Second annual Supply Chain Research Summit proves Africa matters to global supply chain

The Center for Applied Research and Innovation in Supply Chain – Africa (CARISCA) hosted its second annual Supply Chain Research Summit June 28-30, 2022. The three-day event featured three keynotes, more than 50 paper presentations, four invited sessions and a dissertation award session. Researchers and practitioners presented papers during three parallel tracks: general supply chains, sectoral supply chains and emerging issues in global supply chains. The Supply Chain Research Summit attracted more than 450 supply chain researchers, practitioners and students from 26 countries (including 16 African countries), attending both in-person, in Kumasi, Ghana, and online.

Describing the Supply Chain Research Summit as “a platform to share newly created knowledge on and practical solutions to global supply chain inefficiencies and ineffectiveness,” the provost of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Charles Marfo, opened CARISCA’s second annual conference, on behalf of Professor (Mrs.) Rita Akosua Dickson, KNUST Vice-Chancellor.

Dale Rogers and two women conference attendees
CARISCA Executive Director Dale Rogers speaks with conference attendees Huda Hodzi Ahmed and Ethel Boadi. (Photo by Immanuel_Offei)

For the next two-and-a-half days, supply chain experts from across the globe exchanged information and insights on a broad range of topics. Sessions covered blockchain, deep tier finance, lean practices, product safety, cold chain logistics, gamification, modern slavery in global supply chains, decarbonization, sustainability, artificial intelligence and the impact of COVID-19 on the supply chain industry.

“We want CARISCA to be a place where new ideas are developed, tested and disseminated around the world,” said Dale Rogers, CARISCA executive director. “I think that actually happened at the research summit this year.”

Noncommunicable diseases sessions

Among the most popular programs at the summit were three invited sessions on supply chain challenges, solutions and innovations related to noncommunicable diseases. 

Strokes, cancer, diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases, or NCDs, account for more than 70% of the global burden of disease and lead to 41 million deaths annually. That’s according to session chair Helen McGuire, NCD team lead at PATH, a global nonprofit working to improve public health. 

Yet, medicines and products that could prevent deaths from noncommunicable diseases are the least available and incur the highest out-of-pocket costs. Further, less than 2% of development assistance is allocated for NCDs, McGuire reported.

“We’re currently trapped in almost like a poverty cycle of data and money,” said panelist Andrea Feigl, founder and CEO of Health Finance Institute, a U.S.-based nonprofit focused on closing the financing gap for NCDs. “We don’t have enough data to show that a market can exist, and we don’t have the necessary medicines and commodities to meet the demand.”

CARISCA Director Nathaniel Boso welcomes attendees to the 2022 Supply Chain Research Summit. (Photo by Immanuel_Offei)

In subsequent sessions, panelists presented potential solutions and innovations to address NCD supply chain challenges. These included the establishment of a monitoring system for pharmacies to track the availability of hypertension medications in Senegal, a diabetes care pack piloted in Kenya, and an NCD forecasting initiative undertaken in Kenya and Uganda.

“People are bringing more and more innovative ideas, and lots of research findings have been reported at the summit showing that perhaps Africa is not so much left behind,” said Nathaniel Boso, director of CARISCA and dean of the business school at KNUST. “There are things we are doing in unique ways that the rest of the world might want to learn from.”

Paper Development Workshop

The day before the summit opened, CARISCA held a Paper Development Workshop where doctoral students and junior faculty received individual feedback from senior faculty and journal editors. It was the first time such an event was held at the KNUST Business School.

The workshop’s purpose was to help PhD students and junior faculty improve their drafted research papers to better attract interest from top journals. Participants said they appreciated the one-on-one interaction, openness, generosity and humility of the senior professors.

“The workshop was a wonderful opportunity to learn from top supply chain scholars to enhance my research skill,” wrote one participant in a follow-up survey.

Student and professor at paper development workshop
Mohan Gopalakrishnan, left, works with Priscilla Asamany, a CARISCA PhD student, during the Paper Development Workshop. (Photo by Fondjo Images)

Some of those top scholars traveled nearly 8,000 miles to participate in the workshop and summit. Along with Rogers, three senior technical advisers on the CARISCA team based at Arizona State University—Thomas Choi, Mohan Gopalakrishnan and Adegoke Oke—led small-group sessions at the paper development workshop.

Also traveling from the United States to attend the summit in person were keynote speaker Lisa Ellram, a Distinguished Professor at Miami University of Ohio, and presenters Ron Lembke, chair of marketing at the University of Nevada, Reno, and James Roh, a professor at Rowan University. 

Presenters hailed from points all across Africa as well. From the University of Pretoria in South Africa, Helena Barnard gave the opening keynote address. Representing The American University in Cairo, where she is on faculty, Sherwat Elwan Ibrahim flew from Germany to speak at the summit. Dr. Ephantus Maree, head of Noncommunicable Diseases for the Kenya Ministry of Health, was one of the invited session panelists, along with Bernard Asamany, a deputy director in the Ghana Health Service. 

“The research summit was truly a global event,” said Rogers. “We had folks from a lot of the continents in the world attending. We were happy to welcome many companies and NGOs as well.”

Major companies that had staff registered for the summit included DHL, Ernst and Young, Intel, McKinsey and Company, Roche and Sanofi. Among the nongovernmental organizations with staff registered were UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and the World Food Program.

Dissertation Awards Competition

In addition to providing emerging scholars with the opportunity to have their papers reviewed during the Paper Development Workshop, the summit also included a PhD Dissertation Competition. Its purpose was to showcase the best logistics and supply chain management PhD research projects being carried out in African higher education institutions.

In February 2022, CARISCA invited entries from PhD candidates who would have defended their proposals by the time of the conference or were close to the final submission or defense of their thesis. Entries came from students in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia. 

The submissions were judged based on originality, theoretical foundation, methodological foundation, implications for Africa and quality of writing and structure.

Kelvinne Mocke
Kelvinne Mocke

The top three finalists presented their research at the summit, and the winners were announced at the conference dinner the following day. Taking the top spot was Kelvinne Mocke from the University of Pretoria for his dissertation on “Investigating Development of Logistics Capabilities from a Resource Orchestration Perspective.”

2023 Supply Chain Research Summit

More than 94% of attendees who completed an evaluation of the 2022 summit said they plan to return for next year’s conference. It will be held June 25-27, 2023, in Ghana’s capital, Accra. The theme is Africa’s Supply Chains and the Future of Work.

“I thought this year’s summit was really successful, and I am excited about both what happened and what we will continue to do together,” said Rogers, ON Semiconductor Professor of Business at ASU. 

Added Boso, “CARISCA and the Supply Chain Research Summit have been able to get the world to appreciate the importance of Africa in a global supply chain system. Next year, we will be moving to Accra, at the heart of Ghana, and we will be having conversations around what are the key set of skills that people need to be able to succeed in the supply chain system of the future.”

Rogers agrees that Africa is and will continue to become more important in the global supply chain. He foresees the continent as a global center for manufacturing and processing. 

“It’s been predicted that the second half of the 21st century is going to be the African century,” he said. “I’ve been a professor for 33 years, and I’ve gotten to do a lot of different things, but this might be the most important project I have ever worked on.”

Adegoke Oke, CARISCA senior technical advisor and co-lead for research activities, including the Supply Chain Research Summit, talks about the summit and the importance of supply chain management in Africa.