Ceramic Production: An agenda for Nigeria’s economic revival

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By Rukayat Moisemhe

The emergence and development of ceramic industries in Nigeria boomed between 1970 and 1980, riding on the back of availability of raw materials, massive human resources and adequate technology.

The earlier ceramic industries have all gone moribund and unlimited quantities of substandard ceramics products are being continuously imported into the country.

Prior to 1980, the ceramic sector was considered as one of the Small and Medium Scale Industries that contributed importantly to the construction industry, export earnings and employment in Nigeria.

Today, there are only ten operating ceramic industries in Nigeria because of several problems ranging from lack of workforce with adequate generic and technical skills, haphazard way of raw material mining, trade barriers and others.

Hence, the functioning ceramic industries are no longer performing creditably and can not play the expected vital and vibrant role in the economic growth and development of Nigeria.

This situation has been of great concern to the citizenry, operators, practitioners and the Organised Private Sector(OPS).

The situation is more disturbing and worrying when compared with what other developing and developed countries have been able to achieve with their ceramics industries.

Notably, Nigeria occupies eight position among the top 18 emerging economies for ceramics trade, but it is the only country in the world without significant ceramics exports in spite of her enormous solid mineral resources.

The state of ceramic manufacturing business in Nigeria concentrated only on ceramic wall and floor tiles, with virtually no meaningful efforts on the wide range products of tablewares, sanitary wares, china wares, porcelain, electrical porcelain insulators, refractories, structural clay bricks among others.

Currently, the introduction of ‘intelligent ceramics’ where ceramic application is being utilised across several sectors of life such as housing, healthcare and automobile etcetera, could be critical in restoring wealth to the country’s economy.

It could, therefore, be a critical key to unlocking next-generation energy storage and enabling future generations to harness renewable technologies.

According to research, sensors build into ceramic flooring can detect human presence and activate traffic signals, while the advanced products hold enormous developmental potential for global resource efficient solutions.

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Mr Patrick Oaikhinan, the only Professor of Ceramics Engineering in Nigeria, said that
the industry, upon revitalisation, could be a critical focus for the new administration to employ not less than five million Nigerians directly and indirectly.

This, he said, was achievable if the government could mobilise human and financial resources needed to solve the technical, economic and constraints hindering the sector.

Oaikhinan noted that 13 ceramic industries namely Okigwe Pottery, Richware Ceramics, Modern Ceramics, Quality Ceramics, Nigerian Italian Ceramics, Arewa Ceramics, Jacaranda Pottery, Ceramics Manufacturer, Eleganza Ceramics, Maraba Pottery, Plateau Pottery, Ladi Kwali Pottery and Jos Museum Pottery have all gone moribund.

He said that the sector had been captured by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals that focuses on poverty reduction, gender equality and environmental sustainability, among others.

He charged the government to revitalise the domestic the industry sector for the emergence of new ceramic entrepreneurs and facilitating new business start-ups.

Oaikhinan emphasised the need to get the moribund ceramic industries back on track to enhance competitiveness, wealth and job creation.

“To achieve this, the nation needs to direct the National Universities Commission through the Federal Ministry of Education to make ceramic science, ceramic engineering, ceramic technology, and mineral engineering as stand-alone compulsory degree programmes in all universities in Nigeria.

“This is necessary as the non- inclusion of these ceramic courses in the over 220 universities in Nigeria have blocked the avenues for people with abiding interest in ceramics as a career.

“Government must formulate policies, provide general guidelines for the formation of ceramic industrial clusters, provide financial instruments for solid mineral characterisation and ceramic capacity building and skills development, technology development for smart, sustainable and inclusive ceramic growth.

“Policy makers should create a supportive regulatory framework to keep ceramics manufacturing competitive and make the sector a contributor to the inclusive and sustainable development of Nigeria.

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“Nigeria must establish ceramic skills acquisition centre or academy to support the resurgence of the local ceramic industry through the building of bridges between industry and education to ensure there is a skilled workforce for the future, as well as leading young people to a career for life,” he said.

He also emphsised the need for interface with external assistance such as JICA-Japan, GTZ-Germany, USAID-United States and others, to re-engineer and reposition the industry.

Oaikhinan urged the government to tackle issues of international market access and trade barriers vide a trade policy instrument to encourage the domestic industry.

He added that string actions must be taken against all unfair trade practices, including counterfeiting, infringement of intellectual property rights, dumping and others.

“As Nigeria gradually recovers from the debilitating effect of COVID-19 pandemic, its impact on the economy and with a new government in place, Nigeria needs to beam its searchlight on several areas hitherto neglected to revamp the economy.

“Wealth can be generated from the exploitation of ceramic solid minerals such as kaolin, ball clays, feldspar, quartz or silica sand, calcium carbonate, talc, bentonite, and so on.

“These minerals, if processed, can contribute 511.57 billion dollars to the Nigerian economy and an approximately 2.1 billion dollars can be saved on varieties of ceramics importation by 2025,” he said.

Another contributor, Dr Patrick Irabor, a Raw Materials, Ceramic Research and Development Consultant, advanced reasons for human capital development, local raw materials exploitation and processing, by public and private stakeholders.

He said this would help to reposition the ceramic manufacturing industry within the next 20 years.

According to Irabor, Nigeria is losing out on the vast global ceramic market, estimated to be about 240 billion dollars by the Ceramic World Review.

He demanded explanation for the collapse of the industry in view of the availability of local raw materials for ceramic development and production.

In Irabor’s views, the collapse were due to poor quality raw materials and absence of the primary raw materials processing industries in Nigeria.

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He added that most of the moribund ceramic industries in Nigeria collapsed due to shortage of expertise and skilled labour, lack of value added raw materials, poor technology and management skills.

Irabor said revitalisation of these ceramic industries could begin with the sensitisation and re-awakening of investment interest of relevant stakeholders, especially where public and private sectors are involved.

He said Nigeria must conduct a full and complete technical appraisal and feasibility study on the moribund plants as well as exploration of investment capital
through public-private partnership and technical-foreign investment.

“Nigeria offers a formidable market potential for a wide variety of manufactured goods and services.

“However, the current situation in the ceramic sector in Nigeria, where only eight companies focusing on tiles alone are operational does not offer positive prospects to contribute handsomely to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP).

“It is certain that the revitalisation of moribund ceramic industries will drive the growth of a wide-range of allied industries.

“This the chemical, metallurgical, energy, power generation and transmission among others that would contribute to the nation’s GDP.

“Added to these, would be the conventional application of ceramic products and services in housing, hospitals, hotels, educational institutions, research centres, industries, restaurants, general building construction and value chain enterprises, from which government can generate revenue.

“Therefore, with appropriate investment, manpower, machinery and raw materials, the revitalisation and reactivation of these moribund industries, will no doubt, revolutionise the ceramic manufacturing business in Nigeria and the West Africa sub-region,” he said.

Summarily, it is observed that Nigeria is still decades behind in achieving the level of ceramic product-range development and production to offer significant impact on the national GDP.

With the current level of ceramic tile production of over 100 million square meters in Nigeria alone, there are prospects for the country to be at par with China and Indian if the revitalisation of the moribund industries are diligently implemented. (NAN)

Edited by Olawunmi Ashafa

***If used, please credit NAN and the writer***

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