• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Stakeholders call for sustenance of paper industry amid digital disruption

Nigeria’s moribund paper mills

In the face of digitalisation which appears to be disrupting the paper industry, stakeholders have called for the sustenance of the paper industry to foster job creation and economic growth which will in turn contribute to the economic growth of the country by generating revenue, taxes and export opportunities.

This is even as they called for a review of the privatization of the Jebba Paper Mill, Iwopin Pulp and Paper Company in Ogun State and the Nigeria Newsprint Manufacturing Company which would in turn make the raw materials for the downstream paper industries more accessible and more affordable and also ease the pressure on the country’s foreign exchange market.

Read also: Manufacturer seeks FG’s support to revive ailing paper industry

They spoke at the Business Roundtable and inauguration of the World Envelopes Day themed ‘The Pivotal Role of The Paper industry in the Nigerian Economy in Lagos’ organised by FAE Limited in commemoration of its 50th anniversary.

Muda Yusuf, chief executive officer, Center for Promotion of Private Enterprises (CPPE) in his keynote address disclosed that the paper industry has a profound economic impact across all sectors of the economy hence the need to sustain it.

He lamented that digitalization has emerged as a critical issue and challenges facing the paper manufacturing industry as the rise of digital technology has led to a decrease in demand for paper products as consumers and businesses increasingly rely on digital communication and storage.

He added that the value chain is even more impactful with millions of jobs created in the paper industry value chain including pulping, paper production, printing, marketing, and logistics amongst others.

“As at 2023, the value of the Nigerian paper industry was N398.8 billion, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The value was N365 billion in 2022; and N363 billion and N255 billion in 2021 and 2020 respectively. This is a significant contribution to our Gross Domestic Product GDP.

According to him, the reality is that the growth in digital technology has greatly disrupted the sector, especially as a mode of communication, noting the sector had remained resilient and critical to the economy across all sectors.

“The paper industry has been largely in recession because of the digital technology disruptions and other macroeconomic headwinds, especially relating to exchange rate depreciation, forex liquidity crisis and high cost of fund and energy cost escalation.”

The sector contracted by 1.47 percent in 2022; it contracted by 0.56 percent in 2023, according to data from NBS.

This data underscores the imperative of policy measures to fix the current challenges facing the industry, both from the monetary, fiscal policy, structural and regulatory perspectives” he disclosed.

Earlier in her address, Lady Maiden Ibru, the chairperson of the occasion enumerated that while digitalization has improved access to information, it’s important to recognize that not everyone in Nigeria has equal access to digital devices or reliable internet connections.

She opined that this makes sustaining the paper industry imperative as it allows for the production of physical materials such as books, newspapers and educational resources, ensuring that information remains accessible to a wider population.

“In Nigeria, where educational resources may be limited in some areas, the paper industry plays a crucial role in providing textbooks, workbooks and other learning materials.”

“These physical resources are essential for students and teachers, particularly in regions with limited digital infrastructure.”

“The paper industry in Nigeria provides employment opportunities for a significant number of people, from paper manufacturing to printing and publishing.

According to her, sustaining the industry ensures the preservation of these jobs and contributes to the economic growth by generating revenue, taxes and export opportunities.

In her welcome address, Funlayo Bakare-Okeowo, managing director & CEO FAE Ltd disclosed that the quality of envelopes and standards are unrivalled in Nigeria and compare favourably with global best practice.

She added that the Business Round Table was organized to enable industry leaders, innovators, and stakeholders to engage in insightful discussions, exchange ideas, and explore collaborative opportunities that will shape the future of the paper industry.

Read also: The bid to revive paper industry

She further disclosed that as part of the celebration of the company’s golden jubilee, the company announced the inauguration of the World Envelopes Day to be celebrated annually on the 16th day of April.

“This is a pioneering initiative by FAE Ltd in accordance with our leadership position in the sector. The establishment of the World Envelopes Day is to raise awareness about the importance of envelopes in various aspects of human endeavor, including personal correspondence, business transactions, and creative expressions.”

She stated that the initiative aims to celebrate the cultural, historical, and practical significance of envelopes as a means of communication and an integral aspect of our human existence.

“World Envelopes Day is not just about our company; it is about the entire industry and the people who contribute to making envelopes an indispensable part of our lives.”