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Two all-terrain vehicles are now improving life in sub-Saharan Africa, thanks, in part, to VCU Supply Chain Management and Analytics (SCMA) students in Richmond, Virginia.

Transportation was the initial basic need for mico-businesses distributing fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables to impoverished African communities, and collaboration was key. The Ford Motor Company donated the vehicles, while SCMA students recommended software, delivery schedules and routes.

“Our students have done all the origin and destination routes that a logistics specialist would do in the real world,” says project leader David Berdish, executive-in-residence for the SCMA Department. VCU students also helped source the vehicles’ after-market hardware, including the solar and vehicle-powered cold storage units needed to keep food fresh. Now, social entrepreneurs and micro-businesses can deliver their products to underserved communities without investing precious capital in a fleet or a storage facility.

Next step? “Working together to document, process and deliver our solution set. This includes relationship building, technology, vehicle research and carrying capacity.” This is data he looks forward to sharing with the United Nations, Global Compact and USAID.

Berdish was the former Manager of Social Sustainability at Ford. Working with Venture Fuel, Future Families and Mandela Fellows from the Young African Leaders Initiative, he has focused on the advantages of inventory aggregation and shared-use distribution resources. His SCMA students have also provided research for an agricultural distribution system in Lusaka, Zambia. 

“The opportunity is huge.,” continues Berdish. “Companies are now in a great position to improve life for the world’s poor while also improving their own bottom line. Our SCMA faculty and students can provide counsel, academic rigor and action research to develop equitable supply chains.”

SCMA Department Chair Jeff Smith is equally pleased with his students’ achievements.

“They are learning how businesses can make the world a better place,” says Smith. “Supply chain management is involved with all phases of material flow. Our students will have a global impact.”


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