In the latest Opportunité Africa podcast, Connect Africa founder Brendon Jones speaks to Jumoke Benson, founding partner and MD of Knots & Gear Engineering and Procurement, on the evolution of the Nigerian manufacturing industry and the transformation of the supply chain.
Jumoke touches upon crucial challenges being faced by the manufacturing sector, which contributes as much as 10% of the GDP of Africa’s largest economy. She elaborates how cost of imported materials, access to power, and availability of skilled labour are the key bottlenecks facing the manufacturing sector, with focus on how Knots and Gear is helping its clients to overcome these constraints by making world-class inventory management solutions available to them and upskilling locals by supporting subsidised education initiatives such as the Institute for Industrial Technology (IIT), Lagos, which is being run by the Lagos Business School. In addition, she also comments that there is a deep gender divide in the engineering sector, and that as a woman founder of an Engineering solutions and procurement company, she has taken the onus of selecting, mentoring and upskilling girls from a neighbouring school who wish to pursue higher studies in engineering.
Coming to sustainable operations, with Nigeria being one of the four largest emitters in Africa and around 7% of Africa’s total emissions coming from the manufacturing sector, Jumoke agrees that it is high time for change. To this effect, she notes that many of their customers are now running their manufacturing plants on gas instead of using diesel generators; as well as switching to renewable energy such as solar panels to power their boilers in place of using diesel.
Indicating the sheer scope for growth for the Nigerian manufacturing sector, she emphasises that there is tremendous appetite for manufactured goods in the domestic market. Indeed, there are opportunities for entrenched players and potential manufacturers alike with Singapore-headquartered companies such as OLAM and the Tolaram Group actively availing services from Knots and Gear to ensure uninterrupted manufacturing operations on the ground in Nigeria – while she avers that newcomers are eager to enter the sector but simply need to get a firm assurance that there are companies to provide them with efficient technical services and after-sales support for the high-cost machines that power their plants.
For the way forward, she hopes to support the government’s agenda of import substitution by setting up assembly plants in Nigeria. She thought-provokingly remarks that a majority of the items that Knots and Gear provides its customers with are currently being imported but at least some of these items can be assembled locally, if not outright manufactured in country. This would help facilitate the process of knowledge transfer and import substitution – magnifying the impact and value creation that Knots and Gear brings to the local economy.