According to the Chief Executive Officer, EPINA Technologies Limited, Prof. Eguakhide Oaikhinan, less than three per cent of Nigerians would like to set-up ceramics small businesses because of unfriendly market environment for local products, compared to 51 per cent of people in the U.S. and China.
Oaikhinan, also Nigeria’s sole professor of Ceramic Engineering, told The Guardian in Lagos that creating a business friendly environment for existing small and medium-sized ceramics enterprises (SMEs), and potential entrepreneurs should be one of the country’s main industrial development objectives, as this could attract foreign direct investment into the sector.
Lamenting that local production is not up to one per cent of the domestic market, he said Nigeria’s economic growth and job creation depend on its ability to support the growth of enterprises, particularly ceramics if the huge unemployment gap must be bridged.
“Domestic commercially accessible clay, feldspar, kaolin and quartz raw materials must be characterised and evaluated for use as raw materials for the production of ceramics. Additional chemical purification and mechanical processing of these raw materials make it possible to improve their ceramic properties,” Oaikhinan said.
He decried the dearth of ceramics professionals and companies, stressing that local industries were not in the business of solid minerals processing.
“Everybody seems to be concerned with the mining of the minerals. In the raw state, these mined minerals sell at very low prices but when characterised and processed, could have very competitive market value. We need to know the peculiarities or characteristics of the raw materials before their use in ceramics production.”
Noting that tiles alone accounted for about 34 per cent or $136 billion market share, Oaikhinan said technological innovation remained key in the development of global leadership in the ceramic tiles industry by Italy and Spain.
He said: “Nigeria is not able to take advantage of this tremendous growth in the ceramic tiles market because of lack of ceramics skills, despite the availability of natural gas and raw materials for the development of the ceramics and glazing industry.”