More supply chain management professionalisation commitments made at 2nd East African Community professionalisation meeting


The second meeting on professionalisation of health supply chain professionals in the East African Community (EAC) was held last week in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, organised by the East African Community Regional Centre of Excellence for Vaccines, Immunisation and Health Supply Chain Management (EAC RCE-VIHSCM) and the EAC secretariat, assisted by People that Deliver (PtD).

At the meeting representatives of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zanzibar took another step towards furthering their countries’ health supply chain management (SCM) professionalisation agendas by defining the roles and responsibilities of a regional expert taskforce. The taskforce will provide the structure and support for EAC governments to implement their SCM professionalisation strategies.

Specifically, it will be responsible for the development of a professionalisation strategy for the EAC health supply chain workforce and the creation a comprehensive framework for a health supply chain workforce development, which will include training standards (qualifications), certification and continuous professional development.

As Saturini Manangwa, assistant director of the Tanzanian Ministry of Health Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, and participant in the meeting explained, “The development of terms of reference for the taskforce and the strategy will prove to be particularly important.”

“We need to harmonise the processes so that it is easier for members to move the professionalisation agenda forward; agreeing on a harmonised framework could guide the EAC partner states in implementing [the professionalisation agenda],” he added. Collaboration is considered key to any successful initiative in the EAC region.

Convening decision makers

Reiterating the need for the region to embrace the professionalisation of the health supply chain workforce, Eric Nzeyimana, EAC principal health officer and representative of the EAC secretariat said, “Health commodity supply chains are a critical element of a well-functioning health system. There is a need for the region to ensure that the supply chain professionals are well equipped and properly organised to carry out their roles optimally.”

The meeting was attended by senior officials from ministries of health, ministries of public service and labour, central medical stores, professional bodies and councils responsible for pharmaceutical policy and supply chain management (SCM), and academia. It was the second to take place in the region in successive years to support EAC countries as they professionalise the health supply chain workforce.

At the first meeting in June 2023, representatives from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Zanzibar settled on a regional professionalisation roadmap, thereby agreeing to implement the activities needed to professionalise their supply chain workforces.

Another step towards supply chain management professionalisation

The aim of the week-long gathering was for countries to further develop harmonised and detailed professionalisation roadmaps – with PtD’s SCM professionalisation framework providing the blueprint – review the draft terms of reference (ToRs) of the proposed expert taskforce and guide the development of an EAC regional policy on professionalising the health supply chain workforce.

Attendees also carried out a stakeholder mapping exercise to ensure advocacy in countries is targeted. Given that professionalisation spans various fields and sectors – including the public and private sectors – securing the support of a broad coalition is vital.

The guiding document: SCM professionalisation framework

PtD, EAC RCE-VIHSCM and other partners including Africa Resource Centre, Health Procurement Africa, HELP Logistics, InSupply Health, Management Sciences for Health, Pamela Steele Associates and VillageReach have now been working alongside EAC partner states for a number of years to create a favourable environment for the professionalisation of the health supply chain workforce to flourish. They’ve been doing so by supporting countries to develop and define standards and legal frameworks for the health supply chain profession and the PtD SCM professionalisation framework has been key to this process.

“The professionalisation framework provides guidelines for countries to follow along each step of the process,” said Dominique Zwinkels, PtD executive manager. “Having such a framework makes the process of professionalisation incredibly transferrable to different countries and the framework itself brings all stakeholders – government officials, educational institutions, civil society and others – together, which is exactly what is needed if such wide-scale workforce improvements are to be made.”

What’s next?

The next steps are to select individuals from EAC countries to constitute the taskforce and to launch it. At the meeting country supply chain leaders agreed what the make-up of the task force should be. Next year the taskforce will be converted into a standing expert working group that will guide the EAC region towards SCM professionalisation.

Another priority in the coming months is to develop a health supply chain management community of practice to facilitate communication between states.

Read about the outcomes of the first meeting on professionalisation of health supply chain professionals in the EAC region or find out more about SCM professionalisation and why it is so crucial to health supply chains.