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Kano recyclers to the rescue as forex crisis hits industries

Thousands of people are making livelihood in Kano, the business hub of the North, by feeding small and medium scale industries with recycled materials, especially…

Thousands of people are making livelihood in Kano, the business hub of the North, by feeding small and medium scale industries with recycled materials, especially rubber and iron.

They are at the same time serving as pain relievers to companies who are finding it difficult to import the raw materials they need for their production due to difficulty in getting foreign exchange, particularly the US dollar.

Both the young and the elderly, including women, have taken the processes of recycling condemned rubber like buckets, jerry-cans, plates, spoons, kettle and disposable rubber bottles, among others, to another level.

Those who spoke to Daily Trust Saturday during a visit to Dakata, one of the areas in Kano metropolis where such activities are carried out, said it was a win-win situation for them, as well as low and medium scale industrialists.

Surajo Musa, who is the chairman of the recyclers at Kaloma, a unit within the Dakata axis, said he and some of his colleagues had been in the business for more than 15 years.

He said it had been a wonderful endeavour as more than 1,000 people earned livelihood within the unit he leads.

“There are over 250 shops within Kaloma alone,” he said.

He said there were more than five other units within Dakata, where hundreds of people are also gainfully employed.

“We have all categories of people who do various things here. Young men go to the towns and villages within Kano and beyond to get condemned rubber.

“They bring them here and we use scales to weigh them and pay based on the quality of the rubber.

“But the most important thing is that it is a new dawn for all of us. We (the recyclers) and the small and medium scale industrialists, who would have been sacked out of business because of high cost of imports, are all making fortune, at least by Nigerian standard.

“Let me give you an example: Buckets and many rubber products you buy at the Sabon Gari market are, to a greater extent, the products of our ingenuity.

“We use different machines to crush the rubber brought by the so-called scavengers.

“Women, for instance, are involved in separating some of the rubber brands, like empty bottles for water, soft drinks and others.  

“So, we help some of these industries to remain alive; and I am sure you will agree with me when you take a visit to Sharada Industrial Estate here in Kano,” Surajo said.

He, however, said their major problem was electricity.

“The high cost of electricity is what is killing our businesses. As I told you earlier, we use various engines to crush the rubber, and this consumes a lot of energy.

“There is a big metre installed in our premises by the Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO). We thank them for this. It is from the metre that various workshops that have smaller metres draw energy.

“We want both the federal and Kano State governments to support us with an alternative but cheap energy source. We also want big time industrialists from Kano, like Aliko Dangote, Abdulsamad Isiaka Rabiu and A.A. Rano, among others, to key into private sector power generation to ease our pains,” he said.

Another recycler in the area, Aminu Ismail, said over 70 per cent of their profit went for power.

“We heard that in some countries, manufacturers and industrialists spend less than 30 per cent of their income on power. Here, we are left with less than 30 per cent of whatever we get to pay salaries, cover other overheads and think of expanding the business.

“We want the government to look into the issue of power generation and distribution. Millions of Nigerians are ready to become self-reliant and also give job opportunities to others. We know that government cannot employ everybody, but with political will, it can provide enabling environment for job creation,” he said.

Malam Jamilu Ahmad, another Kano-based rubber recycler who operates at Dakata, said with the current economic trend, recycling business in Nigeria is now supplying more than 50 per cent of the industrial demands of raw materials, especially rubber and steel.

According to him, the recycling business sector has gained recognition over the years. And it is currently complementing several industrial survivals in the face of the current harsh economic situation in the country.

He said the sector had provided jobs for a lot of people and doing a great deal of intervention in safeguarding the environmental hazard and threats posed by used rubber and steel.

He said that fortunately for those into the business, some financial institutions had begun to recognise the sector, especially in granting loans to boost it.

“It is indeed a sign of progress that some financial institutions in the country have gained confidence in what we do by granting us soft loans. For instance, I personally, and some of our members, have accessed loans from Jaiz Bank on two occasions, and that has helped in boosting the sector. With the assistance we have been getting from Jaiz, we were able to acquire new machines and other equipment that have transformed our business positively,” he said.

He urged other financial institutions to wade in and contribute to the emergence of a new improved recycling business sector that would change the country’s economic strength.

A manager of one of the medium scale industries in Sharada, who gave his name simply as Salisu, also said they heavily relied on recyclers these days.

“They actually give us lifeline. I can assure you that we would have closed shops if not for them because the dollar is too expensive. For instance, on Thursday, it was over N1,602/$ in the official window; and you wonder how some of us can import the raw materials we need.

“So, some of these people in Dakata are our best bets. We produce our cups, plates and other things using what we get from them (in terms of raw materials). And we sell our products in all parts of Nigeria. In fact, merchants from Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Republic come here. Nigerians are highly ingenious,” he said.

How the recycling evolved

Years ago, scavenging was regarded as an informal engagement for less privileged persons or a business meant for indigents. However, as time went on, records have shown that there have been a growing number of scavengers in most cities across the country. And what started as a demeaning venture has turned out to be a positive development because scavenging has become a source of income for many people through its value chain.

The business requires little or no capital at all, but gradually, it has become segregated and segmented based on operational tasks each segment performs. There are collectors who go around scavenging from the refuse, there are scavengers who go around buying, and there are those who serve as collectors. There is also a segment of the extension of the business that has grown to become recyclers.

These recyclers are the ones presently giving the business a new dimension and meaning. The recyclers, it was gathered, have gradually become a strong pillar in the supply of raw materials to rubber and metal companies.

Interestingly, the business has gained recognition as conventional banks and other financial institutions have waded in to assist those involved grow bigger.

It was also reliably gathered that a financial institution had, under a financial agreement, acquired a vast land for the recyclers, hoping to build a strong cluster of recycling hubs for the operators to boost their businesses.

Similarly, another proprietor of a recycling company in Dakata agreed that the business is growing fast, only that the operators of the rubber companies are smiling more than the recyclers because the raw materials supplied by the recyclers have no stable price for uptake. He added that despite battling the issues of high electricity bills and cost of rent, recyclers have managed to keep the business growing.

 

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