05 July 2024

Vanya Jansen, winner of the Best Speaker Award.

The 46th annual SAPICS Conference saw more than 750 supply chain managers from 30 countries across Africa and around the world meet in Cape Town to explore this increasingly important profession’s current challenges and opportunities, to learn and share knowledge. The conference is the leading event in Africa for supply chain professionals. This is Part 1 of a two-part series.

According to The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management (SAPICS), which has hosted the conference since 1975, supply chain management gained prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is an increasingly important and in-demand profession, SAPICS says, as ongoing volatility fuelled by geopolitical conflicts, climate crises and economic instability impacts global supply chains. Speaking at the opening of the conference, SAPICS president MJ Schoemaker stated that it is more critical than ever for supply chain managers to share and update their knowledge as change has become the only constant in the profession. This year, not-for-profit company SAPICS presented the conference in association with the Southern African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF).

Held under the theme “Supply Chain Metamorphosis”, to reflect the changes in today’s dynamic supply chain landscape, the 2024 conference programme featured 128 African and international experts and thought leaders who shared their insights and expertise with attendees over three days. In a compelling update on the work of the National Logistics Crisis Committee (NLCC), Ian Bird, who is the Senior Executive responsible for the Transport and Logistics focal area at Business for South Africa (B4SA), reported on the operational progress made to date by the NLCC and the results achieved. He revealed that the number of trains cancelled on the North Corridor due to security incidents has been reduced by 50%. The length of the N4 border queue has been cut from 16km to 3km. A 36% reduction in container vessels’ waiting time at anchor has been achieved, along with a 73% reduction in the number of vessels at anchorage.

Crucial discussion on South Africa’s ports

In a crucial discussion on South Africa’s ports, panellists representing Transnet and business debated the impact of Transnet’s monopoly, non-investment and the growing imperative for public-private partnerships to upgrade port terminals, back of port solutions and infrastructure like rail. “Competition breeds efficiency,” stated Oscar Borchards, acting managing executive for the Western Cape Transnet Port Terminals. He and panellist Brenda Magqwaka, who is the general manager at the Office of the commercial executive at Transnet, revealed that the state-owned enterprise had benchmarked its port terminals against those in Singapore and Thailand. Borchards noted that compared to Thailand’s Laem Chabang port, the critical issue to be addressed in South Africa is the “boldness to invest and bring in redundancy”. “Even though Transnet is a monopoly, we realise we cannot go it alone,” Magqwaka told SAPICS Conference delegates. Antoinette van Heerden, logistical affairs manager at the Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum South Africa, stressed that South Africa is competing on fruit exports with South America where there are large ports, large vessels and low slot costs. “It is critical to focus on how to get out of the hole we are in quickly, and we need oversight to ensure that we do not end up here again. We must get to the point where we can get our fruit out at the port where we need to get it out. We can rough it for two more years, but after that, we need to see service excellence,” Van Heerden stated.

Read the latest issue

Latest Issue