Although the global economic scene has been undergoing turbulent moments since the 2009 financial crisis, in Africa, projections are looking good and the paints and coatings industry is one of the economic segments that will benefit from the anticipated five percent GDP growth for 2012 through 2013.
The positive economic growth projected by the International Monetary Fund will be buttressed by increased financing for infrastructure development by governments in the region, an expansion of real estate and transport sectors both in the short and medium term.
“The near-term outlook for the region remains broadly positive, with growth projected above five percent a year in 2012–13,” said the IMF in its October 2012 release IMF Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa: Maintaining Growth in an Uncertain World. “With global commodity prices projected to remain soft and domestic climatic conditions improving, inflation is expected to decline to about eight percent through end 2012, and about seven percent through end 2013.”
Crown Paints Kenya CEO, Rakesh Rao, told the company’s shareholders in Nairobi recently, the high economic prospects will spur expansion of the building construction industry and ensure “demand for paints remains” in the medium term.
However, the 2009/2010 global financial meltdown impacted the paint and coatings industry in several African countries. Some had to make do with high raw material prices, volatile world prices and depreciation of their local currencies.
Paint manufacturers had to balance between rising high production and distribution costs on the one hand and ensuring their customers do not flee from them for increasing prices on the other.
Rao said this trend put pressure on the paint makers’ margins “considering also the international pressure of raw materials.”
The depreciating local currencies meant high prices for construction materials and high interest rates on commercial bank loans. These factors combined to constrain the growth of the region’s real estate sector. But overall, analysts predict good times ahead both for Africa’s economy and the paints and coatings industry.
Market research analyst Frost and Sullivan said, the East African automotive coatings market is likely to grow its revenues to $27 million by 2016.
“The coatings and adhesives market in East Africa has a significant potential despite the recent global economic downturn and the challenges and restraints faced by the countries in this region,” the analyst said. “Investors who capitalize on the developing East African economy will benefit from a market that is driven by minimal competition and limitations when compared to the more developed global markets of Asia, North America and Europe.”
The analyst also said that revenues for the adhesives market that stood at $15.6 million in 2009 could rise to $21.7 million over the next three years.
“Heightened industrial and economic development in East Africa is driving the coatings and adhesives market,” said Kholofelo Maele, Frost and Sullivan’s chemicals, materials and food research analyst. “Additionally, the recently implemented East African Common Market Protocol encourages cross-border trade and industrial expansion within the East African region along with tax benefits for the market participants.”
This is unlike the case for South Africa whose performance was greatly affected by the 2009-2010 global financial crisis resulting in stagnation of the automotive and construction industry. The paints and coatings industry market in the country according to UK-based research firm IRL, were forced to move “in favor of low-medium quality products.”
In its fourth edition report, A Profile of the Middle Eastern and African Paint Industries, IRL paints a bright picture for the North Africa paint and coatings market especially Egypt. Despite the political turmoil that led to the overthrow of former strongman Hosni Mubarak, IRL said the country will lead the anticipated growth of the region’s paints and coatings market driven by the 3.5 percent GDP growth expected of 2012 through 2013.
Elsewhere in Africa, the paints and coatings market has seen key players expanding beyond their countries of origin or forming partnerships that have resulted in new technologies and expanded supply networks across the region.
For example Crown Paint Kenya is expanding its operations to Eastern Africa’s second largest economy, Tanzania, where it is investing in excess of $3 million putting up a manufacturing plant.
“As we look to widen our footprint within East Africa, we have set aside Ksh 250 million (approximately $3 million) to launch operations in Tanzania,” Rao said. “We are currently exporting to South Sudan and Rwanda–which is one of the most innovative and premium markets, Burundi and also getting good market responses in Democratic Republic of Congo.”
The Nairobi-based company, whose sales rose from 12.4 million liters to 14 million liters by 2011, also announced a major deal with the world’s second largest manufacturer and supplier of paint, Hempel, which had earlier acquired Crown Paints UK. The deal in November 2012, paved the way for the sharing of supply networks and technology between the two paint firms.
“By sealing a deal with the second largest manufacturer and supplier of paints in the world, Crown Paints has pulled another rabbit out of the hat. Today we become a player in all sectors of the world paint market,” Rao said.
The expansion was also realized in South Africa where leading global chemical company BASF’s South Africa subsidiary, which also acts as a regional hub to Sub-Saharan Africa, opened the region’s first dispersions plant as part of its strategy to take advantage of the growth expected in the coatings and construction industries in coming months.
“With this new facility we are well positioned to support our customers growth in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa by providing BASF’s high quality, premium service and reliable supply,” said Jacques Delmoitiez, BASF’s president for Europe, Middle East and North Africa when launching the plant in October 2012.
According to Christoph Hansen, BASF’s senior vice president dispersions for adhesives and construction Europe: “South Africa as an emerging market is very attractive for us. By investing into local production of our high-tech acrylic dispersions we can serve our customers in Sub Saharan Africa even more effectively and flexibly.”
A number of countries in Africa have unveiled additional funding for infrastructure development in the medium term. This is expected to trigger demand for infrastructure chemicals and materials according to analysts.
“Governments in the Sub-Saharan Africa region have plans to increase infrastructure investments, signaling augmented demand for chemicals and materials,” said Frost and Sullivan.
The analyst singles out Ghana, Kenya and South Africa where growth of the paint and coatings industry is expected with the governments “having programs underway to increase the infrastructure stock.”
The African Development Bank too, has changed to an extent of triggering increased investment by both the public and private sector hence creating more growth opportunities for the paints and coatings industry. According to the Bank, recognizing the infrastructure gap as an opportunity, both domestic private investors and emerging partners have scaled up their investments in Africa’s infrastructure. The Bank went on to say that “increased private sector role in Africa’s infrastructure has been accompanied by changes in lending and policy facilities of International Finance Institutions.”
It would appear, the African paints and coatings market is putting its best foot forward and its share of the global business is set to go up.