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How we achieved local content in cable manufacturing

Published by The Nation on Sun, 25 Aug 2019

George Onafowokan is the Managing Director of Coleman Wires and Cables Limited. In this interview with Charles Okonji, he speaks on the companys plan to enhance and promote local content in the sector as well as increase investment in Nigeria. Excerpts:What efforts are you making to ensure local content thrives in the cable manufacturing subsector'This is an indigenous company that believes a lot in local content. For local content, what makes us outstanding is that we are always pushing the limit. Today we are expert in high voltage production of Specialty Linear Polymers (SLP) and high voltage cable production. We are the only source in West Africa, Central Africa and East Africa. We have pushed the limit of that till now and we are moving local content into SLP and marine cable production which is our next face of production.We have started working on some new cables and it will be the first of its kind in this region. The cable called WTR has never been considered for production in history in this part of the world. The IOC was what they were skeptical about but today, that cable has been tested by the IOC company and they are proudly talking about it.This tells you that there is possibility of local content if we drive and believe that Nigeria can do it and that is the level of skepticism that we have to keep breaking. To make it viable, we must raise the bar and raising the bar is not about getting the job, but in standards, machinery, and capacity building in Health and Safety Commitment policy (HSC), quality assurance and employee systems.Once you raise the bar, it makes everybody to feel at ease. Some Europeans who visited our factory and test lab were surprised at what they saw and they asked if they could bring cables for recertification in our labs. Some of the equipment in our own lab can only be seen here in this country. I have a testing lab that cost a million dollars and how many people can afford this' So the investment bar has to be so high that you are either feeling you are in Europe or even feel beyond that.This is what we stand for and we got it right from day one because we push the investment bar as our company can compete favourably anywhere in the world. I will use the word of Engr. Simbi Wabote when he was speaking during a programme that if oil and gas companies dont practicalise local content, at the end of the day the tsunami of people going across the sea will not stop because. If they dont create jobs in this country some people will even be willing to cross the sea.More jobs must be created to reduce unemployment. Our drive is to make cables cheap at a reasonable price to all. Our cost of investment is a lot higher than any other cable company and that has been our success point. If you are hoping to get returns in six months, you can never be successful in the cable business.How do you think epileptic power supply can be addressed and how is it affecting your industry'The only solution to epileptic power supply in Nigeria is deregulation of the power sector. You need to make it possible for me to generate, transmit and distribute power or does anyone of them do without hindrances' That is the solution. We all keep talking about the telecommunications sector. This happens because the government acted as the regulator and allowed the private sector to drive it.I could remember we bought a sim card for N25,000 and we were paying per minute billing. We cannot deregulate a sector and still allow monopoly. We cannot have Distribution Companies (DISCOs) here and there and still expect a miracle to happen. There is no competition, we must deregulate totally. We should make power to be easily sold to people at cheaper rates and if the price is competitive, the ability to move from one power provider to another will be easy.Can you tell some of the recent achievements of the company'The major move by the company was the opening of its first high voltage factory in Nigeria 2014, which was and is still the first investment to directly make impact. The NOGIC Act of 2010 for the country produce high voltage cable. Prior to that, we made every low voltage cable, but this still didnt get headway since 2009, when we built the biggest factory in the West Africa at that time.With the promulgation of the Act, the government has clearly established its intention to increase indigenous participation in the industry in terms of human, material and economic resources. I will say our efforts started geminating seed under the NOGIC as Coleman Wins NOG 2019 Nigeria Best Indigenous Company. We won the Nigeria Oil and Gas (NOG) 2019 indigenous company of the year award which is the first in the 18th edition of NOG award in their industry.The ceremony held at the NOG conference that took place in Abuja. The award was presented by the former and pioneer Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Arch. Denzil Kentebe and received by me. For us, what earned us this honour is years of hard work and investment by the Coleman team, especially with focus on investment on products that are directly on NOLGIC Act of 2010. Most people taught we got into the oil and gas sector about two years ago, but sincerely we have been in oil and gas business for over nine years (in the NOGIC act of 2010) quietly pushing the business into recognition.How has government policy enhanced the company'NCBMB has been fighting for Coleman based on what they have seen. It has taken over five years of additional investment of over $30 million to yield patronage from the oil and gas industry. Nobody will invest such a huge amount of money on an investment that will start yielding fruit after five years, but Coleman broke every rule on book of investment and decision making, because we believe in long term prospect of the industry and in the law backing the industry.Based on what Coleman has shown that can be done in country cables sector, this has made NCDMB fully convinced to fight for the whole industry in order to encourage others to push the boat and patronise locally produced cables. With this encouragement, we started gaining entrance in IOCs and job started coming in 2018.What makes you outstanding amongst others'We are outstanding because of our internal policy. Our policy started with our resolve that we will not import what we could not produce, which meant that we must try and do everything possible to start producing locally. For me as the leader of the team, within the first one or two years, I studied this industry and I felt we needed to think differently for this industry to be successful because we have so many deficiencies from infrastructure, power, water amongst others.For an industry that depends heavily on power using diesel generator or other alternative power like gas generator, it is a tough industry to be in, as you have to make additional provision of almost of about 30 percent of your total investment of the project just on power solutions which is far more than other businesses. In order for us to meet up with the expectation of customers on pricing we are forced to make far bigger investment in capacity in order to meet that expectation of a viable and good cable price. To others, high voltage investment was a blind investment but we knew what we were doing with the new investment and the team believed in it which over time we have been able to prove that it was a right decision we made.My colleagues that cautioned me when we started, dont say so anymore because this made us to outstanding. We have over N20 billion worth of investments so far and we are still investing. By 2020, we will have additional $40 million investment that will be commissioned in the first quarter of next year and all have to do with cable. For us this is how far we can take it.You recently won an award, can you tells us about it'Yes, the Coleman Wires and Cables Limited won the Nigeria Oil and Gas (NOG) 2019 indigenous company of the year award, which is the first in the 18th edition of NOG awards in their industry. The ceremony held at the NOG conference that took place in Abuja. The award was presented by the former and pioneer Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Arch. Denzil Kentebe and received by me.
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