Article by Kevin O’Marah, Chief Content Officer, SCM World
I’ve been pitching Africa as a supply chain growth imperative for a while now. Our recent and bullish Africa report has had some pretty good reviews, making me confident that things are ready to happen. But one caveat keeps surfacing: the talent gap. What to do about finding, developing and managing people who are savvy about local conditions, but also sophisticated enough to navigate the waters at global headquarters?
The talent problem in emerging markets is certainly not unique to Africa. We have consumer goods companies probing this question as it relates to entering China, hi-tech companies facing the issue in Latin America, and industrials wrestling with it in India. So much opportunity, but so few qualified people, and unfortunately expats don’t solve the problem since their skills mix is wrong and most are short-timers anyway.
Here is one idea that may help – at least in Africa.
South Africa leading the way
This past week I spent two full days moderating a CEO roundtable with leaders from eight big South African companies. The event was noteworthy because it comprised top bosses drilling into how supply chain affects business value. It reached deeper into the business agenda of this group of leaders than anything I’ve seen in the US or Europe.
Had this meeting been assembled by the World Economic Forum and held at Davos, I’d have been impressed, but not surprised. Instead it was arranged by SAPICS, the South African premier channel partner of APICS – a talent development organisation with headquarters in Chicago, USA, and a somewhat less-than-glamorous image.
SAPICS is empowered to experiment with new ways of bringing business and supply chain together. The influence of these general managers on the SAPICS’ content and engagement strategies is direct as the education agenda is set by business leaders more than by consultants.
Talent development through networking
SAPICS hosts a conference every year in South Africa that draws hundreds of young, ambitious supply chain practitioners from all over the continent. I attended its 30th anniversary event a few years back and left with first-hand accounts of supply chains working in countries from Nigeria and Kenya to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe.
Hundreds of working supply chain professionals soaked up the education, handed out business cards and tried to get an edge in their careers. The vibe was less like emerging markets and more like Silicon Valley, unlike emerging markets events I’ve been part of in New York or London, where the audience was more worried about looking good than about learning.
Emerging markets talent gap not unbridgeable
The big takeaway is that talent in emerging markets – in this case, Africa – need not be something supply chain leaders have to face alone. SAPICS is a well-established association with events, members and affiliates all over the continent. It is young, but not green, and open to business input. It also has deep institutional support from APICS Supply Chain Council.
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LinkedIn: SAPICS group