fbpx
Newsroom & Blog

Jan 22, 2024   |   Podcast

Supply Chain Leadership Across Africa: The Complex World of Logistics in Public Health

Originally posted on Supply Chain Now. 

Integrating private sector resources and capacity into public health supply chains is critical for building high-performing supply chains that are equitable, people-centered, resilient and sustainable. In a new Episode of Supply Chain Now: Supply Chain Leadership Across Africa VillageReach’s Alvaro Lopes and the Global Fund’s Scott Dubin discuss some of the ways the private sector can engage the public health supply chains. Between them, Alvaro Lopes and Scott Dubin have almost 40 years of experience managing projects that involve complex logistical considerations and nuances. Listen now as the duo reflect on the variables and challenges that define their workloads on a daily basis – as you can imagine, they encounter a tremendous variety of scenarios and stakeholders from many corners of the world.

During the conversation, Lopes and Dubin touch on several specific topics that include:

  • Coordinating public and private sector stakeholders to ensure health products reach everyone.
  • The importance of human resources and plugging gaps in countries’ supply chain expertise.
  • The role of logistics outsourcing in the public health sphere.
  • What partners can do (government, private, donors and implementing partners) to make outsourced logistics successful in Africa

Listen to the episode now. 

Help us share our podcast! 

Listen to Supply Chain Leadership Across Africa: The Complex World of Logistics in Public Health
About the Guests

Alvaro Lopes is a Private Sector Engagement Program & Solution support lead with VillageReach, where he is in charge of ensuring that all private sector-centric programs and solutions have its PSE strategies and its integrated work plan. He has over 18 years of experience in the private sector and NGO sector supply chains where he re-designed and implemented supply chain systems with a focus on underserved populations. Prior to VillageReach, he worked for several years with private sector companies including Unilever as the Supply Chain Manager, as a Supply Chain Director for PSI, and Rio Tinto mining as the procurement manager. Alvaro holds a diploma in planning and management. He is married and a dad of five kids. Connect with Alvaro on LinkedIn.

Scott Dubin is a Supply Chain, Private Sector Engagement Advisor with The Global Fund, where he creates innovative logistical solutions to ensure the uninterrupted supply of vital health supplies around the world. With a consistent focus in logistics, Scott has 20 years of experience designing, implementing, and managing humanitarian, development, and diplomatic projects in a host of complex environments across the world. In these roles, he has worked on behalf of NGOs, private companies and the U.S. government. Scott holds a B.A. Business Administration and MSc. International business. He is married and a dad to two little girls. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.

TRANSCRIPT

Intro/Outro (00:03):

Welcome to Supply Chain Now, the voice of global supply chain. Supply Chain Now focuses on the best in the business for our worldwide audience, the people, the technologies, the best practices, and today’s critical issues, the challenges and opportunities. Stay tuned to hear from those making global business happen right here on Supply Chain Now.

Scott Luton (00:32):

Hey, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are. Scott Luton and Kevin L. Jackson with you here on Supply Chain Now. Welcome to today’s show. Kevin, how you doing?

Kevin L. Jackson (00:42):

Hey, man. I’m trying to get into the spirit. OK. We were out doing some decorating and it’s getting cold and I don’t like cold but, you know, you got to deal with it.

Scott Luton (00:55):

That’s right. It’s part of getting into the holiday spirit. As you mentioned, great food, interesting weather sometimes, but decorations, family, friends, kindred spirits, all that’s part of it. Speaking of, Kevin, we’ve got — speaking of kindred spirits, we’ve got some great friends back with us here today, because on today’s episode we’re continuing our popular supply chain leadership across Africa series.

Scott Luton (01:19):

Now, Kevin, as you may know, we’ve been conducting this series for several years now, focused on the innovation, brilliance, and leadership that can be found throughout the 54 countries across the continent of Africa. And we’re pleased today to conduct our episode in partnership, as I mentioned, our friends are back with us, VillageReach a powerful nonprofit that is transforming healthcare delivery to reach everyone. In fact, their critical work enables access to quality healthcare. Kevin, get this, 70 million people.

Kevin L. Jackson (01:49):

Wow

Scott Luton (01:49):

Folks, you can — wow, is right. You can learn more at villagereach.org. And then one other thing, Kevin, I want to get your take here. Outstanding show. We’re going to be focusing more on how the private sector is currently providing logistics resources and support really across Africa and opportunities that are — that lie ahead. So, Kevin should be a great discussion, huh?

Kevin L. Jackson (02:11):

Right. Absolutely. The thing that I’m really impressed is across the entire continent is the innovation from a technology point of view, they’re really leapfrogging the rest of the world. And I’m really excited to learn more about VillageReach and how they are delivering healthcare across the entire —

Scott Luton (02:35):

That’s right. I am, too. And of course, with great partners like The Global Fund. So, that — on that note, let me go ahead and introduce our two panelists, rock and roll stars here today, up first Alvaro Lopes who leverages more than 18 years of supply chain and leadership experience in the private and NGO sectors, including at companies such as Unilever. All to do big things at VillageReach, where he serves as private sector engagement program and solution support lead. And he celebrates 10 years at VillageReach come April, 2024. Welcome, Alvaro, and congratulations, my friend.

Alvaro Lopes (03:13):

Thank you. Thank you so much, Scott. That was briefly my C.V. Day. Thank you.

Scott Luton (03:21):

Well, great to have you here, and can’t wait to pick your brain and learn a lot more about the cool things, the important things you’re doing there. So, Alvaro, you’ve also brought great friends, doing big things in the industry along with the VillageReach team. Scott Dubin brings more than 20 years of experience to the table with tons of focus and expertise in logistics, in particular. He currently serves as a supply chain private sector engagement advisor with the Global Fund. Scott, welcome.

Scott Dubin (03:48):

Thank you. Great to join you, Scott and Kevin, as well as Alvaro.

Scott Luton (03:52):

Absolutely. I — we’ve got a great story to share today and some really important topics. So, welcome to you both Alvaro and Scott. So, Kevin, where we want to start with our two guests is we want to get to know him a little better. We’ve done a little homework, we’ve done a little snooping, gathering some market intel, Kevin.

