Resolve endemic conflict hurting trade and supply chains in Africa


Supporters of Niger's National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) hold a Niger flag (R) and a Russian flag (L) as they gather for a demonstration in Niamey on August 11, 2023, near a French airbase in Niger. PHOTO | AFP

Following the coup in Niger in July 2023, a worrying belt of uncertainty has emerged across Africa. A continuous stretch of countries under military rule has developed starting from the Atlantic Sea in Guinea through Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad all the way to the Red Sea in Sudan.

It goes without saying that the loss of human lives and destruction of economic resources, displacement of people and the growing poverty rate that results from conflict is too high a price to pay for Africa.

However, one major area that is the first casualty of conflict but is seldom mentioned is the disruption of supply chains.

Once there is an outbreak of conflict, both local and regional supply chain links end up collapsing due to the ensuing insecurity thereby directly bringing a well-oiled logistics machinery to a halt.

The disruption can also be indirect as was the case in Niger after the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions that led to the closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Niger and the suspension of all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS Member States and Niger.

With such sanctions in place, transport corridors that traverse the continent end up being disrupted and this deals a major blow to Africa’s logistics sector.

The disruptions to supply systems caused by sporadic conflicts due to violent extremism, communal clashes, or political motivations are just a fraction of what armed conflicts have done to Africa’s supply chain.

The effect of conflicts in Africa casts its shadow far and wide in the logistics industry and affects fuel prices which dictate the commodity prices for the majority of goods and destroys important installations like bridges, rails, ports and roads thereby crippling transport in sections of the continent.

According to the Sudanese Chamber of Transport, since the conflict in Sudan started in April 2023, 90 percent of road transport traffic has been rendered inactive.

Records from the Sudan Ports Authority also indicate that the country’s total exports since January have not climbed past the $282 million mark, compared with $2.5 billion in the first half of 2021.

This shows the negative far-reaching effect of supply chain disruptions to a country’s economic pulse.

However, all is not lost. Even though violent conflicts continue to plague Africa’s economic spine, the continent has much more to offer its inhabitants and the world through a well-established and stable supply chain.

Relevant stakeholders in Africa can work together to reduce the endemic effects of violent conflicts in the region’s supply chain system.

The first step is for Africa to embrace dialogue as a winning conflict resolution medium. The conflict has a wide range of effects on Africa’s supply chain networks. Nevertheless, they can be managed.

Through dialogue and a commitment to economic prosperity, African governments can reduce violent conflicts on the continent and improve their supply chain systems.

Mr Kipturgo is the CEO of Siginon Group.

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