The Chief Executive Officer, Zobis Cables Nigeria Limited, a wire manufacturing company based in Anambra, Mr. John Ezeobi, in this interview laments that importation of inferior cables continues to hinder the growth of domestic manufacturers. David-Chyddy Eleke brings the excerpts:
How can cable manufacturing industry in Nigeria contribute more to economic growth?
First of all, I must say that the cable manufacturing sector is already doing a lot in terms of employment generation and saving of foreign currency. An emerging cable manufacturing company no matter how small, needs not less than 100 staff to run smoothly, and the big players have between 400 and 800 direct staff. We have not considered indirect employments. In terms of conservation of foreign currency, Nigeria is a very big market in which massive volume of importation of cables is going on. What that means is that the country is spending so much on foreign currency which leads to unfavorable balance of trade. But we, the manufacturers are helping to reduce the volume of imports closing the supply gap with quality locally produced cables.
What are the major challenges facing the Nigerian cable industry?
The problems are simple, they are mainly poor electricity supply and proliferation of substandard imported cables. The power supply situation is so bad that we wholly rely on self-generated power for us to function optimally. The money spent on generators, fueling and maintenance of generators is building huge so much into our operational cost, this makes our products more expensive than they should be especially when compared to the imported variety. So, we need government to fix the power sector making electricity providers to give a minimum of 18 hours of supply daily.
Again, most imported cables are substandard quality and of low prices, they are putting undue pressure on Nigeria products, the federal government needs to protect the local industry by checking indiscriminate imports of foreign cable.
How did Zobis Cables grow to become a cable manufacturing company?
I started as a trading company; that is buying and sell of electrical cables, from there we graduated to importation of these cables before deciding to go into full manufacturing. Zobis decided to go into manufacturing because most imported cables and wires do not have guarantee. As an importer, if you go to foreign company and give them specification of what you want, they produce something else.
What do you do when a wrong specification or substandard cable is shipped to you?
When a batch of substandard product arrives Nigeria, it is very expensive to send them back to country of origin, the importer will be forced to sell below cost price to dispose them, it is impossible to say you want to screen the individual quality of over 10,000 coils of cable, so most times you are selling what you are not sure of.
Was there any government policy that made you to go into production?
No, there was no policy of federal government be it monetary or fiscal that made us to go into manufacturing, it was just part of our expansion plan. We saw an opportunity and decided to take advantage, because at a time it became difficult to source for Nigerian produced cable. Those manufacturing it were few and the demand for it was quite high.
How did the journey to Zobis Manufacturing Company all start?
In 2012 we ventured into the process, built the factory, installed machines and other preliminaries before the exchange rate became so high that we could not continue because of dollar rate.
We waited and monitored the economy and when it became clear the exchange range had become stable though at a high rate, we felt we could now plan with some degree of certainty and that was how we effectively commenced production in 2019.
What range of products does Zobis offer?
We produce wide variety of house wiring and low voltage cables like single, flat and flexible cables in different sizes which include 1.0mm single cables,1.5mm single cable, 2.5mm single cable, 4.0mm single cables.
So why should we patronise Nigerian made cables and wires?
The advantage of patronising made in Nigeria cable is that there is an industrial standard, if the product is certified it gains universal acceptance, before you move the product out of the factory, the quality control department must confirm that it conforms with the approved standard.
There are government agencies that regulate the market, they are out there checking compliance, if you are found wanting, you will be made to face severe consequence. No producer will like to invest and lose his money. If an investor works hard to build a brand, he will not want to rubbish the brand and lose his investment because he wants to cut cost or engage in unwholesome industrial practice, what that means is that locally produced cables are guaranteed.
What are some of the negative effects of poor quality cable?
Poor quality cables and wire are partly responsible for electric fires incidences we have. If the copper that is used is free of impurity, it will not easily ignite in the event of surge but substandard wire will burn through because of the impurity.
What is the local content of raw materials that go into the manufacturing of local cable products?
The locally sourced raw materials that goes into our manufacturing process is about 60 per cent and 40 per cent are imported, this is an improvement on the past when the raw materials were 100 per cent imported. The major inputs are copper and Polyvinyl Chloride PVCs; for copper we have indigenous copper manufacturers who produce that and it is about 99.9 per pure. But we still import PVC because the ones we have here are not up to standard, some of them don’t withstand heat and it does not give smooth finish.
How saturated is the Nigerian cable manufacturing industry?
Nigeria market is very large and can accommodate more 100 manufacturers, our major challenge is the influx of substandard foreign products, importers are killing the sector with low quality and cheap products. I want to encourage more people to come into the industry for there to be more competition because competition gives birth to superior ideas which will further increase our overall competitiveness.
How can government assist to grow the cable manufacturing industry in Nigeria?
Manufacturing business is not rosy in Nigeria, government has to come in and assist local manufacturers, we need constant electricity, low cost of finance and tax incentives, we want access to low interest loans, these will encourage expansion and generation of more