Printing in a Depressed Economy: A Way Forward

Printing in a Depressed Economy: A Way Forward

Wednesday, January 27, 2021 3:39 pm


Oluwole Catherine Funmi

 

By Oluwole Catherine Funmi

Printing in Nigeria is not essentially a private affair, there are government printing presses that cater for printing needs within the government circle e.g. Lagos State Printing Corporation, University of Ibadan Press and Oyo State Printing Corporation. Some printing presses e.g  Academy Press, University of Lagos etc. are public quoted firms. Nigeria is a leading printing firm in Africa. The printing industry  play a major role in national development through the printing of various types of books at various tertiary levels, record books for documentation of important events, election posters etc. The country has witnessed tremendous revolution of the printing industry since the days of early missionary who established the first printing press in Nigeria by Rev. Hope Wadell in 1846. The press was used to print Bibles, tracts etc with arithmetic note books for schools, Iwe Irohin was later printed by Rev. Henry  Townsend and effort grew with establishment of CMS [Church Missionary Society] which  published thousands of books as well. With the establishment of University of Ibadan, there was need for establishment of more printing organizations in Nigeria which led to emergence of leading Printing industries such as Academy press, University press. Printing as a part of the manufacturing industry in Nigeria has faced economic recession, which has taken a toll on the industry. Nigerian printers are quick to catching on, innovating and adding new services to other sectors by digitizing their mode of operations  through virtual interactions via Skype, zoom etc. to sustain printing businesses by meeting customer delivery deadlines. The Printing industry in Nigeria has witnessed tremendous growth from conventional ways of doing things to digital technology. The adoption which led to speedy and timely production of printed materials at a very cheap rate. Ways of operation of a new print technology is no doubt an eye opener for printing industry to survive and make printing profitable again. Nigerian printers are not isolated from challenges, some of which are high cost of equipment and consumables, high rates of quackery, leadership tussle, lack of regulations, dearth of experts, infrastructural decay. Nigerian printers are also wary of new technology and are quick to decry automation. They hinged on the fact that there would be job loss to internet based services and support, inability to acquire new technology, loss of jobs etc. as many believe automation mean you using less people, yes it does but there is urgent need for changes so that the printing will be at par with developing nations.

To sustain printing industry in Nigeria, the Federal government drew up an elaborate plan and established three paper and pulp making companies namely Nigerian Paper Mill (NPML) Jebba in Kwara State; the Nigerian Paper Manufacturing Company Limited (NPMCL) in Ogun State and Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company (NNMC) Oku Iboku  in Akwa-Ibom. These paper manufacturing sectors have not met the yearning of the printing industry; hence the mills were described as ‘Nigeria’s dying paper mills gasping for oxygen’.

The mills were to generate paper raw materials locally for self sufficiency,but the economic down turn of the 1980s, affected the printing industry greatly.

The Printing industry can be grouped into three main classes and no two organization can be structured alike. These are:

  • Large scale;
  • Medium scale; and
  • Small scale

The sizes of organization will determine the numbers of labourers’ employed either as skilled or unskilled labour and their areas of specialization. This will help while making a choice of procuring printing machines.

Prints industry in Nigeria can be specialized in the following ways

  • General jobbing e.g. Letter head, complementary card;
  • Stationery: exercise books, envelope;
  • Periodicals: weekly or monthly magazine;
  • Security Printing: passport, cheques, licenses;
  • Packaging Printing labels;
  • Large Format;

 

PROBLEMS OF THE PRINTING INDUSTRY

The new technology has played a significant role in the industry by giving the industry a face-lift and transforming it into the committee of developed printing nation. Printing industry is faced with mirage of problems. Some are enumerated below

  1. Failure to adapt to new order.
  2. Loosing jobs to internet .
  3. Lack of innovative business strategies
  4. Threat to survival as a result of new technologies development.
  5. Emergences of new orders.
  6. LACK OF RESOURCES

Printing is capital intensive and only the rich can afford adequate resources to finance the procurement and maintenances of the equipment. The people who venture into printing are sometimes referred to as huge risk takers. The financial institutions are skeptical of granting loans to printers with the fear of losing money to investors. Worst of is government neglect to develop the industry unlike the Nollywood industry which  President Goodluck Jonathan gave Two billion naira to develop.

  1. LACK OF NEW TECHNOLOGY

Majority of printers in Nigeria lack new technology. Most printing firms are still using   obsolete equipment. This problem leads to poor quality, delay in printing products etc. Though it could be said that some are skeptical of the new technology i.e not wanting to embrace change but basically the poor economy might be why others may make do with the available machines in the press.

  1. DEARTH OF EXPERT

There is low level of manpower development in the printing industry. Many people believe that studying printing is for dropouts and they are referred to as “Shomolu Printers”. This stigmatization would not allow their children to undergo training or graduate as a degree holder in printing field. The lack of academic training has lead to inability of printers to cope with the latest printing equipment. This dearth of expertise has adversely affected many businesses in areas of patronage and other diversified opportunities. Our foreign exchange resources can no longer afford people acquiring printing education abroad. The stakeholder also neglects the manufacturing of spare parts or the printing machine locally.

  1. GOVERNMENT POLICY

Printing industry has not benefited from the government of the day in area of formulating policies that can favour the printing industry and through creation of enabling environment. Printing consumables and the machines are all imported. There is no tax concession as enjoyed by other allied companies. Most Printing jobs are contracted out for obvious reasons e.g. voters materials. High cost of importation of raw material, high exchange rate are few major problems that faces the printing industry under government policy.

