Why we can’t set up polyethylene manufacturing plant in Nigeria now — Allesandro, Dow Chemical

Alessandro Corticelli, is the Sales Director, , Middle East Africa and Turkey, MEA&T, Adhesives, the Dow Chemical Company, the largest polyethylene, resin and adhesives producer in the world.

Alessandro Corticelli

Alessandro was in Nigeria last week with Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics’ packaging team, to engage Dow’s customers in West Africa on the company’s latest innovations in packaging and specialty plastics packaging that can make Africa region safer, healthier, cleaner and more sustainable. 

In this interview with Vanguard’s Franlin Alli, he bares his mind on Nigerian packaging industry and other issues affecting the sector. Excerpts:

WHAT’s the essence of the West Africa Customers’ Day?

The purposes of the customer day are to enhance stronger collaborations with our customers and how we can accelerate increased demand for food safety, shelf life and supply chain transport in West Africa. We have presented solutions that are the answers to food safety problems in Africa. We have tackled how we can deliver packaging solutions that can extend the shelf life of food from three days to over 14 days in store, with in-store waste reduced from an average 3 percent of stock to less than 1 percent. We have also shown how we can go from rigid plastics packaging to flexible packaging solutions, as well as how we can design products for sustainability and recyclability. So, we are here exactly for collaboration and we expect the Nigerian private sector to drive the process.

One of the problems we are having in Nigeria is packaging, especially among exporters. When they package their products, some of them are rejected in Europe and America. Are you looking at that?

I’m not surprised that Nigerian exports are rejected  abroad. Although the country is developing, yet the level of sophisticated packaging here is not the same as in Europe. But the packaging industry here is progressing and getting better. Since I started dealing with this region four years ago, I have seen packaging changing in the last four years because of Dow’s presence but we are not the only reason for things getting better in the packaging world. There is process of sophistication in the industry-when you go around the digital world, there are other players in the industry with more expensive and sophisticated production links. So, Nigerian market is improving on packaging. 

Nigeria is a peculiar market as electricity supply is irregular. Have you taken this into consideration in developing packaging solutions for the market?

Any market is a peculiar market, and Nigeria is similar to other African countries.  Ghana and South Africa have power problems, so, yes; we have taken everything into consideration and we would like to introduce flexible packaging materials that meet the need of the market. 

What is your plan to set up polyethylene manufacturing plant in Nigeria which is the biggest market in Africa?

We don’t have such a plan now to set up polyethylene plant in Nigeria. For polyethylene to be sustainable and viable from economic point of view is to be producing at least 450,000 metric tonnes annually. Nigeria is not big enough for that kind of investment. For example, our largest markets are in Europe – Germany, France; Spain and Italy.  We have manufacturing plants in Germany and France, same for United Kingdom. The reality is economy of scale, of course, this is for short-term future. For long-term, our concern is electricity; polyethylene plant consumes quite a lot of electricity. It has to generate its own electricity because it is a big consumption factor for investment in any country. We don’t have polyethylene plant in Africa but we have a plant in Saudi Arabia because of economy of scale in setting up the plant. Even in Europe where we have manufacturing plant, we import raw materials from Saudi Arabia. 

What’s your growth plan for Dow  in Nigeria, in the next five years?

We want to be the market leader. The Nigerian economy is going up and down like other economies but there is an estimate from Citi Group that between 2030-50, the Nigerian GDP will be the largest growing one in 40 years. So, Nigeria is pointing to be what Germany and Japan had been after World War II.

They started from middle-level and then a boom. That is what the bank said. So, in our perspective, we would  like to be a leader of a much larger market in terms of packaging knowledge and infrastructure transfer.

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