Thursday, 6 February 2014

The state of resource planning in African Industry

A proper history of ERP would be beyond the scope of this article so what below is a radical précis of the facts, simplifying occasionally for the sake of brevity.

In the nineteen seventies a new approach to manufacturing systems started to spread outwards from Japan. Generally credited as starting at Toyota where it had evolved over a period of years. This approach had several names JIT (Just In Time), stockless production, and Material requirements planning (MRP).

What was happening was that the capabilities of computers was being utilised to plan the resources being used in manufacturing to dramatically reduce the cost of holding and handling these resources. It became possible to plan exactly what resources were going to be needed and when. Then correct management of the supply chain meant that these resources could be in the right place at exactly the right time. Better planning and efficient use of resources produced better quality finished goods.

This revolutionary approach began to move through western businesses during the eighties with such companies as Hewlett Packard leading the way. Through the eighties and into the nineties most western companies adopted at least some of this new manufacturing philosophy, the most successful at implementing this became the most competitive, and survived the recessions of those years.

Computer software to help this approach was developed, at first in house, and then by ISV's. This was called MRP, then MRP II also CRP (Capacity Requirements Planning) eventually evolving into one integrated solution ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).

Like most new market places there was an initial explosion in the eighties of many vendors supplying this software, followed up as the market matured in the nineties by a consolidation into a small number of vendors.

Then came the open source revolution of the new century, when there was again an explosion of new products onto the market place.

So, first Asian businesses, then American and European businesses adopted this new philosophy their products became highly competitive in the world market. Where did this leave Africa?

I first began to get involved with African businesses in the second half of the last decade and was horrified at just how few companies had adopted this approach to manufacturing. Too often the approach was "Labour is cheap, if we have a problem we throw more cheap labour at it". This approach comes with many problems. Most obviously quality falls when you employ cheap temporary labour, but there is also the social aspect of this. The small amount of planning that seemed to be done was done by hand or spreadsheet. The resource planning revolution had not reached Africa.

Poor control of resources also meant that businesses were losing a great amount of stock through theft. This had a double affect on the business, there was the loss of money that had to be used to replenish the stock, but also the failure to meet customer orders was costing them dearly.

This meant that African goods just couldn't compete with western companies that used sophisticated tools to keep quality high, and costs low.

It would be nice to say that African business owners took to ERP very quickly, but as it was in the early days in the west it was a struggle, but more and more businesses are now seeing the benefits of good planning.

The only software that has been available to African businesses has been produced in the west. This was one of our motivations in producing KwaMoja. We wanted to produce some thing that would benefit African businesses, and something that was produced in Africa, and something that African consultants can sell services around.

We are happy to announce that a new version of KwaMoja is ready and hitting the mirrors already. This is version 14.02 and you can download this version from here.


  1. Hi Tim,

    Absolutely brilliant. I am a consultant and I will take time out to check out your product. I have recommended ERP products to businesses here in Zimbabwe because of the benefits you have already highlighted.

    Having said that, it tends to be expensive for SMEs unless if of course it is a cloud version. Its good to see that there is something done in Africa for Africa. I will give you feedback when I am done.

    Well done!

    Kindest Regards


    1. Hi Hati,

      The intention is to supply this software that consultants such as yourself can provide for customers. The hope is that it will provide an income for consultants such as yourself whilst helping African businesses to improve their efficiency.

      I should have mentioned there is a fully functioning demo available at