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Ceramics sector vital to NG economic revival

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By Usman Oladimeji

Policymakers need to establish a conducive regulatory framework.

The first professor of ceramics engineering in Nigeria, Professor Patrick Oaikhinan has recommended that the incumbent administration make the ceramics industry a priority for job creation. If this potential is realized, it might result in the creation of six million jobs. This would be possible if the government could invest human and financial resources in resolving the technical, economic, and other problems hindering the industry. In a press briefing held in his Lagos office, Oaikhinan cited 13 different ceramic industries that have gone moribund. He advocated for the government to encourage and support new business start-ups in the industry by revitalizing the domestic industrial sector.

Prof. Oaikhinan stressed the importance of revitalizing the industry in order to boost competitiveness, economic growth, and employment opportunities. This can be accomplished if ceramic-related degree programs are mandated across all Nigerian universities. 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. For manufacturers to remain competitive and to contribute to Nigeria inclusive and sustainable development, policymakers need to establish a conducive regulatory framework.

Nigeria is missing out on $240bn worth in the global markets.

He also underscored the importance of partnering with international organizations for help in re-engineering and repositioning the industry, citing examples like Japan’s JICA, Germany’s GTZ, the United States’ USAID, and others. Tough measures are needed to end all forms of unfair trade. Various ceramic solid minerals can be mined for profit in this sector, including kaolin, ball clays, feldspar, quartz or silica sand, calcium carbonate, talc, bentonite, and so on. He estimates that if these minerals are refined, by 2025, they will add $511.57 billion to the Nigerian economy and prevent the country from having to import various ceramics worth $2.15 billion.

A Raw Materials, Ceramic Research and Development Consultant, Dr. Patrick Irabor, also provided arguments in favour of public and private stakeholders contributing to human capital development, local raw materials exploitation and processing. This would help to reshape the manufacturing sector in 20 years time. Irabor claims that Nigeria is missing out on 240 billion dollars worth of opportunities in the global ceramic market. He blames a lack of primary local raw materials processing industries in Nigeria, a lack of experience and qualified labour, a lack of technology and managerial skills, and the quality and quantity of available raw materials for the industry’s decline.

Only 8 enterprises specializing on tiles alone are functioning.

Dr. Irabor said that sensitizing and reawakening the investment interest of essential players, particularly involving the public and private sectors, could be the first step toward revitalizing the industry. The existing position in the sector in Nigeria, where only 8 enterprises specializing on tiles alone are functioning, does not offer favourable possibilities to contribute generously to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). More so, the industries that are still operational are not doing well enough to contribute as much as they should to Nigeria economic growth and development.

This scenario has been a huge worry to the public, operators, practitioners and the Organised Private Sector (OPS). It has even become more distressing and worrisome when compared to the pottery achievements of other emerging and industrialized countries. Nigeria is the only country in the world with huge solid mineral resources that does not export substantial amounts of ceramics, despite ranking 8 among the top 18 developing economies for ceramics trade. Production in the sector in Nigeria is only limited to wall and floor tiles.

Advent of intelligent ceramics could contribute to the economy.

There is hope that the widespread use of ceramics in various industries, including housing, healthcare, automobile, and the automotive industry, among others, as a result of the advent of so-called “intelligent ceramics,” could help contribute to reviving the country’s economy. It may be an essential element in unlocking the next generation of energy storage and making renewable technologies more accessible in the years to come. Nevertheless, with over 100 million square meters of ceramic tiles produced annually in Nigeria alone, the country has a chance to catch up to China and India if the revitalization of the moribund industries is performed diligently.

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