Kevin L. Jackson (04:07):

Yes.

Scott Luton (04:07):

And what we understand, Alvaro, we’ll start with you, is you’ve got quite a passion for farming and raising animals. So, tell us more about that.

Alvaro Lopes (04:16):

Interesting. Yes, I was born in a countryside of Mozambique. So, my family, my mother, she farmed a little bit of animals inside the side of our house, like, in the yards. So, grew up with me saying that one day I need to really grow my own animals where I can also look at the health side of growing them so I can have health meat in my table.

Scott Luton (04:45):

So, what — Alvaro, what is — what was one of your favorite animals, I guess, to raise there in the countryside of Mozambique?

Alvaro Lopes (04:55):

Well, I love growing pigs, especially because when they give birth, it’s like 12 of them. So, it’s a —

Kevin L. Jackson (05:06):

Wow.

Alvaro Lopes (05:06):

Yes, it’s a —

Scott Luton (05:07):

Package deal.

Alvaro Lopes (05:08):

— high productive.

(CROSSTALK)

Alvaro Lopes (05:11):

It’s a win-win. I feed them and they feed me, so it’s a win-win.

Scott Luton (05:15):

That’s great. Such as life is. I love that. Well, Kevin, that kind of takes me to —

Kevin L. Jackson (05:19):

It’s that circle of life.

Scott Luton (05:20):

Yes, yes. You beat me to it, Kevin. And I’m just going to ask before I move over to Scott. Kevin, have you ever tried your hand at farming or raising any animals?

Kevin L. Jackson (05:28):

No, but my uncle actually raised pigs.

Scott Luton (05:32):

OK.

Kevin L. Jackson (05:32):

I lived up in New Jersey and I used to visit him. They’re not — the only reason I visited him because he would pick a pig and put it in a big pit and cook it for celebrations. That was some of the best spoon.

Scott Luton (05:44):

That sounds — we’re going to have to get Alvaro and maybe your uncle, Kevin, to swap some recipes and get back to us so we can maybe try them all out together.

Kevin L. Jackson (05:53):

Yes, that would be fun.

Scott Luton (05:55):

Alvaro, thank you for sharing.

Kevin L. Jackson (05:56):

I’m always in when it’s food.

Scott Luton (05:58):

Right. Me and you both, Kevin. Me and you both. And Alvaro, as I mentioned, we’ll also maybe next time you come with us, bring — you need to bring some of those farming best practices because I am awful at it, but we’ll save that for, maybe, our next conversation.

Scott Luton (06:11):

Scott, I got a special question for you as well. Kevin and I both have daughters like you do. I’m curious, Scott, what is one of your favorite activities to do when you get a chance to spend some time with your daughters?

Scott Dubin (06:25):

Yes, great question. I’m actually traveling for work at the moment and it is always tough to be away from them. And so, I think about the things that we will be able to do when I get home, but always — it’s exciting to be in situations with your kids when they have oh wow moments and as they experience their things. And one of the big ones since we moved to Switzerland, where we’re now based, is we found a theme park called the Europa-Park, which just located in Germany and it’s one of Europe’s largest theme parks. So, it’s very similar to Disney in terms of its size and the style of it. It’s quite amazing.

Scott Dubin (06:56):

And so, we went when we first moved and my kids at the time were two and four, and I thought we were just going to go maybe once a year and it turned into five times a year, after that we’ve been doing for the last three years.

Scott Dubin (07:08):

So pretty much 15 times we’ve been there. And for those of us who maybe grew up in the States and at Disney World, I don’t think we went that often in our entire life. So, they get to go all the time. But interestingly, they have that kind of, oh wow, look every time. And as they grow taller, they can do more things and appreciate different types of rides and shows and whatnot. So, really every time we go, it’s a fun experience to see them enjoy themselves. So, I would recommend if you’re coming through Europe and near Germany to make your way to Europa-Park.

Scott Luton (07:40):

Europa-Park.

Scott Dubin (07:41):

Yes.

Scott Luton (07:41):

We’re going to add that to our list. Kevin, quick question, are you a thrill rod enthusiast, because Scott mentioned those theme parks?

Kevin L. Jackson (07:50):

You know, I actually do enjoy the rollercoasters. And you always — now you want to go and look at the tallest ones, these big metal monstrosities, but the scariest one I’ve ever ridden was like old wooden rollercoaster on a beach down near Virginia Beach. And those old ones are rickety and they saying you feel like you’re going to die around every corner.

Scott Luton (08:19):

What is fun about that Scott, Alvaro and Kevin? What is fun about that? I used to love those throw rides earlier, but not nearly as much later in life. So — and, Scott, you shaking your head.

Scott Dubin (08:30):

Yes, I know. I hold the backpacks on my way —

Kevin L. Jackson (08:34):

You hold the backpacks.

Scott Dubin (08:35):

Rollercoaster is — the problem is the little one I was getting big enough where she also wants to go. So there’s an odd number and occasionally get forced to join in on what would not be considered a large rollercoaster by Kevin standards. But even for me, the sort of intermediate rollercoaster is still a bit much. But sometimes I get forced on that and then I need about 20 minutes of recovery, need to get my bearings again. I normally take a pass as I can.

Kevin L. Jackson (09:00):

Just as an aside, it’s my daughter that grabs me to take me on the rollercoasters.

Scott Luton (09:06):

It comes full circle.

Kevin L. Jackson (09:07):

So, watch out. It’s coming.

Scott Dubin (09:07):

Exactly. Exactly. I need to start practicing.

Scott Luton (09:11):

Well, we got to get the work folks. Really, Alvaro and Scott good to get to know you a little bit better here, but we’ve got a lot of important stuff to walk through. And I want to keep adding some context to the conversation. Kevin and I both do. And so, Alvaro, for the folks out there that may be unfamiliar with VillageReach, if you would, Alvaro, tell us about what the organization does and your role there.

