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Mar 21, 2024   |   Blog Post

Building an ecosystem of fit-for-purpose supply chain leaders

The People that Deliver Indaba 2024 session, “Supply Chain Leadership and Stewardship: Building Public Health Supply Chain Leaders for the Future.”

By Tapiwa Mukwashi

Director, Global Technical Team

Transformative change is not possible without catalytic leaders. The importance of these leaders goes beyond their impact, but also their role in inspiring others.

At PtD (People that Deliver) Indaba held in Bangkok in early March, I was recently reminded of the importance of these leaders when I learned about Gamal Khalafallah Mohamed Ali, a beacon of light in the Sudan public health supply chain. Gamal’s advocacy for government resources and dedication to creating an enabling supply chain environment showcased the catalytic role of leadership. Gamal has set the example for how one can – in resource-constrained environments – make effective change.

Although Gamal was unable to attend the Indaba, his leadership was celebrated inspiring and reminding me of the importance of empowering leaders in low- and middle-income countries to strengthen supply chains.

The Role of Trusted Leaders

At VillageReach, we believe that building high-performing supply chains that are equitable, people-centered, resilient, and sustainable requires the stewardship of ‘Trusted Leaders’ who can navigate challenges in the leadership environment and deliver results. The convening of 250 supply chain professionals from 60 different countries at PtD Indaba provided a platform for multisectoral collaboration and a space for discussing the evolving challenges around human resources for supply chain management.

During the conference, I had the opportunity to facilitate a panel on Supply Chain Leadership and Stewardship: Building Public Health Supply Chains for the Future. The conversation generated powerful insights from panelists Pamela Steele (Pamela Steele Associates), Francis Kofi Aboagye-Nyame (USAID/MTaPS, MSH and current PtD Chairman) and Evelyne Kahare (Assistant Chief Pharmacist, County Government of Nakuru, Department of Health Services, Kenya) about catalytic leadership, some of the challenges they have faced in their career and how to empower and develop leaders (including women and youth) at all levels of the supply chain.

Leaders transform supply chains

Tapiwa Mukwashi speaking at the “Leadership and stewardship of the supply chain workforce: Health systems for the future” panel at PtD Indaba 2024.

The importance of enabling leadership at all levels of the supply chain was emphasized as a key ingredient for equitable and inclusive leadership. So how do you enable leadership at all levels? Here are some takeaways from the panel discussion.

People, not infrastructure, are the catalysts of supply chain transformation: While infrastructure and technology play important roles in strengthening supply chains, it is ultimately the people involved who act as the catalysts for change. People are the ones who provide leadership and vision to inspire and drive change and therefore must be equipped with the necessary knowledge and expertise to adapt to new technologies, processes, and ways of working to ensure that they have the capabilities needed to be successful supply chain leaders. The speakers emphasized that leadership is a continuous journey of growth, where leaders must complement their strengths with the diverse talents of their team members and act as role models or mentors when needed. Leaders create an environment that allows themselves and their teams a place to thrive and grow.  “There is no leader who is complete, they must also find complementary strengths from their team members,” said Steele.

Bold leaders, united forces: Unlocking executive courage and building allies: Supply chain leaders play a critical role in ensuring the availability of medicine in communities, and to accomplish this, they must demonstrate courage in navigating the political landscape and building alliances.  They must also embrace entrepreneurial abilities to connect the role of the public and private sectors and technical assistance (TA) partners. As supply chain professionals operate within political spaces, they need to be bold, confident, courageous, and politically aware. They must be astute advocates who position themselves in roles of influence where they are listened to by all stakeholders to attract more resources for increasing equitable access to health products.

Strength in diversity: Empowering through gender inclusion:  It is crucial to recognize and support women leaders in the supply chain as it plays a vital role in transforming the healthcare sector. Increased representation of women in leadership positions has the potential to bring about positive changes in health policies, intervention design, outcomes, innovation, and return on investment. Women are significant clients of primary healthcare services, often seeking care for themselves and their children. Therefore, supply chain professionals need to have a deep understanding of female clients and prioritize their needs when planning and making decisions related to the supply chain. Addressing systemic barriers, such as unequal compensation and the absence of family leave policies, is necessary to promote inclusivity and diversity and facilitate the advancement of women in supply chain leadership positions.

Converting community insights into action: Technological developments, through cell phones, have placed the power to provide feedback in the hands of community members. Some of this feedback has its foundations in inaccurate information. We have come into an era where supply chain professionals must be more transparent and proactive in sharing information. Panelist Aboagye-Nyame outlined the importance to leaders of actively incorporating community feedback, prioritizing transparency, and ethical practices in supply chain operations. This marks a shift from dismissing feedback to embracing it and unraveling the insights it holds. Supply chain leaders must embrace the reality that feedback is going to come from many channels, including emerging technology, and be willing to adjust and address this feedback as it comes.

As the world moves closer to 2030 the global health community has big goals to achieve and big gaps to fill to ensure equitable access to health products. High-performing supply chains need catalytic leaders, and empowering these leaders requires spaces like PtD Indaba for information exchange. It is only through these leaders that supply chains can deliver products to people whenever and wherever they are needed – saving many lives in the process.

Learn more about how VillageReach is building supply chain leadership and stewardship capacity here.

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