By Maduka Nweke
Mr. Rotimi Aluko is the Chairman of Paint Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMA) and also the Managing Director, Voda Paint Nigeria Limited. In this interview with Daily Sun, Aluko spoke on varied issues that relate to paints. In his view, it is not yet possible for Nigeria to source all raw materials that go into paint manufacturing locally. He stated that for a property to get more value, the nature of designs in terms of painting has some input.
He noted that paints are still costly in Nigeria because all the accessories that go into paint manufacturing are dollar dependent, while about 90 per cent raw materials for paint are mostly imported from Europe. He fielded questions on other matters related to paints industry.
The paint industry
Well, the paint industry is trying to get its rhythm together after the recession and the dollar instability. The dollar is stable, members have lost a lot of values so we are now in the recovery process. We are also excited that government has announced the end of recession. We hope it will eventually trickle down to our industry.
Paint raw materials in Nigeria
We have always sourced the ones that are available in Nigeria. The unfortunate thing is that we are in a chemical industry and you know very well that Nigeria does not have any viable chemical industry. The little we can get from Nigeria, particularly from the petrochemical industry functioning, is one particular pigment, black. That is the only thing we can get. Other ones, calcium carbonate is part of our limestone based in Nigeria. I don’t think any member imports that from abroad. Another thing not imported is water. As for other chemicals that are petrochemicals in nature, we have no choice than to rely on importation. We are so much excited about Dangote industry when we heard what they are putting up because that will help the manufacturing industry. That will eventually encourage other secondary investors to produce some of these materials we find difficult to get.
Percentage of paint value in property
Well, it all depends on the nature of the property. Office building, for instance, may not have many interior work as a residential building but on a whole, it could be anything about 1, 3 or 4 per cent value.
Affordability of paints
The first is that most of the materials are dollar dependent. In that regard, if the exchange rate goes up, then our cost goes up. Paint is one of the most competitive industries you can think of. You know, when an industry is competitive, the price of the products also drop. I will not accept that price of paints are high except somebody puts it in a particular perspective. But on the whole, when you look at it, it becomes very difficult for foreigners to export some kind of paints because Nigerians have come up and may not accept any kind of inferior paint. So our association has come up to fill that gap. I give an example; the oil and gas industry uses some special corrosion control paints and most times, the test procedure has excluded our members. This is because the tests are not done in Nigeria; they are supposed to be done in Europe and the cost of doing that runs into millions so most members may not get them and if you don’t get certified, you don’t get test. That is why most of these oil and gas things are still being imported. It is that process of certifying the quality of paint that should be made easier and Nigerianised. And I don’t see why they should not be Nigerianised. Each company in the oil family, relies only on their own country standard and that is the issue. The second thing is the amount for the test is very high but I can tell you, when it comes to paint chemistry, Nigeria has some of the best brains to do anything in this world.
Paints in Nigeria
In Nigeria, we have the capacity to produce all kinds of paints. I am just very proud of the kind of professionals we have in this industry. You know, many of them have access and training from different places all over the world. Name the place, we have a chemist from there. So the knowledge is there, but the fluctuations in dollar make it difficult to get all the materials here in Nigeria.
Paints manufactured in Nigeria
That is a very wide range. In Nigeria, we have a wide range of paints. If I look at you, I hope Nigeria is on you, your shoes. If these shoes are made in Nigeria, definitely you are wearing Nigerian paint. It may be from the paint made by one of us, your leather belt, the pencil in your pocket, your biro. All of these are products of this industry that are made in Nigeria.
Foreign paints factories in Nigeria
Well, that is what we all would wish but the truth about it is that each family has its parameters, each family has its strategic plan and there are the other factors – infrastructure, securities, stability of this and that – so that is not the question I can answer for other companies. In general, that is the benefit of this biennial event, the coating show. We are getting more and more interests from foreigners and if you follow more on our discussions, you will find out it has become more internationalised. More foreigners are coming in, and you know, Nigerian economy is what the whole world is now taking note of; everybody will like to have a leg in Nigeria. So for us as a country, we make ourselves readily attractive for them to come in.
Well, it may not be impossible. I will tell you, it may not be impossible but that is the level we are in now because, what is paint at the end of the day? It is pigment and binders. Before the petrochemical industry in Nigeria, Europeans knew how they made paints. Some of these are the basic things. Some are even using oil from animals but it is not particularly viable at this point. I give you an example; the petrochemical industry will do a balancing act and get us rising may be by producing a black pigment for long without that black. It is entirely Nigeria, it is made in Nigeria. But as of now, the petrochemicals don’t add up.
Energy supply in production
That is a general problem for everybody. Anything that affects everybody cannot be singled out as a problem. All you do is try to keep going. However, it is exciting that power generation appears to have risen and there are also other initiatives we hear of, coming in from different governments, federal, states, even from private sectors. Our prayer is that it gets solved at some point, otherwise, you know very well that one of the bedrocks of industrialisation is energy, one way or the other.
Nigerian consumption of paints
We are still very much behind. I wouldn’t want to give you a capital figure but we are very much behind. Our maintenance culture needs a lot of work. You see, people paint once they build a house and for the next 10 to 15, 20 years, they may not touch it. Most times you find that most homes, even those built by some of our members, are not painted until there is a wedding ceremony or birthday parties so that we can present a very good appearance to our guests. So in terms of maintenance, we have a lot to do and again, the state of the economy cannot be taken away from it because it is only when people are fed, house themselves very well, pay school fees and all of that, that you start thinking of some other noble activities like beautifying your house. So it comes down to part of the objectives of holding the coating show to open people’s eyes to manufacturers and you can now see that really with N3,000 or N4,000 you can change the mode in the house, you can change the nuance. You can change the conversation by beautifying the house. And if you have been depressed because of the recession, you find out that one of the ways of getting out of it is to beautify your environment, beautify your home and that lifts your spirit and from there only God knows what, in terms of inspiration, that can happen to you. What I just said has been psychologically tested that when people are happy with their environment, their fertility level goes up. That is why I always advise people to keep a very beautiful, colorful clean environment and you will be much happier.
You know, the society is regulated by law and government is in charge of the law. So it is only wise you plan your investments based on what government is thinking, what government might do and the overall balance in terms of how the society reacts to it. And you must understand that generally in business, infrastructure must go in advance of production, then you start saying, let me do this or go into this investment, in the hope that government’s action at this time will lead to that, so that one will kind of be rationalised. If we think it negative, we will not venture much into it. But as you can see, people are saying the recovery from recession has not trickled down to them. But we are going ahead, we are positive based on what we have found so far.
We see it that this year’s exhibition is bigger than the last one because that has already been validated by the number of exhibitors that we had at this point and we still have to get more.