Alvaro Lopes (09:31):

Thank you for the question. So, VillageReach is nonprofit organization funded in 2000. Primarily focus was to work with the government to strengthen the supply chain of EPI. EPI is a vaccination program that each country implements over diseases that have preventive vaccines. And then we grew up into the entire supply chain of medicines, including medical products. We also started working in the area of data collection and data management improvements all related to, as you put in the beginning, to transform healthcare delivery to reach everyone.

Alvaro Lopes (10:24):

And we’ve been quite successful in the countries where we operate. We have projects in the supply chain field, we have projects in the technology area, we have our own platform to capture vaccinations at the health facility. But all this has been co-product with the government where we operate, with the mindset of at the end, once the solution is tested, proved, scaled, we should transition it to the government for them to be on managers of their own solutions. Yes, yes.

Scott Luton (11:07):

And, Alvaro, tell us about — so, I admire that mission. You know, we’ve been fortunate to rub elbows with folks from VillageReach in the earlier shows and programming. And the outcome — the sheer outcomes we talked about, 70 million folks depending on a lot of what you all do so they can have healthcare. Tell us, with you being such a supply chain practitioner, that’s got to be a wonderful thing for a group like VillageReach to leverage. What do you do in your role there?

Alvaro Lopes (11:31):

So, I’ve played many roles in the organization. So recently I got this role of private sector engagement program, a solution support lead. So, we have a — in different countries we operate, we have a lot of solutions that are private sector centric. Like I was saying, we have supply chain solution in Mozambique which uses private sector transporters. We have a health center by phone which uses MNOs. So, different programs in different countries, there are private sector centric.

Alvaro Lopes (12:05):

So, my role is to ensure that all these programs have its own private sector engagement strategy and at the same time the integrated book plan. And to ensure that all these programs and private sector entities that are liaising to support the Ministry of Health have tools, contracts, service level agreements, all the necessary tools to be able to deliver the quality solution to the healthcare systems in the countries we operate.

Scott Luton (12:37):

Man, what a noble mission. Before I shift over to Scott and learn more about the global fund, Kevin, quick comment there on what Alvaro was sharing.

Kevin L. Jackson (12:44):

Well, I really appreciate the way they are approaching this in a scalable manner. Something that you can learn, improve and basically expand across the entire continent in order to provide this real valuable resource. I like the thought process.

Scott Luton (13:06):

Right, I’m with you. And as Alvaro was describing, I can only imagine all the coordination that’s got to take place across the ecosystem to get all the partners together as we build meaningful sustainable programs to help those out there get access to healthcare amongst other things.

Scott Luton (13:22):

So — all right. So. Scott Dubin, tell us —

Kevin L. Jackson (13:25):

Yes, it’s so difficult across the continent.

Scott Luton (13:27):

Right. Oh, yes —

Kevin L. Jackson (13:29):

Absolutely.

Scott Luton (13:31):

Yes, yes, yes. And to that point, there’s something that’s coming up in a lot of these shows as we focus on supply chain leadership across Africa. There’s a lot of folks around the world, they think of Africa and they think of one country, but there’s 54 countries with all sorts of different rules and governments and needs and that is really important that’s shared out there and we have these conversations with that context.

Scott Luton (13:52):

So, Scott, Scott Dubin, tell us about the Global Fund, what it does, and your role there.

Scott Dubin (13:57):

Yes, absolutely. And the Global Fund is likely not familiar to most, even my own family. I’d have to explain to them where I work when I joined, and it wouldn’t have been the first time. But the Global Fund is one of the largest financiers of public health projects in the world. The focus at the Global fund is on HIV, malaria and TB. And it was started in 2002, so a little over 20 years. Just to give a sense of the scale, it operates in 140 countries.

Scott Dubin (14:26):

And when I say, operate, in terms of we provide funding into 140 countries, but we do not have offices on the ground. We have roughly $4 billion of spend per year and that’s broken down into $2 billion of health products. And we have technical assistance, as well as about $150 million of that would be in terms of logistics services for products that are procured by the Global Fund for our partners, which are governments.

Scott Dubin (14:53):

We typically are a country led organization. The money goes to what we call principal recipients, which are essentially are implementers and often those principal recipients are governments or disease focused agencies within the governments. And about 70% of the $4 billion a year that I mentioned would be spent in Africa.

Scott Luton (15:12):

Wow. The scale of that, I can only imagine the impact you all are making. And again, that just adds — I told you all, to our listeners out there, a lot of kindred spirits here. And gosh, between Alvaro and Scott and their organizations, they’re changing lives, saving lives and making for a much brighter future. And that’s some of the great news that we can find and have found time and time again across the continent of Africa. To Kevin’s point, because of all the innovation that — and the talent and the know-how.

Scott Luton (15:43):

So — all right. So, let’s shift gears. Kevin, I want — I think we want to —

Kevin L. Jackson (15:47):

I think it’s —

Scott Luton (15:47):

— talk more about the private sector and what they’re doing, right?

Kevin L. Jackson (15:50):

Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think it’s important to note though that the continent has, like, 1.4 billion people. I mean — and that’s like almost 18% of the entire world’s total population. So, it’s really important to have this type of engagement between the public sector and the private sector.

Kevin L. Jackson (16:14):

So, Scott — I mean, could you maybe expand a little bit on how the private sector is being engaged across the continent to provide this in-country supply chain logistics? I mean, there are so many borders across the continent, and the different currencies, and different laws. This could — just customs alone could be a nightmare.

Scott Dubin (16:42):

Yes, it is a very complicated environment to work in. And I think what we see, especially referring to the public health side of the logistics where we operate, and VillageReach as well, is that there tends to be a lot more arts than science and some of the work that we do compared to those who are operating in the Europe and the U.S. and so on. We certainly could use more science than we currently have. But there is an art to it because of the level of complexity that you don’t have at other places. The uncertainty of things, the lack of consistency with certain things.

Scott Dubin (17:14):

Yes, the constraints and variables are quite significant, but also what makes it an enjoyable sector to work in. But the private sector is one — is — has been supporting the work of public health supply chains, you know, for a number of decades and that has continued over time. And the support coming to the public health sector is a result of the private sector being engaged in other industries within Africa and establishing infrastructure.

