One of the most important needs of man is shelter. Unfortunately, Nigerians have been suffering from a deficit in the sector due mainly to the high cost of building materials. In this piece, our Correspondent reports that the sector got a boost recently with the introduction of Fibre Cement Boards into the market.
The importance of housing is central to the welfare of the citizens of any society. Shelter makes up one of the basic needs of man and with a huge population of over 200 million; Nigeria’s housing sector is expected to be very vibrant. With such a large market, it is predictable that housing needs would evolve to utilizing diverse materials designed to suit local market needs.
The Fibre Cement Board whose manufacture in Nigeria is pioneered by a Chinese company, New Material Nigeria Company Limited is one of the innovative products introduced into the housing construction sector which promises to revolutionize the way houses are built in Nigeria. The product has the potential of transforming the building sector with qualities which suit building engineers and consumers.
Nigeria’s current housing deficit is estimated at 17-20 million Units. This deficit is partly driven by high cost of building materials among other factors identified by professionals in the industry. Increasing poverty, overpopulation and migration has put pressure on Nigeria’s housing woes thereby generating a need for more advanced and cost efficient materials like the Fibre Cement Board.
A Fibre Cement Board or FCB is a composite board made of cement, cellulose fibre like paper pulp and quartz stones and sand. They are used in building construction as walls, partitioning, roofing and flooring. FCBs are hard, durable and resistant to weather corrosion. For the first time, these boards will be manufactured in Nigeria by a Chinese company.
The company, New Material Nigeria Company Limited, is a subsidiary of the Chinese group CNBM, China New Building Material group wholly owned by the government of China. It is a globally recognizable brand known for high quality building materials and diverse investment in cement, gypsum and solar energy. The company whose affiliates have been working in Nigeria and constructed Lafarge and Dangote factories are helping manufacturing industries set up with high quality and safety standards.
The Fibre Cement Board factory in the Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT Abuja is the first abroad built by China.
Speaking with journalists during a new product news briefing, the Managing Director of the company, Mr. Jackie Dai Hui expressed elation at being involved in manufacturing in a country like Nigeria with such a vast market. He said, “It is a good opportunity for our company to enter Nigeria. That’s why we have to work together, share together to bring the immense advantages of this new material to the Nigerian people”.
The factory has a production capacity of 5million square feet of Fibre Cement Board per annum while the second phase will feature an expanded capacity of 10 million square feet per annum.
The uses of Fibre Cement Board in building construction are multifaceted. As internal wall partitioning, these boards provide excellent strength, soundproof and fireproof qualities that make them the preferable alternative. As exterior wall cladding, FCBs are weather-resistant and are highly energy efficient thus contributing to climate goals. As good insulators of heat and sound, they are preferred to the solid cement block or bricks commonly used.
Expectedly, a major point of interest is the source of raw materials for the innovative Cement Fibre Boards. Devising a strategy of organic growth relying on local inputs, the company aims at long term business sustainability through viable partnerships with other local industries and players.
“We source locally”, says Dai Hui. “That’s why we have confidence to grow and stay in Nigeria.” Essential materials like paper pulp are sourced from Kano while locally manufactured cement is also utilized to produce the very high quality Cement Fibre Boards which are harder and more durable than other materials in its class. Quartz sand and stones are other important ingredients which are all entirely sourced locally.
In terms of capacity building for local content, the company which employs over 120 Nigerians also has Nigerians on its management team. Technical staff is given adequate manpower training and technology transfer is ensured through skill acquisition.
The $50 million factory located in the Kuje Area Council in Abuja also has capacity to train students on industrial attachment. The company expressed willingness to collaborate with Nigerian universities to research other similar products. Similarly, it brings its technical expertise to bear in making analysis and projections for the Nigeria building material industry.
The presence of the factory in Nigeria holds the potential of $60 million savings for Nigeria, funds which would have left the shores of Nigeria in imports.
Made from raw materials like paper pulp, cement sourced locally, quartz stone among others; civil engineers have described Fibre Cement Boards as the workable alternative to gypsum boards. “It is the prefab product of the future,” says Noel Offor, a civil engineer. Use of the FCB drastically cuts cost of labour. A product with an environmentally friendly composition, it is also water and fireproof. The latter quality makes it the product of choice where fireproofing concerns are high. FCB are choice materials for buildings like markets and malls, warehouses, offices and other public buildings where the risk of fires are higher.
Enthused on how the FCB can replace the gypsum board, Dai Hui said, “For gypsum boards, you have to import from abroad like Turkey but prices are really high and the Nigerian government has to pay dollars abroad. But now you have a local factory in Nigeria, we source raw materials locally so we can produce in Nigeria in the name of Nigeria and we can export to ECOWAS, to Europe and to America.”
Gypsum imports from three countries alone Turkey, Spain and Egypt are worth over $132 million a year. Locally produced Fibre Cement Board is an alternative to this flight of scarce foreign exchange.
Expectedly, a major point of interest is the source of raw materials for the innovative Cement Fibre Boards. Explaining his company’s strategy, Hui said, “The reason we can grow in Nigeria is because we source everything in Nigeria. It is made in Nigeria. And we can also use this material to make Nigeria proud through Nigerian product.”
Devising a strategy of organic growth relying on local inputs, the company aims at long term business sustainability through viable partnerships with other local industries and players.
“We source locally,” says Hui. “That’s why we have confidence to grow and stay in Nigeria.” Essential materials like paper pulp are sourced from places like Kano while locally manufactured cement are also utilized to produce the very high quality Cement Fibre Boards which are harder and more durable than other materials in its class. Quartz sand and stones are other important ingredient which are all entirely sourced locally.
The innovative nature of the company’s flagship product, Fibre Cement Board, has necessitated the need to create new standards for such a new material. Thus, the company is working closely with the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) to develop new protocols for assessing standards for Fibre Cement Boards. Narrating this to journalists, Dai Hui said, “When we came to do business here, we go (sic) to the standards authority but they could not find this item Fibre Cement Board on their list. It is a new product. So we were able to help the Nigerian government to make new standards for this new material in Nigeria”. This increases SON’s overall technical competence and provides an invaluable learning curve for standards assessors in Nigeria.
Industrial safety is of prime concern for the management. Health and safety practices are of utmost importance in the factory as extensive safety systems are put in place. Fire prevention measures and the mandatory use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are among.
The $50m factory located in the Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja has capacity to train students in industrial attachment. The company also expressed willingness to collaborate with Nigerian universities to research other similar products. Similarly, it brings its technical expertise to bear in making market analysis and projections for Nigeria building material industry.
Being a commercial interest vying for a share in the local market, New Material Nigeria Company has adopted a warm, friendly face within its community of operations. It has provided boreholes, roads and carried out school renovations. Unlike many foreign-owned companies operating in Nigeria, New Material Nigeria Ltd makes active effort to provide incentives like food and provisions to Nigerians during festivals. “Because we get from Nigeria, we have to share with Nigerians,” Dai Hui further stated.
On future projects, the company plans to build a new factory in Lagos for export while retaining the Abuja factory for production for domestic use. Quoting Chinese President Xi Jinping, Hui said the entrance of New Material Nigeria Company into the Nigerian market was in furtherance of a shared prosperity vision.