Alakija Urged Nigerian Government To Help Printing Businesses Compete Favorably on an Even-Keel Environment.

The vice Chairman of Digitalreality Print Limited, Mrs. Folorunso Alakija has called on the government to help the Nigeria printing industry compete favourable on an even-keel environment with policies formulation and execution that will aid the growth of the sector. 

This call was made recently at the First Nigerian Printers Conference jointly organized by Concerned Stakeholders under the aegis of Change Group in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment recently at Abuja Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, with the theme: The Role of Nigeria Printing Industry in Economic Development and Empowerment Generation.

Speaking at the event, the Vice Chairman of Digitalreality Print Limited, Mrs. Folorunso Alakija said that the inaugural National Printers’ Conference has been convened with the aim of taking the necessary steps to create the kind of printing industry we not only desire but require.    In view of this, discussions were centred around issues bordering on how to partner with government to formulate policies that will favor the industry and help government achieve some of it’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to her, the printing industry is one of the most vital, even if underrated, industries in Nigeria. From its humble beginnings, with the establishment of the Hope Waddel Printing Press in Calabar in 1846, the business of printing in Nigeria has grown massively in the last 172 years. Without a shadow of a doubt, printing has proved to be a viable means of wealth and value creation by entrepreneurs and a vital means of gainful employment for millions.

Mrs. Alakija went further to say: “The value chain within the printing industry consists of the manpower, equipment and consumables which includes: printing paper, pulp, ink manufacturing, creative application, screen printing, textile, etc. The ancillary businesses that originate from this value chain, creates not just a single line but a massive web of other profitable occupations.  Despite this, printing as an industry in Nigeria has failed to realise the massive potentials it has to contribute to the growth of the nation’s economy. This is because the uncertainty in the responses of successive governments to the global economic crisis, as well as other internal and external disruptions in our economic activity has caused many printing companies to fold up or relocate to friendlier and better enabling environments. The resultant effects are massive loss of jobs and capital flight.

On reason behind the conference, Mrs. Alakija summed them up as follows:

Formulation of a National Policy on PrintingDespite the explosive growth in the printing industry, the introduction of legislation that will ensure proper recognition and regulation of printing as a profession has been rather slow. According to the report by the Federal Bureau of Statistics in 2017, Nigeria imports about 2million Metric Tons of paper and boards, which is worth N720 Billion naira annually!.

“I believe that a national policy on printing will play a major role in the implementation of government’s Import Substitution Policy which should encourage the revival of the three paper mills the government established in the 1970s i.e. the Jebba, Iwopin and Oku-Iboku Paper Mills. Between them, these mills can adequately supply the paper and board needs of printers in Nigeria.

There is therefore no gainsaying the fact that proper implementation of import substitution in the printing value chain will yield benefits such as conservation of forex reserves, reduced dependency on importation of raw materials, stimulation of local productivity and industrial enhancement”. She stated

Establishment of standards through improvement of Knowledge and Skill Levels

In many respects, the entry barrier into the printing profession is quite low. A significant number of operational staff of even the biggest printing companies acquired their knowledge through apprenticeships with people who themselves graduated as apprentices of older printing companies.

The act that establishes CIPPON (Chartered Institute of Printing Press of Nigeria) charges it with the “duty of regulating, controlling, managing and administration of printers in Nigeria.” In addition, the body is empowered to “determine the qualifications and skills to be attained by persons seeking to become registered members of the printing profession and reviewing those standards, from time to time, as circumstances may permit. It is also charged to “promote the advancement of education in the sciences and arts of printing, bookbinding, graphic design and graphic communication in all forms.”

What this simply means is that it will continue to be difficult to institute and enforce any reasonable standards unless CIPPON grabs the bull by the horns to address this very sensitive issue.

Response to Changing Market Needs

The traditional printing business model is under serious pressure requiring print solutions providers to become more innovative across the entire printing value chain. This is because we serve a new crop of progressively discerning customer base who demand for unique printing solutions, quality colour reproduction, shorter print runs and shrinking production cycles.

It is therefore imperative that for us in the printing industry we must put on our thinking caps so that we can match their request with innovative and current technology for us to remain relevant.

Impact of Technological Developments

Recently the New York Times carried a report that Conde Nast, one of the world’s most popular publishers, announced that it was moving away from the regular print publication of Glamour – a women’s magazine, in favor of a digital version. Newspapers, magazines and books in particular have moved online, sparking fears that the printing industry is soon to become extinct. While this may tend towards over-exaggeration of the problem, it is still a reality that we have to contend with. At the same time, our country is being flooded with their technological rejects!

Therefore, one of the bigger issues to address going forward is how to respond to the challenge of digitization as many printed materials are now presented in electronic formats.

Access to Operating Capital

As you are well aware the print industry is a capital intensive endeavor. The vast majority of small- and medium-sized printing companies find it rather difficult to secure project finance or business development loans at business-friendly terms. The net effect is an inordinate upward spiral in cost of doing business.

Surely, government’s Ease of Doing Business policy should not only target attracting direct foreign investment, rather it should also help local businesses to be in a position to compete favorably on an even-keel environment.

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