Conferences examine Africa’s potential, burgeoning markets and the power of procurement and supply chain to reshape the continent’s economies
Wasunna, Business Banking Director at Absa Bank Kenya PLC

Africa’s doors are open for business, with huge untapped potential across its vast markets.

The procurement and supply chain professions have a pivotal role to play in Africa’s growth and success as they can drive collaboration, partnerships and cross-border trade, and support and develop small businesses and communities. Managing risk in African supply chains is critical, but localisation and leveraging the resources, skills, products and proficiency within Africa can ensure supply chain resilience.

These were among the key messages delivered by African and international experts who shared their insights, experience and expertise at the recent 2024 Africa Supply Chain in Action (ASCA) and Made in Africa (MIA) virtual conferences. These virtual events ran concurrently and saw close to 3,000 procurement and supply chain professionals from 58 countries gather online to learn, share knowledge and network. Absa’s support as the main sponsor was key to the events’ success, according to the organisers. Debbie Tagg, ASCA co-chair, expressed appreciation to Absa for recognising the importance of these gatherings and the vital role played by procurement and supply chain professionals in reshaping African economies.

This year marked the fourth ASCA conference. It is supported by leading industry organisations and founding members, the Kenya Institute of Supplies Management (KISM), SAPICS (The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management), Smart Procurement and CILT (the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport). ASCA 2024 was held under the theme “Unity in Diversity - Connecting African Supply Chains”.


Founded in 2021, the co-located Made In Africa Conference and Expo is a virtual gathering and showcase for African buyers and sellers. It brings together purchasing decision-makers, policymakers, investors and businesses from across Africa and aims to ignite intercontinental trade.

In her ASCA 2024 presentation, Elizabeth Wasunna, Business Banking Director at Absa Bank Kenya PLC, told delegates that the time is ripe to step up investment in Africa to capitalise on the youthful and future ready population. She noted that, according to the World Bank, six African countries are among the world’s highest growth economies. “A significant portion of the African population has grown up in the digital era, and three in five Africans are under 25 years old. This makes Africa the youngest continent, offering a growing workforce and an emerging class of consumers driving demand across sectors,” Wasunna said. She urged ASCA and MIA attendees to seize the opportunity to invest in infrastructure, technology and services that support procurement and supply chain operations.

“Africa’s procurement landscape presents a unique set of opportunities for global suppliers. A high import bill means high demand for goods across sectors, from manufacturing to agriculture, healthcare, and beyond. The continent is a burgeoning market for international businesses looking to expand their footprint. The renewable energy sector promises significant returns as the world pivots towards sustainability. Digital services, including fintech and e-commerce, are reshaping economies in Asia and Latin America. Meanwhile, Africa's agribusiness and healthcare sectors are ripe for innovation and investment, promising high impacts both socially and economically. However, the key to success lies in understanding the local market nuances, establishing strong local partnerships, and leveraging digital transformation to enhance supply chain efficiency. The digital revolution in Africa is not just changing the way we do business; it's redefining it, offering new platforms for procurement, logistics, and supply chain management, Wasunna stressed.

She and other presenters this year examined the African Continental Free Trade Agreement’s

(AfCFTA’s) impact as an enabler for the step-change to Africa’s economic interactions. “AfCTFA is our catalyst for cost reduction, efficiency optimisation, and enhancing global competitiveness,” Wasunna stated. “Reducing tariffs and simplifying customs procedures allows AfCTFA to pave the way for 1.3 billion consumers. This provides a broader, more efficient network of suppliers and distribution channels for procurement and supply chain professionals,” she explained to ASCA delegates.

This year’s ASCA and MIA conferences have been commended by attendees. Mary Hutchison, Director and Relationship Ambassador at Growth in Motion described ASCA as “enlightening and valuable”. “The speakers shared inspiring success stories, motivating us to persevere despite the challenges faced by small businesses. A big thank you to everyone involved in organising this well-executed event,” she said.

Saeed Ande, Procurement Director at Lafarge Africa Plc, Nigeria, thanked ASCA for reinforcing his ardent belief that Africa can become the supply chain powerhouse. “We can use that as a big leverage to developing African economies to the next level. We are all responsible for driving the required change,” Ande asserted.