Digitizing Supply Chains in Africa: The Path to Growth and Resilience

By John Waibochi

In recent years, manufacturers, producers, and businesses have received a clear message: the digitization of supply chain management is vital for effectively managing and preventing disruptions caused by events like pandemics or political unrest. This message holds particular importance for small and medium-sized businesses [SMEs], which are more vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.

Digitizing the supply chain offers numerous benefits to suppliers and manufacturers. It enhances productivity, improves inventory control, and helps in preventing fraud. Furthermore, data derived from a digitalized supply chain presents opportunities for in-depth analysis at different levels national, regional, or local. This data-driven decision-making enables businesses to identify new revenue streams, adjust strategies, and gain market insights.

John Waibochi, Chief Executive Officer, Virtual City

Unfortunately, many ambitious companies often adopt a “best of breed” technology strategy initially, incorporating various applications, platforms, partnerships, and engagements that require continuous integration and updates. However, instead of providing customers with a premium experience, this approach leads to excessive time spent coordinating multiple components, including infrastructure, security, DevOps, customer experience, tech support, and application upgrades. As these businesses expand, their management teams often struggle with the feeling that important tasks are being overlooked.

These companies also face challenges in developing a clear Route to Market for cloud services and a strategy for entering the enterprise market. They may realize that what they truly need is a technology partner who can scale with them as they grow, understand their requirements, and allow their teams to focus on their core strengths and refine their intellectual property.

An excellent example of such collaboration is the partnership between Virtual City, a pioneer in East African supply chain automation solutions, and Microsoft through its Africa Transformation Office [ATO]. This collaboration goes beyond technical deployment and focuses on scalability, security, market accessibility, and pricing models crucial for Virtual City’s success. With a focus on end-to-end supply chain transformation, Virtual City delivers significant improvements to supply chain participants across agriculture, manufacturing, distribution, and public sectors. Their solutions, which have a strong dashboard reporting capability and prioritize mobile usage, eliminate the need for costly traditional infrastructure investments by operating on the cloud. The collaboration with the ATO team provided Virtual City with a 360-degree perspective, identifying areas for improvement and growth opportunities, and establishing a long-term relationship based on forward-looking strategies rather than a narrow tech-focused approach.

Such mutually beneficial collaborations have the potential to elevate organizations to new levels in terms of technical capabilities, market reach, and platform stability for scalability. Additionally, these partnerships provide businesses with access to skills, resources, and knowledge they wouldn’t have been able to develop internally.

By digitizing SMEs in industries like Fast-Moving Consumer Goods [FMCG], retail, and agriculture, there is an opportunity to accelerate financial inclusion and reduce risk in investment decisions for financial service providers. Field-use digital applications are designed to capture, track, and analyze sales, orders, deliveries, and payment transactions. The data insights gathered throughout the supply chain provide visibility into the ecosystem, enabling clients to make data-driven decisions that increase sales volume, enhance customer service, and expand market share.

In conclusion, Africa holds enormous potential, but there is an urgent need to embrace digital platforms to accelerate economic growth and empower Africans to participate in the global digital economy. Through our collaboration with Microsoft, Virtual City is now pursuing larger projects and business deals that were previously beyond reach. With an Africa-wide multi-lingual and multi-tenant platform, Virtual City has expanded into West Africa, targeting Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and Ivory Coast—all made possible through digitization.

The author is the Chief Executive Officer, Virtual City

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