The Center for Applied Research and Innovation in Supply Chain–Africa hosted its first Supply Chain Research Summit July 21-22, 2021. The two-day event featured four keynote presentations, six sessions, two panel discussions, and a PhD dissertation proposal award session. Envisioned as an annual event, the Supply Chain Research Summit attracted 300 supply chain researchers, practitioners and students from 40 countries (including 18 African countries).
Opening a dialogue on African supply chain research
Of all CARISCA’s events, the Supply Chain Research Summit, a conference for supply chain researchers and practitioners, is a centerpiece of CARISCA’s strategy to put Africa’s supply chain research on the map. The goal of this event is to strengthen African supply chain capacity through bringing together academic and non-academic researchers, as well as public, private, and civil society organizations to create an ongoing dialogue to address complex supply chain challenges in Africa.
The Supply Chain Research Summit was envisioned as a forum to address critical development priorities and showcase locally relevant supply chain research and innovations. Many of CARISCA’s activities focus on capacity-building activities in Ghana and specifically at KNUST. The summit is the first of many steps that CARISCA is taking to create a pan-African hub for supply chain research, industry reports and publications, and best-in-class degree programs and training for supply chain practitioners and researchers.
According to CARISCA’s principal investigator and executive director, Dale Rogers, “Hosting this event the first year of the project is critical because we need as much time as possible to ramp up research cooperation between global supply chain academics and academics and practitioners in Africa. Our job is to strengthen KNUST through CARISCA, and there is no reason to wait.”
Conferences serve many purposes. They provide opportunities for networking, exposure to new ideas and approaches, and the chance to appreciate upcoming scholars.
According to Rogers, “conferences like our research summit are powerful because they germinate ideas, plant seeds and give researchers and practitioners opportunities to meet people they otherwise never would. I think the summit is a great investment of people’s time and I think this summit is the beginning of something really special.”
Like many organizations, CARISCA had to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions and pivoted to a virtual conference format. This format attracted interest and participation from a global audience.
Building a robust pan-African supply chain network
The goal of the summit is to create a supportive network of pan-African supply chain researchers to facilitate large-scale collaborations among higher education institutions, government agencies, business partners, and civil society organizations (CSOs) to improve supply chains.
CARISCA’s director at KNUST, Professor Nathaniel Boso, explains that “the aim of this unique summit is to bring together supply chain scholars in Africa and beyond to have a conversation on Africa’s supply chain research and how it can be harnessed to address the continent’s supply chain challenges.”
CARISCA invited faculty and students from higher education institutions throughout Africa and a wide range of public, private, and CSO stakeholders to source challenges that can inform research in supply chains, provide insight into supply chain innovations emerging in the field and expand CARISCA’s base of funding and partner support. Hosting a free virtual event enabled broad participation with attendees across the globe.
Professor Felicity Asiedu-Appiah moderated a panel discussion, Advancing Women in Supply Chain: Research Questions and Opportunities, that shed light on the personal experiences of the panelists and what unique characteristics they bring to the supply chain management field.
“I thought that particular session was really well done because it gave both an African and an American perspective on challenges that women in supply chains face in the job market. While there is some overlap between the challenges that Africans and Americans face, there are also some stark differences that were brought out by the panel members who had experience in both the U.S. and African countries,” said Rogers.
Dissertation award session
The summit also included a dissertation award competition to showcase the best logistics and supply chain management PhD research projects being carried out in African higher education institutions. Last spring, CARISCA invited submissions from doctoral researchers whose primary affiliation is from universities or higher institutions of learning in Africa and whose research is in logistics and supply chain management.
Applicants were required to be PhD researchers who would have at least defended their proposals by the time of the conference. Proposals were also invited from candidates close to the final submission or defense of their thesis.
“It is important to recognize and develop African researchers because they are the next generation of supply chain leaders,” said Rogers.
Assilah Agigi from the University of Pretoria was the top student with her submission, “An Investigation of the Relationship Between the Diffusion and Adoption of Sustainable Supply Chain Management Practices, Organization Capabilities Development and Firm Innovativeness.”
In the Sustainability in Supply Chains session, the session chair, Sherwat Elwan Ibrahim of the American University in Cairo, Egypt, said, “sustainability in supply chains is an area near to my heart, and if you have been in supply chain for quite a while you might notice that supply sustainability in supply chain management began more like a peripheral topic, but now it’s becoming at the forefront of supply chain management.”
In addition to keynote presentations and the dissertation proposal award, dynamic session chairs hosted sessions about myriad supply chain topics, ranging from Supply Chain Analytics to Healthcare Supply Chains. Additional proceedings from the Supply Chain and Information Systems, The Intersection of Public Health Supply Chain Research and Policy, Global Supply Chains sessions and the Supply Chain Financing Panel can be found on CARISCA’s website.
Summit attendees came from 40 different countries, including participants from 18 African countries and 300 individuals attended at least one session. Ghanaians accounted for approximately half of all attendees, followed by the United States, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa.
One of CARISCA’s goals is to promote the inclusion of women in all its activities. Thirty-five percent of attendees were female and 65 percent male, which exceeds CARISCA’s long-term goal of 30 percent inclusion of women in all of its activities.
The event showcased supply chain scholars from around the world including 23 presenters from African higher education institutions.
Rogers was surprised at the global reach of the first summit.
“It was great to see how successful the event was in its first year. The event logistics were great, which enabled us to work across the globe and attract a large audience. I think that this research summit can become a flagship event for African supply chains,” he said.
Rogers believes, “there is energy moving forward from this event. The feedback I have received is positive and there is a lot of enthusiasm about supply chains. This is important because the truth is, we [American scholars] don’t do research in Africa because Africa has been a smaller market and it has not been a source for products, but this is starting to change. I believe we are at the right time and place to start doing this type of research. There is an important need that the CARISCA project can help fill, and it’s clear there is interest.”
Each year, CARISCA plans to increase the scope and scale of the summit to accommodate the growth of the CARISCA stakeholder base. More than 600 summit registrants opted into the CARISCA mailing list. Registrations came from nearly 100 higher education institutions, including more than 40 from Africa.
CARISCA will continue to leverage the summit to build a diverse network of supply chain researchers and practitioners.
Join us next year
Join us next summer for CARISCA’s 2022 Supply Chain Research Summit. The call for papers will be posted fall 2021.
The call for applications for the dissertation proposal award session will be issued in January 2022.
Special thanks to our session and panel chairs, presenters and panelists, and the keynote speakers. Proceedings online: links.asu.edu/carisca-summit.