As we celebrate the New Year 2014 with colour, pomp and fireworks; let’s remember our brother and sisters in some part of Africa, by large part of the world who aren’t enjoying the same peaceful and serene environment as we do. They’re horrified with bullet sounds of different magnitudes, apparently for reasons some of them don’t understand quite arguably.
The current conflict in South Sudan has seen Kenyan entrepreneurs scramble to secure their businesses and withdraw from the area as much as possible for personal safety, even as reports come in of Kenyan citizens injured in the in-fighting. Most of them if not all of them ferried home with Kenyan Government support headed by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In extreme cases, governments facing internal upheavals will opt to close their borders and restrict their airways, putting the country in a state of lock-down. This would serve to almost cripple the logistics industry in the country, making import and export of goods an impossibility, and sealing off valuable trade routes for cargo that would pass through the country.
Presently, South Sudan has shut down their borders with Kenya and Uganda, leaving many stranded with no hope of escape to safety. Curfews have also been effected, which would interfere with logistics firms’ long distance freighting by road, which often requires overnight travel.
As Africa dealt with the passing of one of our greatest heroes in December, a tragedy of a different kind developed on our soil. Only recently being brought to the attention of the world, civil conflict in the Central African Republic has insidiously taken root, fueled by horrors that are difficult to fathom. Reports of human rights abuses ranging from rapes, killings and the torture of innocent civilians by militia groups have surfaced, raising fears that a genocide may be in the offing.
As the reality of how dire the situation may be begins to set in, the race to preserve both human life and some semblance of economic function has begun. For logistics firms operating in the area, all that can be done is brace for the eventuality of the toll even mild civil conflicts take on business
Travel security is usually the first way the logistics industry is affected by internal conflict within a country. In most cases, governments will enforce more stringent security measures on vehicles moving by road, subjecting them to intensive inspections that cause delays and disrupt the often strict schedules supply chain managers rely on to keep their services going.
This extra vigilance on the part of the government is often justified, done in an effort to impede dispersal of those who would promote violence, or even attack government installations. Such was the case in early November when Islamist militants rammed a car bomb into a police station North of the capital, leaving at least 28 people dead.
In more unfortunate cases, going through inspection at roadblocks may require extra fees, bribes or the loss of some of the cargo to unscrupulous armed forces or militia, each situation presenting a unique challenge for supply chain managers in the country.
Related to this would be the increased scrutiny focused on cargo moving in and out of a country in conflict, both from local forces and international bodies. Supply chain managers again face lengthy delays caused by these inspections, as well as the possibility of export cargo being flat out declined by their intended destination. An example of this would be countries with mineral deposits, such as the Congo or the Central African Republic.
With international firms eager to distance themselves from the concept of “blood diamonds”, suspicion of smuggling out diamonds out of these countries will likely hound and hamper the operations of exporters in the region. Furthermore, blanket embargoes may be placed on valuable exports from the country, halting trade in even what was rightfully acquired, seen in the previous placing of an embargo on Sudanese oil.
Investors and traders operating in an area rocked by internal conflict would also be in a hurry to close up shop and save their assets. This would leave limited, if any, business opportunities for logistics firms, even robbing supply chain managers of key financial backers needed to maintain operations.
Further West, Nigerian military personnel had shut off the country’s mobile network in a bid to stop Boko Haram militants from coordinating attacks. With the logistics industry relying so heavily on fast and efficient communication, such a black out would bring operations screeching to a halt.
Aside from rampant insecurity and loss of life, internal African conflicts also serve to devastate the economy of a country, bringing thriving industries, including supply chain management, to their knees in a multi-pronged series of horrors. As we mourn the loss of one of our most iconic human rights figures, let us keep the people of the Central African Republic and South Sudan in our prayers and hope for the return of peace in every African state plagued by violence.