Scott Dubin (17:44):

And so, we tend to heavily rely on warehousing and distribution services from the private sector. But beyond that, I mean, the private sector has invested in Africa in terms of infrastructure. So, we also benefit from ports, seaports and airports that have been developed by the private sector. The technology and innovation which is brought in from the private sector. We have seen real significant improvements in management information systems that are established even within the government sector, government warehousing and so on. We utilize the private sector for capacity building and training and utilize the technology and innovation that comes from the private sector.

Scott Dubin (18:23):

I had spent time on a project that I led in Malawi, utilizing the drones from the private sector to deliver cargo and collect lab samples in Malawi. And so, there’s ways the private sector has really benefited the work that we’ve done beyond just the warehousing and distribution, which we typically talked about within our sector. But there’s many other areas where investment and know-how technology has really benefited the work that we all do and that the governments need to support their public health supply chains.

Kevin L. Jackson (18:53):

Wow. That’s amazing that the private sectors jumped in so much. Alvaro, why is this such a need for leveraging these private sector services to strengthen the supply chain? Where are the governments in it?

Alvaro Lopes (19:10):

Thank you, Kevin. I think it’s a matter of doing what you are best positioning to do. So, Minister of Health are best positioned to take care of the patients [phonetic]. Meanwhile, supply chain should be left to the private sector because they possess significant expertise and resources that can be utilized to strengthen public health supply chains. If we leverage these attributes, we cannot only (INAUDIBLE) the efficiency and effectiveness of the supply chains, but also unlock and up donor funding, hereby increasing private sector revenue. This is the other angle of all this.

Alvaro Lopes (19:51):

Additionally, we can consider that this is an opportunity for the private sector to actually contribute to the wellbeing of their customers, because if they support the public health supply chain, these are their customers. So, they’ll be seen as their brand being one of the contributors to the health wellbeing of the people that they serve.

Kevin L. Jackson (20:18):

Sounds like a symbiotic partnership.

Alvaro Lopes (20:21):

Exactly.

Scott Luton (20:22):

I like that word, symbiotic, Kevin. Symbiosis, I think, is one of the versions. It brings serenity to my mind. Hey, Alvaro, I want to touch on two quick follow-ups. Would you agree in other conversations I’ve had, whether it was there in Cape Town when I visited back in June, when the conversations there at conferences or a lot of these shows across Africa, across all the countries, we’re still developing and building the workforce, the professional workforce when it comes to the supply chain management space. Do you see that as that work continues, that’s one more reason why we’ve got to leverage the private sector services and leverage more private sector services to meet the need and continue building out the capacity which Scott mentioned. Do you see all that tied together, Alvaro?

Alvaro Lopes (21:11):

Yes, definitely. I mean, human resources is the core backbone of every activities we do. To strengthen this public health supply chain, it requires a qualified human resources. And this is one of the roles of the tied [phonetic] partners, is to actually ensure that these folks, these colleagues that are working in the public health supply chain have the right skills to perform their duties on their efficient way.

Scott Luton (21:43):

Well said, Alvaro. The human factor is still alive and well even in this highly technology driven business world we’re in. And of course we can’t develop workforce overnight. It’s going to take time and that’s why we need more. It’s impressive.

Scott Luton (21:58):

Scott, as you were kind of laying out all the different ways of private sector is involved, but we still need more. I’m going to give you — before I move over to the evolution of logistics outsourcing. Scott, do you want to comment there on any of those topics workforce? How that ties into what the private sectors do? Any quick comment before I move forward?

Scott Dubin (22:15):

Yes, I would say that for the private sector and supply chain, it’s where a lot of the expertise are held. As Alvaro pointed out. The core competency of governments and ministries of health who we engage isn’t really running warehousing and distribution. It is a challenge for them. They don’t have the bandwidth, the expertise available to them to operate, typically operate — I don’t want to pay with the broad brush, but typically operate the level that the private sector would be able to. And it’s just not — it’s an under-invested area within governments.

Alvaro Lopes (22:46):

And as the, what we call programmatic needs, the needs — the health needs of a country evolve quickly. The supply chain which will support that public health, those public health needs doesn’t often move with as much speeds and can’t keep up with the needs. And so, you see a gap there. And so, often we are trying to either solve that gap through technical assistance and for governments to improve their operations, which always struggle with the HR component of it. Finding the right people, training them and having the right resources available to them, separate from having the systems and processes in place. And working towards making a shift towards the private sector. And working with governments to see the benefits and to be able to engage with the private sector as needed to obtain their services.

Scott Luton (23:30):

Wonderful. And we’re going to talk about all the — for some of these next steps, both — all of you are talking about. We’re going to talk about some things that’s got to happen in the conversation in just a moment.

Scott Luton (23:39):

Kevin. All right. Really quick, one of your favorite topics to talk about before I talk evolution with Scott and Alvaro. The human component, it’s tough to — it’s impossible, maybe, to digitally transform without the human factor, huh?

Kevin L. Jackson (23:54):

Yes, I think, the humans are always critical in any process. And as we leverage more and more technology, it’s all about being able to have humans work seamlessly with the technology. I mean one of the newest terms is cobot, right? Where you have robots and humans working together to jointly accomplish goals. And this is across every industry, especially in healthcare like the da Vinci robot where you have the doctor during non-invasive surgery, leveraging all this advanced technology. So, when you’re leading this type of initiatives, you need to have leverage both sides.

Scott Luton (24:45):

It’s remarkable. Remarkable the speed of the pace of the innovations across technology that’s taking place right now. And who knows, we may have to get one of those cobots to pitch for my Atlanta Braves. We’re having a hard time finding a good pitcher these days, but hey, all in due time.

Scott Luton (25:02):

All right. So, Scott and Alvaro, I want to shift gears. I want to talk about the evolution of what you see that when it comes to the evolution of logistics outsourcing as we, you know, in the future and as we can hopefully grow that capacity and help more folks. Scott, how do you see that evolution playing out?

