By SAUL MOLOBI, Jambo Africa Online’s Publisher.

We’re all familiar with the havoc the advent of COVID-19 has inflicted on our economies as it disrupted global supply chains. The lockdowns which were intended to contain the spread of this pandemic hindered the flow of raw materials and the production of goods in many sectors as manufacturing of certain goods to an abrupt halt as factories were forced to close down. But life had to go on – for example, people had to eat, procure medical supplies, and products had to be ferried. This means although the lockdowns exposed the global supply chains to vulnerabilities never experienced before, they also catapulted the sector into developing innovative solutions.

Ernest & Young (EY) undertook a riveting study to looked at the impact of the pandemic on the global supply chain and procurement sector. This study is crucial as scientists, drawing from our turbulent past, have indeed indicated there will be many more outbreaks of pandemics in future.

In summarising the report, Sean Harapko, EY Americas Supply Chain Transformation and Global Supply Chain RPA leader, indicated the respondents were over 200 senior-level supply chain executives at various companies representing many sectors such as life sciences, consumer products, industrial products, retail, life sciences, automotive, and high-tech companies in the United States with over US$1b in revenues. Although the study was conducted in the US, its findings could be applied universally.

The author says matter-of-factly on the lessons learnt: “The survey found that enterprises in the US plan to shake up their supply chain strategies to become more resilient, collaborative, and networked with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. To do that, they will increase investment in supply chain technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation while retraining workers.”

The outcome, which is critically relevant even in Africa, is that the lockdowns accelerated the adoption of digitisation as many companies adopted automation and consumers had to shop online. “This speaks to the value of a digital supply chain in helping enterprises navigate disruptive forces and respond faster to volatile supply and demand,” says Sean.

The study recommended five priorities for economic recovery and beyond COVID-19. These were reimagining the strategic architecture of every company’s supply chain; building transparency and resiliency; extracting cash and cost from the company’s supply chain; creating a competitive advantage with sustainability; and driving agility and opportunities for growth through a digital supply chain.

This clearly shows the critical role played by supply chain and procurement competence in every institution. Dr Faith Mashele is one of those at the cutting edge of developing innovative solutions in the sector. A Wits University PhD. graduate and a GIBS MBA Alumni, Dr Mashele is a Procurement Executive with vast work experience that spans the private and public sector including top four commercial banks, a public university and two of the largest State-Owned Entities (SOEs) in South Africa. In 2019, she became one of twelve South African professionals to gain the prestigious Fellow (FCIPS) recognition by CIPS UK, which is a senior advocate status with the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS). 

Celebrated as one of the leading women on influential platforms, Dr Faith has made the list of Top 100 Most Influential Supply Chain Women in Africa (AWISCA) while Truss Empowerment Foundation lauded her as one of 18 exemplary Female Supply Chain Practitioners in Africa. She currently serves as Chairperson: CIPS Gauteng Branch and continues to excel as an inspirational contributor and thought leader in Procurement and Supply Chain Management.

As a published scholar, her research interests include exploring inclusive business as a dynamic approach for facilitating access to markets for SMEs. Dr. Faith believes that procurement channels are potential gateways for enabling market access and for encouraging participation by marginalised groups in the economy. Her passion for development led her, together with her sister, Amantle Mokubung, to champion the establishment of Makgarebe A Mahikeng (meaning “ladies of Mahikeng”), a civil society organisation focused on the empowerment of women in her hometown, Mahikeng.

During her spare time, she enjoys cake decorating and also loves to dive… into a book!

Here are some of the videos featuring Dr Mashele: