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World Envelope Day: Experts emphasise paper industry sustainability amid digitalisation

Some experts have advocated the need for policy action for the Nigerian paper industry amidst digitalisation to boost economic growth and development.

They made the call at a Business Roundtable and inauguration of World Envelopes Day to commemorate the FAE envelopes 50th anniversary on Tuesday in Lagos.

The event’s theme is :”The Pivotal Role of the Paper Industry in the Nigerian Economy”.

FAE is the leading envelope manufacturing, customising, supplying and producing company in Nigeria with a presence in Franco-phone and West Africa countries.

Dr Muda Yusuf, Founder, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), emphasised the need to fix the current monetary, fiscal, structural and regulatory challenges facing the paper industry to revive the sector.

He noted that the country had a vibrant pulp and paper industry between the late 60s and early 90s, with upstream industries providing intermediate inputs for the downstream segments of the industry.

Yusuf stated that the paper industry had profound economic impact across all sectors of the economy, with its value chain more impactful with millions of jobs created in the paper industry value chain.

He, however, observed that digitalisation was a critical issue facing the paper manufacturing industry as the rise of digital technology led to a decrease in demand for paper products.

He also emphasised the need for players in the paper industry to mitigate the environmental impact of paper production such as deforestation, air and water pollution, alongside chemical and water contamination.

“As a matter of urgency, the collapse of the upstream industries in the paper sector needs to be addressed, particularly paper mills that have become moribund.

“The major government agencies that have huge budgetary allocations for expenditure on papers, envelopes and other paper products should be compelled to patronise domestic paper products producers and service providers.

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“From a monetary policy point of view, the current interest rate is very prohibitive and it will be impossible for any manufacturing company to survive with an interest rate of over 30 per cent.

“I am therefore proposing that to protect the paper industry and indeed the manufacturing sector, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) needs to quickly activate concessionary financing window.

“There is a need to continue to protect domestic manufacturing firms through fiscal policy measures while also ensuring that the competitiveness issues of domestic industries are addressed,” he said.

Princess Funlayo Bakare-Okeowo, Managing Director, FAE Ltd., stated that paper could be Nigeria’s second oil, emulating countries like Finland and Portugal where paper contributed largely to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Bakare-Okeowo emphasised the need for a paper research institute and the establishment of paper mills across the country to enhance pulp exportation and fully exploit the potential of the paper industry.

She said the establishment of World Envelopes Day was to raise awareness about the importance of envelopes in various aspects of human endeavour, including personal correspondence, business transactions, and creative expressions.

“Nigeria has the technical knowhow to be the largest paper producer globally given our population.

“As we celebrate our golden jubilee, we are delighted to announce the inauguration of 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 and the envelope day is to revive the country’s postal attitude as hard copy connotes serious mindedness.

“Other countries still have their functional post offices in spite of the fact that digitalisation started from European countries.

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“Hence, it is very important to balance the equation between digitalisation and the paper industry,” she said.

Bakare-Okeowo also restated the company’s commitment to sustainable practices.

She stated that FAE Ltd. would be launching initiatives aimed at reducing environmental footprint, promoting recycling, and exploring eco-friendly materials in its manufacturing processes.

Lady Maiden Ibru, Publisher, Guardian Newspaper Ltd., stated the need to sustain Nigeria’s paper industry in spite of the prevailing trends towards digitalisation.

This, she said, was to allow the industry to continue to create jobs for a significant number of people and contribute to economic growth by generating revenue, tax and via trade.

Ibru noted that not everyone in Nigeria had access to digitalisation and sustaining the paper industry would allow information to be accessible to a wider population, particularly in regions with limited digital infrastructure.

“While digitalisation has the potential to reduce environmental pollution, paper can be a renewable resource and Nigeria can minimise its environmental impact.

“Hence, the need to strike a balance for both digitalisation and sustaining paper industry to coexist for a more sustainable future for Nigeria,” she said.(NAN)

Rukayat Moisemhe
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