A few years ago, when I was building my house, I was shocked to realize that I spent about a million Naira on the purchase of ceramic tiles alone. Most of these tiles were said to have been imported into the country from Spain and Italy. The question that I immediately asked was why do we have to import these tiles from other nations when we can produce them locally? Of course no answers were forthcoming.
The truth is that Nigeria by action or inaction has simply chosen to be a consumer nation, importing all that we need and producing nothing. We depend solely on crude oil; operating a mono-product economy and our economy is the worse for it. Unfortunately, this crude oil can no more sustain our economy because of falling prices, even as the world turns to greener energy sources. We must thus change our ways or be annihilated as a nation and the time to act is now.
The purpose of this treatise is to expound on the opportunity which exist for the production of ceramic tiles and other ceramic products through the sustainable exploitation of rich clay deposits in Cross River State to meet the growing demand for these products in Nigeria and beyond.
Ceramics, derived from the Greek expression, keramos, which means ‘potter’s clay’, was originally used to refer to the art of making pots. However, its scope has broadened to include the science of manufacturing articles prepared from malleable clays that are made rigid by firing. They are nonmetallic, inorganic materials (mainly compounds of oxygen, and compounds of carbon, nitrogen, boron, and silicon).
Nigeria is abundantly blessed with ceramic raw materials including alumina, carbon, clay, feldspar, kaolin, quartz, silicon, and zirconium which can be found in all the geopolitical zones of the country. It was therefore not unexpected that several ceramic manufacturing concerns sprang up across the country in the 70s and 80s.
Some of the companies that set up in the country include Modern Ceramics Industry Umuahia, Nigerian- Italian Ceramic product Industries, Ifo, Ondo State, Ceramic Manufacturers Limited, Kano, Eleganza Ceramics Industries, Lagos etc. These have all shut down due to unfavorable manufacturing climate that existed in Nigeria before now.
Cross River State has large deposits of clay and other minerals used in the production of ceramic tiles and other ceramic products. Clay is an unconsolidated rock matter, with very fine grain which is plastic when wet and undergoes ceramic change to become hard and stony when heated. Clay is composed of silica, alumina and water plus appreciable concentration of oxides of iron, alkali and alkaline earth, and contains groups of crystalline substances known as clay minerals such as quartz, feldspar, and mica.
In the state, clay is found in commercial quantities in Calabar Municipality and recently, research has been carried out by a group of researchers including Dr. N. Abia-Bassey on the clay in Adiabo community and results show that it is suitable for ceramic production.
Local demands for ceramic products are very high considering the population of Nigeria which is presently about 160 million yet the supply is met mostly through importation. Nigeria currently spends about N5b annually importing ceramics products. The country imports more than 50 containers of ceramics products daily, in spite of the availability of both raw materials and human capacity for research, production and development of quality ceramics products of international standard.
With the growing demand for ceramics wares such as dinner wares, sanitary wares, pottery wares, floor and wall tiles, ceiling fittings, spark plugs, Beryllium oxide ceramics, chemical and refractory porcelains, electrical porcelain insulators, combustion chambers for engines and furnaces, decorative wares, etc., there is need to encourage investment in the sector in Cross River State.
Let us take a look at some of the sectors which drive the demand for ceramic in Nigeria.
The real estate sector leads in the drive for demand with ceramic tiles. The housing deficit in Nigeria is about 17 million units with an annual growth of 2 million units. With massive developments in real estate sector in the country to meet the increasing demands for decent housing, the demand for ceramic tiles which are used for floor, walls, ceiling and even roof is high in the country.
In Nigeria, the market for vitrified ceramic tiles can be further classified into two segments institutional (accounting for 40 per cent) and retail (rest 60 per cent). The institutional segment is characterized by low operating margins, long credit periods and a high inventory turnover. The retail segment is characterized by high selling and distribution costs, and good margins and credit recovery.
Another exciting sector is the power sector with high demand for electrical porcelain insulators. The need for electrical insulators is essentially to prevent the passage of electricity to some other device or area, so that the electricity does not cause harm or cause death to those who touch areas or devices which are connected to the electrical insulators. Insulators are extensively used for high voltage applications.
In spite of the enormous wide range of application and availability of raw materials, mostly used insulators are still imported to Nigeria due to manufacturing of electrical insulators in small quantities; and majorly restricted to the low voltage shackle and coach screw service. It is hereby imperative to increase the manufacturing of locally produced electrical insulators to meet increasing demand.
The next sector I will consider is ceramics for home use which include dinner wares, pottery wares and decorative wares. With the growing middle class and improving lifestyles among Nigeria elites, the demand for this category of products has been on the rise in recent times. As the population and the economy continue to grow, the demand will keep rising also.
Other products such as ceramics for spark plugs, Beryllium oxide ceramics, chemical and refractory porcelains, combustion chambers for engines and furnaces may be classified as being for industrial uses. With a growing manufacturing sector in Nigeria and the recent growth in the automotive sector, there is sure to be a growing demand for these products.
With all these demands in the various sectors, it makes economic sense to invest in the production of ceramics in Nigeria at this time, even as the raw materials are readily available in commercial quantities. This will not only help in meeting the growing demand for these products but will also create jobs for our teeming youths and contribute to the growth of our state economy.
It is worthy of note that there has been growing investments in the sector in Nigeria in recent years. Goodwill Ceramic FZE, recently commenced operation in Agbara Igebesa area of Ogun State. The Chinese company is producing 35,000 square meters ceramics of different sizes and colors on a daily basis with its high automated machines. The $50 million company is expected to employ about 10,000 Nigerians. The company is also generating its independent power, totaling about 6 megawatt of power for its energy needs.
West African Ceramics Limited which already has existing factory in Ajaokuta in Kogi State also plans to increase its investment in the country by investing over $50m in the establishment of a ceramic tile factory in Ogun state. West African Ceramics has been manufacturing tiles in Nigeria since 1995 with the name- Royal Ceramics and since 2009 as West African Ceramics Limited.
Cross River State government must thus work hard to attract Foreign Direct Investment FDI or Local Direct Investment LDI and through partnership invest in this all important sector and reap the benefits of the utilization of the abundant raw material in the state, create jobs for its citizens and contribute to the growth of the state economy.
I will like to use this opportunity to encourage the Mayor of Calabar Municipality, Ntufam Donatus Etim, the Vice Chairman, Dr. Caroline Etim and the Secretary of the Council, Mr. Bernard Iso to wake up to this opportunity and seek ways to promote investment in the production of ceramics from the clay deposit in the Local Government that has been researched and established.
Emmanuel Etim is a development consultant based in Nigeria (email@example.com)
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