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Skills gap, processing challenges blight $465m Nigerian ceramics industry

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The absence of skilled manpower and industries to process raw materials needed for production of ceramics in the country has prevented the growth of the $465.2 million industry and forestalled an estimated 1.2 million direct and indirect jobs that could be created from local manufacture, experts say.

Experts further put the potential of the Nigerian ceramics market at $465.2 million. Patrick Irabor, director, projects development and design, who is in charge of ceramics-related issues at the Federal Institute of IndustrialResearch, Oshodi(FIIRO) in Lagos, put the value of ceramics imports into Nigeria annually at N80 billion ($465.2 million).

Research shows Nigeria ranks 13th among the world’s consumers of ceramic products, mostly ceramics sanitary wares, ceramics spark plugs, ceramics porcelain, as well as ceramics floor and wall tiles.

Most of the ceramics needs of the country are met by imports from Asia and Europe, as several local companies which delved into the industry in the past were snuffed out by, policy somersaults smuggling, influx of substandard products, absence of skilled personnel and lack of benefication (processing) firms.

Listed among the moribund local ceramic firms are Richware Ceramics based in Ilupeju, Lagos; Modern Ceramics Umuahia, and Nigeria Grob Ceramics, Abeokuta, Ogun state.

“There is a lack of significant number of professionals with appropriate skills and expertise in the ceramics manufacturing business in Nigeria”,said Patrick Eguakhide Oaikhinan, professor of ceramics engineering and chief executive officer (CEO),Epina Technologies Limited, in an interview with BusinessDay.

“ There is also an absence of avenues for people interested in ceramics manufacturing business to pursue their ambitions, as no university or higher institution in Nigeria offers training in ceramics science/engineering/technology”, he added.

He further observed that “The gap in skills is a big blow to the captive industry.Our local ceramics manufacturing businesses are struggling to process their own raw materials. This is because they mostly lack knowledge of the chemical and mineralogical compositions, physical and mechanical properties of these raw materials,’’    The global ceramics market is projected to reach $408bn by 2018, with China being a key player, according to Peter Onwualu, immediate past director- general of Nigeria’s Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC).

Experts say the industry has the capacity to create 1.2  million jobs at the minimum, in Nigeria.   In India, about 5.5 million people are directly and indirectly employed by the tile industry, which is a sub-industry of ceramics, according to Rajesh Nath, managing director, German Engineering Federation (VDMA), India. In the unorganised sector, around 250 companies produce basic sanitary ware, under various brand names in the country, with a market size of 350 million Euros, according to Nath.

Data from the UK Office for National Statistics shows that the sector was worth £430m in 2012, a rise of 20 per cent on four years earlier – and a performance achieved with 20 per cent fewer companies. UK trade figures show that ceramics exports to non-EU countries was  £100m in 2012 according to Bloomberg.

On the job creation potential of the ceramics industry in Nigeria, Oaikhinan said, “We have various departments that can create these jobs. There are the raw materials unit, as well as the processing unit across the industry. We have the body forming unit, the drying and firing unit, the glazing unit, inspection and packaging unit and laboratory and quality control unit.

The glazing unit is an industry on its own.

“Assuming that we have 40 sanitary wares manufacturers which can engage 500 Nigerians directly, in total, 20, 000 people would have been engaged. In ceramics we have over 15 strong areas such as floor and roof tiles, table wares, pipes, technical ceramics, porcelain, among others that can engage 500,000 Nigerians,’’ he said.

‘’The indirect jobs capacity of this industry is quite huge. People will work as distributors, marketers, carpenters, brick layers, interior decorators, among others. The research we have carried out shows this can create 700,000 jobs,’’ added Oaikhinan .

In December 2013, the West African Ceramics Ltd. (WACL), a leading local manufacturer of standard ceramic tiles, announced plans to invest over $50 million in the establishment of a state-of-the-art ceramics tile factory in Ogun State, western Nigeria.

“The market demand for quality tiles as obtainable in European countries such as Spain and Italy, is rising at an alarming rate, owing to the trends in the home, property, and real estate industry. We want to meet both the domestic and export demands, and export to the rest of West Africa,’’  said Lawal Idirisu, group executive director, WACL.

Industry analysts say ceramics is used in automotive, electrical/electronics and the health sectors, among others. They add that since raw materials such as feldspars, quartz/silica deposits, are available locally, there is need for the private sector to move into ceramics manufacturing, while the government initiates policies to encourage processing firms at this point, when the National Industrial Revolution Plan(NIRP) has been launched.

Stakeholders say there is need to diversify the economy through the development of moribund or wobbling sub-sectors to create jobs, as well as enhance chances for inclusive growth and better living standards.

‘’The fact is that if there is a collapse of oil prices, Nigeria will fall out. There is need to create an enabling environment in the form of infrastructure and quality of institutions like regulatory, political, legal and monetary,” said Muda Yusuf, director-general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry(LCCI) in a recent interview with BusinessDay

Article Credit: BusinessDay newspaper

Updated 5 Years ago

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Tags:     Nigerian ceramics industry     ceramics     Muda Yusuf     Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry(LCCI)     West African Ceramics Ltd. (WACL)     Patrick Irabor     Peter Onwualu     Epina Technologies Limited Patrick Eguakhide Oaikhinan     Federal Institute of IndustrialResearch     Oshodi(FIIRO)