In this position paper, ARC proposes five technical initiatives that can contribute to sustainable supply chains in public health delivery. It also makes recommendations for country ownership and governance to create an enabling environment for governments to adopt them, potentially with private sector assistance.
Why a position paper on supply chain sustainability solutions now?
The COVID-19 pandemic brought the subject of global supply chain sustainability to the forefront. Millions of people worldwide experienced periods of lockdown or self-isolation and became increasingly reliant on “last mile” distribution models, sometimes for extended periods.
Researchers and public health experts believe that a public health supply chain based on traditional supply chain practices is unsustainable because it costs too much to run and insufficiently caters to recipients of care. Many African governments have not adequately invested in their healthcare supply chain as a critical enabler of development or adopted innovations that will make systems more agile and impactful.
Private sector tools and best practices for public sector volatility
Governments recognise the critical role played by the private sector in national development and articulate this role in most national development programmes. Private sector partnerships are already an essential component of many supply chains, but in seeking to reduce costs and become more flexible, governments can extend existing roles. This is because the private sector has a proven ability to continue supplying goods and services, even when there is volatility.
Therefore, the private sector can provide governments with tools and best practices to improve agility and allow for scaling capacity up or down when there are shifting demands and needs. Further, governments can leverage the private sector to deliver agile services without carrying the fixed cost burdens and other risks of establishing such systems in-house.
An important caveat is that private sector engagement must be, and be perceived as being, based on fair competition and delivering value for money. For this to work, ARC posits that technical innovations must be explored and contracted within an environment where supply chain leadership is empowered with ownership of end-to-end decision-making and corresponding accountability.
ARC hopes that by offering technical innovations and recommendations, this position paper will spark further constructive discussion to support public health supply chain transformation and sustainability.