Technically speaking, ceramics are inorganic, non-metallic solid prepared by the action of heat and subsequent cooling. They include bricks, pipes, floor and roof tiles; table wares, pottery products, sanitary wares, wall tiles and earthenware, among others.
Globally, ceramics has become a captive industry, with its market projected to reach $408bn by 2018, and China playing a key player, according to Peter Onwualu, director- general, Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC).
Nevertheless, most of Nigeria’s ceramics needs are met by imports. Patrick Irabor, director, projects development and design department, Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIR0), recently told BusinessDay in an exclusive chat that annual ceramics imports had exceeded N30 billion. However, there was a recent report that the figure had reached N80 billion in 2014.
Most experts even believe the figure would be higher, as Nigeria ranks 13th among the world consumers of ceramic products, mostly ceramics sanitary wares, ceramics spark plugs, ceramics porcelain, ceramics floor and wall tiles.
Nigerian pottery ceramics is dated 2,400 years or more. The country has had glass factories for over 30 years, with about eight of them located in six states and producing mainly containers for beverages, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals as well as louver blades and hurricane lantern globes.
Among 12 widely-recognised ceramics manufacturing firms established in the between 1950 and 1980, only one survived after the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) hurricane of mid 1980s. As of today, experts say no single ceramics manufacturing business in Nigeria can compete with the international ones, or pass quality standards tests.
Research shows the country does not have any manufacturer of ceramics glaze manufacturing, a substance which is fixed to ceramics through a process called firing. Absence of firms of this nature hampers the growth of the ceramics industry and shows the country is yet to come to terms with the captive industry, in spite of available raw materials such as quartz, feldspar, silica, that they can use, say experts.
‘’In spite of the available indigenous potentials for ceramics manufacturing business, the Nigerian Government and her citizens have not shown much interest in its development, ‘’ said Eguakhide Patrick Oaikhinan, professor of material engineering, with specialisation in ceramics, and CEO, Epina Technologies, a global learning, management, and engineering blended solutions provider in Africa.
‘’The negligence of ceramics manufacturing business in Nigeria is due to lack of clear understanding of the meaning of ceramics; lack of significant number of professionals with appropriate skill and expertise in ceramics manufacturing business; absence of avenues for people interested in ceramics manufacturing business to pursue their ambitions; and no university or higher institution in Nigeria offers training in ceramics science/engineering/
Experts believe the major challenge to developing the sector remains the skills gap. They add that another problem is absence of companies that would process the raw materials for ceramics firms.
‘’Nigeria loses about 500, 000 jobs from this negligence,’’ said Oaikhinan.
By: ODINAKA ANUDU