Rife with challenges such as limited financial and local capacity and unavailability of advanced technologies, the printing sector is looking to undertake remedial action that would change its fortunes for the better.
One of the main issues that have been engulfing the sector has to do with printing raw materials, which, due to high operational cost and other related factors are being imported.
As a result, Ethiopia has not able to fulfill the ever increasing demand for printing materials, Ethiopia Printers and Publishers Association says.
The Association's President Teka Abadi indicates that so far the Association has conducted various researches based on the challenges the sector has been facing, and discussed the issue with various stakeholders and put forward way-out strategies.
"We have also identified low government attention as a bottleneck for the development of the sector. Accordingly, we are expecting the government to take positive measures that would facilitate the sector's development."
Many investors have a tendency to engage in the printing sector, he says, but dearth of raw material, absence of foreign currency to import raw materials, shortage of skilled manpower, and above all, lack of incentive to attract investors to engage in the sector have made the sector uninviting.
Andualem Legesse is the Acting Director of Pulp, Paper Packaging Industries at the Chemical Inputs Development Institute.
Recognizing that skilled manpower is one of the main bottlenecks for the sector's development, he says, since its inception, the Institute has been assisting the sector by building manpower capacity and developing occupational standard and educational curriculum.
Double taxation on raw materials is the other challenge yet to be resolved. Given that decision-makers can solve this issue through research, efforts have been exerted by Ministry of Industry and MoFED to remedy the issue of double taxation once and for all, he adds.
The Institute has also been working aggressively to enhance market linkage between local producers and international industries. It also gives advice to companies to focus on international market rather than targeting local consumers.
It has also conducting study on packaging industry jointly with Industry Project Service and Industry Ministry. The study depicts that the sector need to grow four times over by the end of 2020.
The study projected that other industries will show great progress; and thus the packaging industry will be high in demand. In a bid to attain the aforesaid vision, the Institute has been introducing investment opportunity for local and international investors.
Legal and Policy Affairs Adviser with Ethiopian Investment Commission, Fantu Farise says that if there was an in-depth understanding of the challenges facing the printing industry, and solutions to address the identified problems, there would be no reasons that prohibit the industry from flourishing.
"For this to happen, undue support from the stakeholders is highly needed to enhance the industry and change the opportunities into tangible benefits."
When population size and economic growth increases, inevitably, the demand for printing materials also increases. And if published materials are not produced with local capacity, the demand would only be fulfilled by imported products.
About 60 percent of the product demand is covered by imported products. So far, over 90 percent of the raw materials are also imported.
Local investors are highly encouraged to invest in the sector ,Fantu says adding, accordingly 1,000 companies are engaged in the printing sector, but few companies are competing with international products.
As the industry is capital intensive, it requires the presence of advanced technology. That is why only few investors are engaged in pulp production. But it needs some improvements in terms of providing products with the required quality and quantity, as to Fantu.
The government has facilitated some incentives for investors who show interests to engage in paper industry. But, the sector requires wide-ranging support from government side. To solve the problem various stakeholders have been undertaking various activities. But here concerted effort is required to better manage the sector.
Andualem further says that some projects in the pipeline are expected to bring changes in paper production industry.
Yekatit Printing Works Private Limited Company is case in point. The company has allocated 1.9 billion birr to buy advanced machinery for paper production. When it becomes operational, it would address 90 percent of raw material demand.
By and large, as it is stipulated in the research that the attention given to the sector is very minimal. This sector has its own contribution to the industry, and by understanding the benefit the country would gain or lose, the government should give serious attention to the sector.