  1. INFASTRUCTURAL DECAY

Printing houses cannot survive with the dilapidated equipment. The epileptic power supply has contributed negatively to the closure of many printing houses. None of the three paper mills is operational.

  1. ECONOMY

The economic recession has negative impact on the stakeholders, the printing industry is faced with problems of low purchasing power, pass down syndrome, the prevailing economy has shifted operation roles of most printers from printing and pirating of books in order to make ends meet. The industry is not exempted from high tariff charged on printing consumables like papers and inks. This leads to local high production cost and most clients would prefer to print their jobs abroad.

With these problems listed above, the printing industry cannot survive until the identified problems are tackled through the concerted efforts of all stakeholders in the printing industry. All hands must be on deck.

 

WAY FORWARD

The economic recession is a great concern to all stakeholders and there is a need to think out-of-the-box and strategizing ways to ensure that printing in Nigeria do not go down the drain. The survival of the industry should be a great concern to all stakeholders so that printing is profitable again in respective of the depressed economy.

  1. ADEQUATE RESOURCES: Printing industry has started to show signs of healthy recovery and reinvention through reawakening of developing new business models, acquisition of digital equipment in other to attend to challenges facing the industry. The government should revisit its policies by earmarking adequate resources to revamp the printing industry. Printers can seek capital adequacies through the following options:
  • Retained earnings: This is basically ploughing back part of the printers profit into the business.
  • Bank financing: Bankers should be encouraged to finance the printing industry through granting loans to printers at reduced rates as recently done by the Central bank of Nigeria.
  • Leasing: Leasing companies are important avenues to support the printing industry in the face of economic depression. This will enable the printer to have easy access to acquisition of state of the art printing equipment. This will enable the customer to have access to software under this policy as the charges are only on the machine, which assures productivity and efficiency through availability of local financing. Leases which the printer can exploit namely are operating and finance lease. Operating lease is leasing out an asset for a period less than the lifespan of the asset. Printing industry also brought about the introduction of subscription model, which is “pay-as-you-print”.

 

  1. ACQUISTION OF NEW TECHNOLOGY: Covid-19 pandemic has adjusted the printing industry in Nigeria and printers have no option than to shift the goal post. The new technology from Heidelberg company is a 10-color speed master, which is internet enabled remotely controlled and just one operator. The guideline for social distancing is addressed by this new technology. Printing I ndustry needs adequate resources to replace some of the obsolete machines. There is need to acquire new technologies in order to meet challenges of the millennial era.

 

  1. DEARTH OF EXPERT: The professional body overseeing the printing industry in Nigeria, CIPPON, (The Chartered Institute of Professional Printer of Nigeria) is saddled by law to enforce regulations and sanitize the industry. The body constituted various committees e.g. Industry Training and Development Committee charged with the mandate of projecting staff training and educational development with the hope of printers acquiring additional skills and ability to cope with the new technologies thereby producing world class printers. The printing institutions in Nigeria, Yaba College of Technology and Kaduna Polytechnic offer Printing courses. Aside this, courses like Printing Engineering should be offered at printing schools. This will reduce our over dependence on imported machines from Germany and India. Printing organizations should ensure adequate training for their employees so as to be at breast with modern innovation and modern technologies.
  2. GOVERMENT POLICY: Financial institutions should be encouraged to grant loans to individual investors in a depressed economy. The government should formulate policies that will put the professional body at par with other professional bodies in the country. Government should be supportive and revisit some of it fiscal, educational and economical policies in favor of the industry. Government should abolish or give a reasonable waiver on Value Added Tax (VAT) and importation tariff on exchange rate for printers.

 

  1. INFRASTRUCTURAL DECAY: No nation can survive with the state of epileptic power supply. Government should revamp the power sector and a steady production capacity of raw materials will reduce the cost of production.

 

  1. ECOMOMY: Towards the tail end of 2020, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), announced and approved 2.9billion naira printing contracts awarded to printing firms. This is heartwarming, laudable and welcomed development for an industry that has suffered neglect in the past. The government should refurbish the moribund paper mills thereby creating jobs for Nigerians, subsidize the  industry so that there will be high increase in purchasing power and reduce electricity tariffs. Government should enforce that all printing jobs should be produced locally instead of in Malaysia and China.

 

In conclusion, the future of printing in Nigeria looked so bleak but the transformation of printing from a craft to a technological based industry is an indication of what lies ahead for the industry. I am optimistic that the future of the printing industry in Nigeria is very bright because printers are adapting to new technology and the opportunities thereof as indicated in the webinar presentation tagged ‘Exceeding Customer Expectation in the New Normal in Printing  business’ jointly organized by CIPPON, PCS, Integrated Media Limited and Print Equipment Manufacturers. The new acquisition of new technology has shored up the image of the printing industry, worthy of note is the impact of CIPPON in its effort to press for government intervention in area of infusing much needed capital into the printing industry and the resuscitating of the three ailing paper mill industries so as to reduce high costs of printing consumables also to reduce production cost there is need for manpower development to acquire additional skills through training and establishment  of well equipped technological schools across the country.

-Mrs Oluwole Catherine Funmi, Yaba College Of Technology, Department Of Printing

 

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