify inefficiencies and wasteful locations.