Alarmed by Nigeria’s huge dependency on importation of ceramic wares and products put at about $900 million, experts in the sector have tasked the federal government to maximize the availability of the natural raw materials in the country to re-jig the economy and participate actively in the $47.72 billion ceramic global markets.
Despite the potential of the sector to offer about five million jobs for the teeming unemployed population, Nigeria’s ceramic production capacity is still at its lower ebb, occupying the second position in Africa after Egypt and eight in the world.
Ceramics are used in building products with the potential to last for about 150 years, production of sanitary and table wares, electric porcelain and insulator, automobiles, among others.
Currently, findings reveal that the average production capacity for ceramics, is put at 40,000 – 45,000 sqm per day for the eight manufacturing companies combined in ceramics production in Nigeria with the Chinese accounting for about 100 percent investment in six out of the eight ceramic tile companies while the Indian operates with the support of an investment for the remaining two tiles companies.
While there is an abundance of its raw materials in the country ranging from quartz, feldspar to clay, experts say Nigeria still has about 11 million shortfalls for ceramics demand.
Speaking to newsmen during the launch of a ceramic foundation in Lagos, the president, Oaikhinan Ceramics Foundation, Prof. Eguakhide Patrick Oaikhinan expressed concerns about the challenges facing domestic ceramics industry in the country, stating that government has neglected the industry.
For him, some of the inhibiting factors against the sector include, the non-inclusion of ceramics education, engineering and technology in Nigeria’s education system, low domestic participation in the industry which has been dominated by the Chinese, the lack of modern production technology and facilities as well as absence of basic infrastructures like, regular power supply, water and roads.
Oaikhinan declared that prior to 1980s Nigeria’s domestic ceramic industries such as Richware Ceramics (Lagos); Modern Ceramics (Umuahia); Nigergrob Ceramics (Abeokuta); Ceramic Manufacturer (Kano) and Quality Ceramics (Shagamu), and others, were working optimally.
However, he disclosed that the industries are producing below-installed capacity because of the lack of professionals with generic and technical skills in the ceramics manufacturing business. He further said that the absence of avenues for people that are interested in ceramic manufacturing businesses to pursue their ambitions has dipped growth in the sector.
“The country lacks the knowledge of the chemical and mineralogical compositions, and non-existence of raw material processing plants to feed the local ceramic industries. There are nine operating ceramic manufacturing industries in Nigeria. Eight of them are for tiles and one for sanitary ware and they operate under various capacities. Out of the nine operating ceramic manufacturing units, six are with Chinese investments only and the others with Indian investment support.”
The sheer pace of technological change, he said has caught the ceramic industry in Nigeria unawares and the absence of adequate skills is an element of weakness for it, both now and looking to the future. This, he noted has led to the failure of many in our nation. ‘We cannot produce quality ceramic products locally’.
Prof. Oaikhinan who has also introduced a foundation for ceramic development in Nigeria urged the federal government to create employment opportunities through adequate funding of Research and development (R&D) that would enhance the manpower development needed.
The former Director-General of Nigerian Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, (NACCIMA), Dr. John Isemede who also spoke at the forum, advised major stakeholders in Nigerian project particularly the government, to empower the youth for social responsibility as the nation moves into the year 2020.
Isemede lamented that the greatest problem facing the nation today was the absence of the skill sets for the youth population to thrive. He charged the three tiers of government to, therefore, build their capacity in the fields of agriculture, petroleum and solid minerals for the future generation to prosper.
“People in government should be given target to develop the capacity for the value chain ceramics sector, in agriculture and the oil industry among others. Government should invest in agriculture and education and build up volunteers to develop the managers of the economy for tomorrow”, he said.
For the coordinator, Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Waheed Tokunbor, setting up a foundation to develop human capacity and skill sets will help in promoting job creation, deliver youths from criminal tendencies and economic development in the ceramic industry.