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John Waibochi: Digitizing supply chains across Africa presents immense opportunities.


Manufacturers, producers, and businesses have received a clear message over the past few years: digitizing supply chain management is essential for managing or preventing business disruptions brought on by events like pandemics or political unrest. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), which are more susceptible to supply chain disruptions, should pay particular attention to this.

A digitized supply chain offers suppliers and manufacturers several benefits, such as increased productivity, better inventory control, and assistance with fraud prevention. Additionally, data from a digitalized supply chain can present opportunities for in-depth data analysis at the national, regional, or local level, giving business decision-makers data-led decision-making about identifying new revenue streams, strategy adjustments, and market insights.

Regrettably, a lot of big-aspirational companies frequently initially go for a “best of breed” technology strategy, using a variety of different applications, platforms, partnerships, and engagements that demand integration and continuous updates. Instead of offering customers a premium experience, this results in businesses spending an excessive amount of time coordinating all the various infrastructure, security, DevOps, customer experience, tech support, and application upgrade components. The management teams of such organizations would frequently struggle to get rid of the feeling that one or more important balls were being dropped as the businesses grew.

These companies also have challenges developing a clear Route to Market for cloud services and a clear strategy for entering the enterprise market. Such companies might find that what they need is a technology partner who can scale with them as they grow and understands their needs, letting the teams concentrate on what they do best and perfecting their intellectual property.

As an illustration, Virtual City, a pioneer in East African supply chain automation solutions, has collaborated with Microsoft through its Africa Transformation Office (ATO) to review and enhance its business beyond the tech deployment, with a focus on the scalability, security, market accessibility, and pricing models that are crucial to the company’s success.

As a company, we concentrate on the end-to-end transformation of supply chains to deliver significant improvements to the supply chain participants across the agriculture, manufacturing, distribution, and public sectors. With a strong dashboard reporting capability and a mobile-first focus, our solutions ensure that customers don’t have to invest in costly traditional infrastructure-related expenses. They also run on the cloud. The Virtual City team was able to identify areas of weakness and growth opportunities, find the appropriate resources, and create a long-term, forward-looking relationship thanks to the 360-degree perspective that the ATO team provided, as opposed to a narrow tech-focused view.

Such mutually beneficial collaborations could catapult organizations to the next level in terms of technical capability, market reach, and platform stability for scale. Such partnerships also provide businesses with access to skills, resources, and knowledge that they would not have been able to develop in-house. 

Through the digitization of SMEs in industries such as Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), retail, and agriculture, there is also an opportunity to accelerate financial inclusion and de-risk investment decisions for financial service providers. The digitalized applications are intended for field use to capture, track, and analyse sales, orders, deliveries, and payment transactions. The data insights gathered along the supply chain provide visibility into the ecosystem. Clients can use these services to make better data-driven decisions to increase sales volumes, resulting in better customer service and increased market share. 

In conclusion, the opportunity in Africa is enormous, but there is an urgent need to adopt digital platforms to accelerate Africa’s economic growth and better enable Africans to participate in the global digital economy. As a result of our collaboration with Microsoft, we are now targeting far larger projects and business deals than we would have had the confidence to approach previously. With an Africa-wide multi-lingual and multi-tenant platform, we have been able to expand into West Africa, targeting Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and Ivory Coast all thanks to digitization. 

John Waibochi, Chief Executive Officer, Virtual City.

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We cover Technology and Business trends in Kenya, East Africa and across the Globe. Send tips to editor@techtrendske.co.ke

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