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by Reo Aono, International Society of Business and Foreign Affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill

On February 23rd, the Duke UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies sponsored a virtual event titled Global Supply Chains: An Interconnected World. The event aimed to inform university students about the implementation and impact of global supply chains and changes fostered by the pandemic. Five guests spoke diligently about their research topic under the umbrella-term supply chains, including: Dr. Artur Swierczek, an Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management at the University of Economics in Katowice (Poland), Howard Leedham MBE, from Consilium World Consulting, Dr. Lenka Veselovska, an Associate Professor at Matej Bel University (Slovak Republic). This article focuses on three of the five speakers and their opinion on how the pandemic has impacted supply chains and their country’s respective economy.

Dr. Artur Swierczek spoke about the mechanism behind how COVID-19 adversely impacted supply chains. He highlighted two aspects of disruptions that occur within a supply chain – transmission and amplification – in the context of COVID-19. Transmission of disruption refers to the way a direct negative impact to the supplier can cause an indirect negative impact on other entities in a supply chain – including the manufacturers and consumers. Dr. Swierczek continued to articulate how the impact and strength of disruptions amplify – have a “snowball effect” – in supply chains.

Howard Leedham MBE put his focal point on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its importance within the global supply chain. He mentioned the “power of yes” as the reason why the UAE has shown rapid development, as the UAE gained its success through accepting western political and financial influence. Currently, its logistics industry plays an integral role in the foundation of the UAE economy. According to Leedham, as the 10th largest seaport globally, the Jebel Ali Free Zone is home to 7500 companies, and current traffic is at 80% of pre-pandemic conditions. The airfreight logistics market in the UAE has increased its capacity during the pandemic – accounting for 13.3% of the GDP. Leedham states how UAE was able to sustain their economic presence during the pandemic through strict COVID-related regulations.

Dr. Lenka Veselovska discussed the supply chain disruptions during the pandemic in her home country, the Slovak Republic. Because of decreasing consumer expenditures, the motor-vehicle market – a major sector of the Slovakian economy – is in crisis. With a decreasing number of tourists, their most stable source of income has been unsustainable. The economic downturn that occurred last October forced businesses to find solutions to the disrupted supply chains. As a result, there has been a rise in demand for external logistics. Slovakian corporations have made efforts to support small businesses with their production and logistics process through programs such as Own Business Day created by METRO, during this pandemic.

The event put forth the importance of understanding the mechanism behind supply chains and emphasized the interdependency of nation-states. It is intriguing to examine further how global supply chains will evolve in a post-pandemic world. Further, the sustainability of monetary and natural resources will increasingly become an essential aspect of how supply chains are managed.

Re-posted from the International Society of Business and Foreign Affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill.

This event was co-sponsored by the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, Center for European Studies at the University of Florida, Institute for Global Studies at the University of Minnesota, and the Center for Global Studies at the University of Washington.

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