Operational Research (British English), or Operations Research (US english) or more simply OR, can be understood to be a range of scientific tools employed to analyse decision options. Multidisciplinary in nature, it borrows techniques from disciplines such as mathematics, computer science and economics. It can be applied in regional, national and local governance, public policymaking as well as in enhancing operational strategy and decision-making in civil and industrial society organisations.
It is in this context that Operational Research Practice in Africa (ORPA) has emerged as a new initiative aimed at promoting the use of operational research approaches in decision-making processes in Africa. The founding members of ORPA are : Eric Soubeiga, Serigne Gueye and Claude Yugma. Our activities imply actions in the continent to promote OR uses and research but also out of the continent to share experiences, take good practices wherever they are located with the idea of concrete applications in the continent. For instance, network transportation management (specially urban and railway) is regularly cited by many organisations as a key point for African Development. How an urban transport network has to be designed and controlled ?, What is the best multimodal freight transportation network at a regional level given the resources of each location and the demands ?, are for example some important questions that need deep analysis and investigations. The scientific OR litterature and tools in this field is very huge and some problems, specially in the dynamic case, still remain active research fields. Thus, adapting the existing models and, perhaps, finding some new one’s taking into account additionnal constraints may give some answers to the previous questions. Briefly, some key areas that would benefit greatly from OR are : network transportation, logistics, natural resource management (water for instance), telecommunication, etc.
History and production
The process began in 2005 with the first ORPA conference which was successfully launched in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The proposed London conference in 2006, a leadership capacity building and policy advocacy exercise, was the second in the series. It aims was to promote the application of OR in diverse areas of public policymaking and organisational decision-making with a view to enhancing good governance, sustainable development and socio-economic development in Africa. This conference was organised jointly with CAPPS interested in african development problem and based in london. The 2007 ORPA edition held at Cape Town (South Africa) in collaboration with the South African OR Society (ORSSA). It can be observed that the ORPA cycle conferences take place alternatively in the african continent (to promote OR uses) but also outside (to share and learn). The 2008 ORPA edition held for instance in Washington DC (US) in collaboration with INFORMS currently the world’s largest professional association dedicated to ans promoting best practices and advances in operations research, and IFORS the international federation of OR societies. Two topics was be precisely addressed : Urban Transportation Management Issues in Africa and Water Resource Management Issues in Africa. The last ORPA conference has been organized in 2015 in Algiers. Some links on these events can be found in the pages « conferences » or « articles » of our website.
ORPA is currently member of the African Federation of Operations Research Societies (AFROS)