Supply chain – delivering the products you need

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Matatu transportation
The Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has announced that Matatus will not be allowed to operate in Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD) starting April.

On 12 March 2020, the Ministry of Health in Kenya confirmed the nation’s first coronavirus case and was subsequently added to the growing list of countries that were battling the pandemic. The Kenyan people were forced into unknown territory.

The world that was once a ‘global village’ began to close off. National lockdowns were introduced, and some nations closed their borders, preventing people from entering or leaving. People began panic-buying and quickly supermarket shelves became empty.

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Most Kenyans did not understand that the empty shelves were a symptom of a problem in the supply chain, a knock on effect of the pandemic.

But what is a supply chain?

According to the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), “in its simplest form, a supply chain is the activities required by the organization to deliver goods or services to the consumer.” It is the process by which products make their way from raw materials through to the end-users.

How has the pandemic affected the supply chain?

When the pandemic hit, some companies’ production capacities were reduced due to social distancing restrictions affecting the number of employees allowed on the premises, while other companies were forced to close due to the effects of the virus.

Imports were affected by changes to regulations and border restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and compounded by staff shortages. The implications of slowing the spread of the virus, also meant slowing the spread of everything else.

Demand for specific products was also affected, for example, when people were urged to use sanitizers, the prices doubled and available supply dwindled, as more people bought in bulk and the producers and supply chains struggled to keep up.

Elsewhere demand has plummeted for non-essential goods. East and Southern Africa are leading exporters in the flower industry, prior to the pandemic, the global cut flower market was worth $13bn per annum, but difficulties with flights, increased freight costs and a fall in demand due to a lack of socializing have sent the industry into a downward spiral.

This in turn has meant job losses and other knock-on effects to the global economy.

Why should you care about the supply chain?

One of the biggest issues in supply chain during the pandemic has been about health supplies. At the beginning this was focused on personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves which were in high demand and short supply before the supply chain was forced to respond to the increased needs. Right now, it is all about vaccines.

The public health supply chain is essential for ensuring the new coronavirus vaccines get to everyone who needs them. Vaccines are considered to be the essential step in curbing the ongoing impact of the pandemic, protecting the vulnerable and helping the world to return to some semblance of normality.

Supply chain is the backbone of any successful business, responsible for all the steps needed to get products and services to the people who need them. So next time you are eating at a restaurant, doing your supermarket shop, or getting a prescription from a pharmacy – know that none of it would be possible without a supply chain.

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