Scott Dubin (25:18):

Yes, it’s a great question because I would take it with — from two sides. One in terms of the users of the private sector and then the providers themselves. And we often are supporting users which are the governments, the ministries of health. As Alvaro was mentioning, we’re talking about their capacity to run their own supply chains and it really isn’t their core competency. But we see there can be hesitancies to move towards the private sector. And there’s a number of reasons for this and there’s — these are things that we need to address. And how we see it happening in the future, is more and more the work that is being done by governments in regards to supply chain would transfer over to the private sector.

Scott Dubin (26:00):

But for that to happen, I think in the future we’re seeing the users of it better understand their own needs, right? This has been a challenge for what maybe is taken for granted in some places in terms of just knowing your performance of your own supply chain, the cost of your own supply chain.

Scott Dubin (26:15):

And if you don’t have that kind of basic information, it’s very hard to look at an outsourcing option. Say it’s a good way to go because you can’t say how much money you’ll save or what better performance you will receive. And if you are not set up to contract with the private sector, then there’s a hesitancy to do that.

Scott Dubin (26:33):

So, I see in the future we have to be able to improve the ability to contract and manage those contracts. But again, governments are different than, you know, private organizations when it comes to outsourcing their logistics. They have limited level of expert and technical know-how. So, I see in the future that the level of effort and the technical know-how are required to engage with providers will decrease. And for those who maybe aren’t familiar with Africa, and it’s not to paint it with the broad brush, but the services received and the level of sophistication of the private sector in terms of logistics providers varies quite a bit. And as a result, it can take quite a bit to engage with them and be a customer for their services.

Scott Dubin (27:16):

And we see the future where just more delivery points are being required. So, in the public health space you may have been limited to deliveries to health facilities, which in some countries number in the thousands of health facilities. It’s quite a large feat to deliver it all health facilities. But on top of that we have started to look at making it more patient-centric and having deliveries to more locations that are convenient to them. So, whether it be to stores in their area or even their homes or to pharmacies that they’re accessing anyway that they don’t have to go to the health facility. That increases the number of delivery points. And so, it changes what the future will look like in terms of the need for logistical support.

Scott Dubin (28:02):

And then on the provider end, really, I see the trend will be here — I’d say here because I’m in Africa at the moment, but really increasing their value offering to customers, incorporating more advanced systems than technologies into their services. We see a lot of companies offer these services in the U.S. and Europe and so on, but not necessarily trickling down here into all areas. They might be in some countries or they might be for some sectors but not necessarily in the public health space.

Scott Dubin (28:32):

We see increased ability to reach the last mile is what we see happening into the future. Right now things are very focused on more long haul delivery or major cities, but in the public health space our customers are all over the country and in rural settings and they are harder to reach. And so, we also — I would say my last thought on where I see the future would be around not typical 3PL providers as we engage with now, not just warehousing and distribution 3PLs and 2PLs. but the likes of e-commerce providers who have their own independent system or pharmacy networks who have their system and products as being distributed through those existing systems as how we see things potentially shaping up in the future.

Scott Luton (29:14):

Scott, very helpful. You paint a wonderful visual of what lies ahead.

Scott Luton (29:19):

Alvaro, I’d love to get your take on how you see the evolution of logistics outsourcing taking place moving forward.

Alvaro Lopes (29:25):

Thank you. Scott said does [phonetic]. I’ll just add a few points there. I think I see — I would say that the future looks bright to me in a sense that there’ll be more evidence of proven good results in the countries where they’re already testing the private sector use in solving these supply chain issues. So there’ll be more and more evidence, there’ll be more and more sharing between countries which will make much appealing for other countries to adopt outsourcing.

Alvaro Lopes (30:00):

And I also see the use of artificial intelligence playing quite an important role into all this supply chain and the approach we’re using to solve our supply chain problems in the future. Looking at other angle, I would say in the future I see more relationship between governments and private sector and being technical assistance will be much into the role of supporting these two partners to come up with solutions that are really going to help solving public health supply chain issues in remote areas. And I also see more use of innovative ways of looking at the resilience of supply chain, the use of drones in the areas where they are natural disasters. We know some parts of Africa used to get floods like Mozambique. So, I see in the future different types of solutions coming up to solve these whole issues, especially in the resilience side of the supply chain company of one [phonetic].

Scott Luton (31:16):

Well said, Alvaro. And, yes — Kevin, I’m going to bring you in before I move on next —

Kevin L. Jackson (31:22):

Yes.

Scott Luton (31:22):

— with one of the next questions I’m going to ask Scott and Alvaro to talk about some of the things that’s got to happen for us to realize this future that they both are painting. But, Kevin, I’m going to get you to weigh in here. My hunch is that just like we’ve seen tons of successful experimentation with drone delivery because of the rural areas and the infrastructure challenges we have and drone delivery is really — it’s incredible proven ground across Africa. We’ve seen Alvaro mentioned A.I. And no telling the innovations as A.I. has applied more and more to meet and grow this capacity and to serve more people. I bet there’s going to be all sorts of artificial intelligence innovation coming out of Africa in the years ahead. But Kevin, your thoughts there?

Kevin L. Jackson (32:04):

Well, you’re absolutely right about machine learning and artificial intelligence, both of them are going to improve processes. But another area that I think is underappreciated is the rapid use and expansion of space-based services, geospatial data and information that’s coming from space is going to be critical to operating across the wide swath of the continent. Being able to see where you’re having drought or be able to measure the nutrients remotely, and leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence in order to select and direct resources into those areas. The — and all of this will support healthcare, nutrition, being able to get food, being able to understand exactly the nature of what’s happening with climate and how that’s affecting healthcare. So, all of these are — really, Africa is the frontline of leveraging these advanced uses of technology.

Scott Luton (33:19):

Well said, Kevin. And Alvaro and Scott, one thing I didn’t share with you all, Kevin’s talking my love language now. He knows I’m a big old space nerd and he spent some time working at NASA. So, we — I love how he works in the space angle in these supply chain conversations. It really is fascinating. So good stuff there, Kevin.

