BACKGROUND : There has been substantial research addressing physical distribution challenges within emerging markets, such as Asia and South America. However, this topic is not sufficiently covered for emerging markets in Africa. Emerging markets in Africa present unique challenges that should be known to any manager intending on operating in these markets.
OBJECTIVES : This study aims to provide insights into the prevalent physical distribution challenges that organisations face in emerging markets in Africa. Emphasis is placed on the adaptations organisations make to overcome these challenges. The study focused on multinational organisations operating in the fast-moving consumer goods, third-party logistics and retail industry, mostly from the perspective of the South African division.
METHOD : A generic qualitative research design was employed. Twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted with middle to senior managers who have knowledge of their organisation’s distribution operations in African markets.
RESULTS : The findings highlight the existence of prevalent challenges identified in the literature, namely, border congestion, informal markets and weak infrastructure, while providing insight into the sources of these challenges. Furthermore, other challenges, such as warehouse system misalignment, order processing times and variable border legislation are highlighted. Adaptations to these areas are discussed.
CONCLUSION : The study provides further academic understanding of the challenges multinationals are facing and adaptations they are implementing when trading in emerging African markets. Theoretically, the body of knowledge of physical distribution is enhanced by addressing distribution challenges in the African context. Additionally, the study assists organisations to understand how they can possibly adapt their physical distribution operations.