The case for supply chain management in Nigerian curriculum

‘It is almost impossible to tell your Nigerian parent you want to study Supply Chain Management at a university.’ This is the reply I got after speaking with a Nigerian graduate on the need to upgrade the curriculum in Nigerian universities by including supply chain management. In her own words, ‘so many people don’t believe that supply chain management is a thing.’

This takes us back to clarifying what supply chain management is and what it is not. Supply chain management involves everything about managing the flow of goods and services, and includes all processes that transform raw materials into the final product and get it to the final consumer.

Supply chain is the bedrock of trade and the economy. In simple terms, supply chain runs the world. It is unfortunate that as crucial as supply chain is, the industry has not gotten its dues in the global economy, including Nigeria, because it is part of our everyday lives.

Although it is difficult, I can equate the job of a supply chain professional to the responsibility of a mother. Most people still don’t believe that being a full-time mother is a job, just like supply chain. Many see it as routine. But it is a full-time job. If mummy goes down, it’s detrimental to the family.

The same thing works with supply chain. We are so used to deliveries showing up at our doors that we now take these actions and processes for granted. But when situations halt the ability for these processes to execute themselves, we recognize their significance.

The pandemic brought to the fore supply chain’s vital role. The new norm, plagued with disruptions, and multifaceted risks revealed the importance of having resilient, agile and flexible supply chains. It shed light on why organizations and nations needed to continually evolve and fine-tune their processes. For the first time in centuries, supply chain has the attention of global leaders, business leaders, and the C- suite at the same time.

In October, corporate CEOs in a McKinsey survey for the first time identified supply chain turmoil as the greatest threat to growth for both their companies and their countries’ economies – greater than the pandemic, labour shortages, geopolitical instability, war, and domestic conflict.

Let’s go down history lane for a bit and analyse how the supply chain has been significant in world-renowned construction projects, like the pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

According to historians, and recorded by The New Stack, The Great Pyramid of Giza contains 2.3 million individual blocks of stone. This meant that one block would have to be laid every five minutes of every hour, 24 hours a day, for 20 years. The problem? Each block weighs at least 2 tons. That’s 1,764,000 pounds of stone being laid every day for 20 years.

The finished pyramid weighs 5.9 million metric tons — or over 13 billion pounds. According to Forbes, ‘although the inner core of limestone blocks came from a nearby quarry, the decorative higher-quality white limestone on the outside had to be transported from across the Nile. While 374,785,846 pounds of pinkish granite was procured from over 500 miles away.’

Read also: Russia – Ukraine war and sanctions: Any implications for global supply chains?

The only way to have achieved this was through effective supply chain management. Engineers can design the structure, but supply chain makes it happen. Activities like sourcing, transportation, and operations management are critical for projects of this magnitude to be completed and they are all within the supply chain umbrella.

Without a doubt, I am convinced that if Nigeria will play its role in global trade and strengthen its economy, it must invest in supply chain management. It is time to have a curriculum that concentrates on supply chain management as a STEM program in the Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education.

As we try to advance the Nigerian economy and adopt the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, we must not push supply chain to the backburner. Nigeria and Africa need a supply chain body of knowledge unique to their narrative. There are over a 100 years of curated data and knowledge available to advance the course of knowledge of supply chain in Nigeria and the continent. It is time to put them to use.

In the past, most people only had the opportunity to study supply chain at a Masters degree level or learned on the job. Creating opportunities for young people to understand the rudiments of supply chain and trade early on will improve the nation’s GDP.

When the government and business sector comes together to professionalize supply chain management, the growth in the economy will be evident. There is no trade without supply chain, and it is indeed the era of supply chain management.

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