Scott Luton (33:38):

  1. So, Scott and Alvaro, we’ve — both of you all were talking in future terms, right? Kind of, where and how things are going to evolve, from logistics to the need to how we’re going to fulfill a bigger mission in the years ahead. So, for all of that to happen and more let’s talk about what’s needed to get there. And we want to focus on four angles here. Alvaro, I want to start with you. You were just talking about government a second ago, specifically when it comes to government, what do they need to do differently, Alvaro?

Alvaro Lopes (34:07):

So, in my opinion, I think governments needs to start looking at private sector as partners instead of customers because currently it’s a relationship where you just have a contract, you deliver service and you get paid and that’s all. So, I think there is a need to ship this mindset and look — government needs to start looking at private sector as partners so they can both develop solutions that are going to solve healthcare problem — healthcare issues in the countries where they operate.

Alvaro Lopes (34:47):

And also, when it comes to policy, governments need to improve their policies to accommodate private sector wishes and needs because it’s a win-win. I mean, private sector has the expertise and assets and the public sector has the needs, the funding. So, I think it’s win-win where these two needs to start looking at each other as partners because this is what happens. They look at each other as just customers, transactional relationship, instead of long-term partnership where they both look at together to solve the — a common problem over.

Scott Luton (35:30):

Well said, Alvaro. And by taking that latter approach you’re talking about, that’s how we get through the greater challenges of our time, right? That’s where we had the strength as an ecosystem or as a coalition, as a partnership to push through some of these challenges known and unknown. That’s around the corner. Well said, Alvaro.

Scott Luton (35:47):

Scott, the private sector, what’s their role in order to realize as future you are painting?

Scott Dubin (35:53):

Well, it’s a little bit of a chicken and egg situation because if I kind of give you the situation that we see in many countries, is — tends to be — always the very formal markets or not a very mature market when it comes to logistics providers. So, you might have a, you know, many number of 2PL providers, you know, owner operators, very small outfits as well as 3PL providers. And for a lot of the work that we see happening, contracting tends to come through a larger entity to the local firms, and therefore their revenue generation from these services tends to be a bit smaller, which then results in them not spending as much or being able to spend as much on investments and technologies and systems and so on.

Scott Dubin (36:38):

And so, what we’d like to see is more investment and services offered from the private sector to be able to realize, kind of, the future state that we have been talking about. But at the same time, they want to ensure they have the demand there to make those investments. We see that happening, you know, in spots here and there, but I think it’s really important that providers essentially evolve a little bit further to meet the needs of government and international organizations, both in terms of the consistency of delivery, but the quality of those services that are delivered in terms of efficiency and visibility, digitization, just the user experience. And I would say there is a lot of room for improvement there.

Scott Dubin (37:22):

And with that, we would see I think a quicker shift from governments moving towards the private sector because it would — more value would be realized from those activities. It would be easier to engage as a result of having improved systems and technologies throughout the entire process. All from when a quote is issued back to a customer, to the digitization of the paperwork, the billing process, and in there the tracking process I should have mentioned. You know, if that becomes a much more seamless experience, it’ll really increase the value offering from the private sector. And so, we really want to see the increase in service quality and advancements from the logistics sector to have that pull from the government to move their services — their activities, rather, over to those types of services.

Scott Luton (38:13):

Yes. Scott, good stuff there. Kevin, I’ll check in with you real quick. What Scott — what I heard Scott sharing, at least, is making it easier to do business from soup to nuts, right? End to end. Some folks say that word is dead, that phrase is dead. I don’t. I’m going to cling to that probably until my end. I don’t know. But, Kevin, weigh in. He also mentioned that we’re leveraging that heavily to streamline and to make it easier to do business. Your thoughts, Kevin?

Kevin L. Jackson (38:39):

Yes, really it all comes down to information and data. Being able to collect the data, being able to share the data. And actually, be able to leverage the data in order to improve the processes. And data is really, as they say, the new oil, but it drives supply chain. Visibility into the supply chain is what some advanced technology is doing. I mean, when you think about digital transformation in supply chain, it’s really all about the data.

Scott Luton (39:12):

Excellent point. And I — it’s either Alvaro or Scott earlier that mentioned if you don’t have all the data, it’s tough to make outsourcing decisions or manage supply chain, you have to do that. We don’t have the equation built out as someone put on one of our earlier shows. Inform leaders make informed decisions. And it’s just so critical whether you’re in supply chain or any other part of business. Good stuff there, Kevin.

Scott Luton (39:35):

Scott, I want to stick with you. We’re going to talk about donors and implementers. Scott, you’re going to speak to donors. What should donors be doing?

Scott Dubin (39:43):

Well, I would look at it both in terms of looking at the providers of these services, thinking about them and thinking about the customer, and obviously the interaction between the two. I think the donors tend to overlook their impact on the market itself. Work in public health supply chains, that’s a pretty niche area and sometimes we’re the largest customer of some of these logistic services because of the sheer amounts of products that we bring into countries. And the health of the market is what’s going to support the governments in their efforts down the road. And if we don’t leave a healthy market, it will be challenging for governments to engage with the private sector.

Scott Dubin (40:21):

And so, I think for us that translates into being thoughtful about our spend. And I say our spend is also we utilize principal recipients, implementers. How does our spend affect the health of the market? Are we too concentrated with one or two providers and not spreading the workout as much as we should be? Are we not having contract durations that are long enough to allow firms to make the investments that they need to be? Sometimes in the donor world that the contracting periods tend to be shorter than the private sector would like to see.

Scott Dubin (40:56):

So, where we can do longer contracts such as, I think, the maximum we see in our funding cycles will be three years. If we take advantage of that time period, it would allow firms to offer services because they’re willing to make that investment if they can see the return on their investment. And for the customers, the governments that we support is being able for us to help prepare them to manage the outsourcing process from the beginning to the end. And really take a view of what are the challenges or holistic view, what are the challenges that governments face when it comes to outsourcing? We can’t solely convince them just by saying it’s a great idea. We have to know the pain points they have.

Scott Dubin (41:36):

And as I was mentioning earlier, you know, governments will not necessarily have the technical know-how in outsourcing, right? We have made a lot of efforts in the donor community in terms of helping governments improve their operations related to their own warehousing and distribution. Be a shift to change what type of technical support we provide to governments, supporting the technical trainings around outsourcing. Because these are different types of people, different types of skill. The LOE might not be there as well. It might take a lot more people than they have to manage the outsourcing aspects of it. The information systems that they have, you have to be able to connect into private providers in order for this to work more seamlessly. How do they manage financially? Government budgets tend to not come in smoothly and so there may be challenges with private providers being willing to work with governments because payments aren’t coming as consistently as they would with private sector customers if you will.

Scott Dubin (42:31):

I think, additionally, government toners really need to familiarize their selves. What systems and technologies are coming out that make this process much easier, that reduce the LOE and the technical know-how required to engage. There are ways we just don’t see them as much in our sector. And I’ll give you the example is, you know, I think about when I first started doing my taxes and it was complicated, and I’m doing it by paper versus, you know, whatever software you use now just, kind of, guides you through the entire process. So, you need less technical know-how, you need less level of effort.

Scott Dubin (43:04):

And so, there is — in many industries, this is what happens. It just seems in ours, well it happens in other areas of logistics. It hasn’t translated so much into public health supply chains. So, what we’d really like to see is — I would like to see, and I think donors need to pay attention to is both the customer side and the provider side, and somewhere in the middle is how they interact. There’s a lot of friction in the transaction of even trying to find providers within various countries in Africa. You can’t just Google who are the transporters in this country? Who are warehouse providers and be able to engage. So, there’s some friction in the system that I think we could also participate in supporting its removal to enhance the uptake of these types of services.

Scott Luton (43:47):

Good stuff there, Scott. A lot to unpack, a lot to dissect, Kevin. One of the things he landed on though is reducing the friction amongst all the parties and the platforms, the technologies, you name it, right? Kevin, how important is that, right?

Kevin L. Jackson (44:01):

Yes. Yes, it’s critical. And unfortunately, the healthcare industry has been known as a laggard when it comes to adopting technology. And the — and because of this they become one of the biggest targets when it comes to cybercrime, and things like identity theft. So, it’s really important as everyone relies upon healthcare and the need to leverage more information technology is to protect that data and information. So, I mean, Scott and Alvaro, they have a real challenge ahead of them.

Scott Luton (44:44):

That’s right. And that’s why we need more folks to jump into the mission. But we’re going to get to that in just a second. But we’ve been talking about for all these next steps to happen and for us to be able to take the art of the possible, put it in a headlock and execute on it. We’ve been talking about what is needed, right, from four angles. So, Alvaro shared a bit about the government. Scott shared about the private sector and donors.

Scott Luton (45:05):

And Alvaro the fourth here, the fourth point is the implementer’s role. So, tell us what should they be doing for us again to realize the art of the possible?

Alvaro Lopes (45:14):

Thank you. So, implementers are doing — are quite doing a good job. So, they need to keep doing the job that they’re doing, which is supporting the Ministry of Health in the country where they operate. But there is one important thing that needs to be highlighted is the alignment of priorities. So, the priorities of the implementers need to be aligned with the governments they serve. Because if your priorities are not aligned, we see a lot of solutions and programs that are implemented. Once the donor funding finish, that solution is forgotten. So, the country will be going back to its old system, which is easier for them to manage. So, aligning priorities of implementers with the government — with those of the government, it’s a crucial point there.

Alvaro Lopes (46:09):

Also, I think it’s very important when it comes to solving problems of a certain population. We need to give the opportunity for those governments to be in the drive seat when it comes — to develop that particular solution. If we have them in the drive seat, that means it will be much easier for them to adopt when the donor funding is not there. And also, while the programs are being implemented with donor funding, I think there is a need to start from the beginning, discussing with those governments they serve about the potentiality of them being self-funded after the donor funding is gone.

Alvaro Lopes (46:56):

The other angle I think is that also the implementers should always be a place, a three-way contract of the private sector, public sector because it will always require someone to be the watcher or will be supervising this relationship. Being like an independent consultant will be actually controlling and supporting both of them to go along together and drive the solution over.

Scott Luton (47:33):

Excellent points there. I’m going to pull out is that alignment of priorities is so important, whether it’s what we’re talking about here or elsewhere across industry, that’s what’s going to make it sustainable. And that’s one of the great points you were making, Alvaro. And I believe when you were talking about in the driver’s seat, that local decision making is really important now for us, another great call out.

Scott Luton (47:53):

All right. So, we’ve kind of talked — we’ve kind of surrounded a lot of the next —

Kevin L. Jackson (47:56):

Important to have that context.

Scott Luton (47:58):

What’s that Kevin?

Kevin L. Jackson (47:59):

It’s really important to have that context, that local context.

Scott Luton (48:03):

Excellent point. That’s right. Context, we can’t get enough of it in this fast-paced world we live in. That’s a great call out too, Kevin.

Scott Luton (48:11):

All right. Speaking of great callouts, so I really appreciate what Alvaro and Scott and their organizations are doing. But to our audience, as you heard it here, there’s room for a lot more help. So, if you’re in position to contribute resources to the critical mission that VillageReach is on, we invite you to do just that. As we mentioned on the front end, their efforts enable access to quality healthcare for 70 million people, but there’s more work to be done. So, join in the mission. You can learn more at villagereach.org.

Scott Luton (48:43):

And Kevin, before we get Scott and Alvaro to tell us how folks can connect with them. One of my favorite quotes that you’ve shared a couple of years ago now is how you’re challenging folks to be consequential, make your life consequential. I’ll tell you of the words that come shortlist of words that come to my mind for this mission that Scott and Alvaro are supporting and leading and facilitating. Man, this is some really consequential work that’s helping millions of people. Your quick thoughts, Kevin?

Kevin L. Jackson (49:13):

Well, the focus and dedication is really commendable. You’re right about doing — being consequential and being able to support and help the healthcare address, the healthcare of 1.5 billion people on this earth is just amazing.

Scott Luton (49:29):

Agreed. Agreed. All right. So, let’s do this. I bet some of our listeners want to connect with you, exchange notes, hopefully jump into the mission. We’ll see. That’s certainly our aim. So, Alvaro Lopes with VillageReach, how can folks connect with you?

Alvaro Lopes (49:47):

So — well, I think the best way would be through LinkedIn, my page, which is Alvaro Lopes, that should be the easiest way. But we also have resources like Outsource Resource Center, which is also on LinkedIn and it’s a webpage. We have a resource center where we share knowledge between countries in Africa to share best practices and the — with the objective of doing advocacy for more countries to adopt outsourcing into their public health supply chain. As you said, also through the VillageReach website, you can always reach us and who gets all the help you need and more information on the topic.

Scott Luton (50:32):

Love that, Alvaro. I love the resources you all putting out there for folks. Beyond the great work you’re doing, resources to help governments and other parties navigate this environment and meet and surpass the need hopefully. So, again, connect with Alvaro on LinkedIn. That’ll be in the episode notes and learn more at villagereach.org.

Scott Luton (50:50):

Scott, Scott Dubin, really have enjoyed your perspective here as well. Appreciate what the Global Fund is doing. How can folks connect with you and your team?

Scott Dubin (50:58):

Yes, I really appreciate folks to reach out through LinkedIn, and I think many people look at the problems we’re discussing, kind of, the specific problems or elements of the — of these problems and have really interesting solutions and it — it’s going to take all perspectives to make the improvements we need. So, I always enjoy engaging with people who can contribute to that. So, yes, I welcome communication on LinkedIn, so look forward to that.

Scott Luton (51:23):

Wonderful. Scott Dubin, Alvaro Lopes really have enjoyed your perspective here today. But Kevin, before we wrap here, what’s been one of your favorite takeaways from today’s conversation? Just one. I got 37 on my end but —

Kevin L. Jackson (51:41):

The public — I really think the most important aspect of this is the public-private partnership. I mean, that is one of the hardest things to put in place and they’ve been doing this for quite a while. And they’ve been successful, and they seem to be really taking it to the next step. So, I think that’s the most important takeaway, you know, the public-private partnership is critical to lifting us all.

Scott Luton (52:14):

That’s right. That is right. And Kevin, I really appreciate your coziness [phonetic] of this show with you here today. Your great work over at “Digital Transformers.” Folks should check you out there. That’s a very popular podcast series, right?

Kevin L. Jackson (52:25):

Oh, yes. I really have enjoyed it. We’ve had a great year. And you were talking about space earlier, we’re going to end the year with CS satellite show where we’re going to talk about how low earth orbit and medium earth orbit satellites are really driving improvements with respect to bandwidth and accessibility on the internet. And one of the areas that they’re really focused on is providing this coverage across rural Africa. So, you may be very interested. It could support a lot of the information needs when it comes to healthcare and supply chain management.

Scott Luton (53:10):

Love that, Kevin. Man, I really wish I paid more attention to physics and advanced math classes back in college. But hey, it is what it is at this point. Good stuff, Kevin. Folks, check out “Digital Transformers with Kevin L. Jackson” wherever you get your podcasts from. Big thanks to our guests here today as we start wrap. Alvaro Lopes with VillageReach, 10 years — your 10-year anniversary is coming up in April, 2024. I really appreciate your great work, Alvaro.

Alvaro Lopes (53:36):

Thank you so much. Thank you, the audience. Thank you, all the organizers. I think this was an extraordinary session. Thank you.

Scott Luton (53:47):

I agree. Powered by the really outcomes driven work you are doing together and that’s so important. And hey, next time you come back, we’re going to — I’m going to get some best practices for farming and raising animals. So, stay tuned for that, Alvaro, but appreciate what you do there.

Alvaro Lopes (54:02):

No worries.

Scott Luton (54:04):

Scott Dubin with the Global Fund, I really have enjoyed you as well here today and your perspective and expertise. So, thanks for joining us.

Scott Dubin (54:12):

Yes, thank you for having me. It was an enjoyable discussion with the topic that I enjoyed discussing. It was great speaking with you and Kevin and Alvaro. And I look forward to continuing discussion. Alvaro and I work together pretty frequently, so these are the challenges we’re always facing. So, this conversation will continue with Alvaro and I hope with some of your listeners who reach out. It will be good to expand the dialogue.

Scott Luton (54:35):

Outstanding, Scott. Plenty of conversations, but more importantly, you all both are taking actions that fuel outcomes, you and your respective organizations. And that is so important because, Kevin, we talk about deeds not words, right? Enough of lips service leadership. Get out and do something. That’s where I’m going to end it here. So, Kevin, I really appreciate your time. As always, look forward to those upcoming episodes at “Digital Transformers.” Thank you for joining us, Kevin.

Kevin L. Jackson (55:00):

No, thank you very much for the opportunity and thank you Scott and Alvaro for all the information. I mean, your mission is really heart-lifting.

Scott Luton (55:10):

Yes, agreed. Agreed. All right. So, to our listeners out there, folks, take one thing that was discussed here today. Lots of crossover. No matter, almost — no matter what industry or sector you’re in, take one thing to Alvaro or Scott or Kevin shared, put it in action, share it with your teammates. They’re going to love it. Share it with your organizations, your leadership. Check out villagereach.org. Jump into the mission if you can help support. But whatever you do, on behalf of our entire team here at Supply Chain Now, Scott Luton challenging you to do good, to give forward and to be the change. And on that note, we’ll see next time right back here at Supply Chain Now. Thanks everybody.

Intro/Outro (55:50):

Thanks for being a part of our Supply Chain Now community. Check out all of our programming at supplychainnow.com and make sure you subscribe to Supply Chain Now anywhere you listen to podcasts. And follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. See you next time on Supply Chain Now.

Return to Newsroom

Support Our Mission

Your tax deductible contribution helps to increase health care availability to reach the most under-reached.

Stay Informed

By providing your email address you agree to receive periodic email news from VillageReach.