Printing industry Africa – Printers and equipment in high demand

Shortage of printers following an increased demand on the African continent

Africa is currently experiencing a critical shortage of printers and print-related equipment. The shortage presents an opportunity for foreign suppliers to enter the African market. For those of you wondering how Enterprise Africa is an eCommerce platform that was specifically designed to facilitate B2B business transactions between foreign suppliers and African buyers.  Foreign suppliers have the option of storing their products in a local warehouse in Africa or dropship their products on demand.

According to The Business Research Company’s “2022 Printing Global Market Report”, the global print market size is expected to grow from $311.53 billion in 2021 to $322.43 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5%.

The printing market is expected to grow to $350.2 billion in 2026 at a CAGR of 2.1%. The African print market is expected to surpass US$ 235.3 million by the end of 2031.  These strong numbers suggest that the printing industry globally as well as in Africa is opening doors to embracing new trends and technologies.

Increased demand for digital printing in Africa

The African continent has seen an uptick in the use of digital inkjet printers, given its faster printing rate as compared to traditional printers. The inkjet print market is currently worth $80.4 billion, which is likely to reach $118.2 billion in 2025. Furthermore, there has also been a noticeable movement from the traditional black and white printing to colour printing which has paved the way for growth in the demand for laser and inkjet printers in Africa. With an estimated 2 000 commercial printing companies operating in Africa, the majority of which are small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs), this demand is predicted to intensify even further, which will contribute to even higher growth across the continent.

More specifically, there are twelve (12) African countries that are developing the African Digital Print industry – the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Shortage of printers and print-related equipment in Africa

A decade ago, screen printing would have been done in South Africa and then shipped into the rest of Africa, but as run lengths are declining and people are printing more digitally, the trends have changed significantly. Consumers and companies in the rest of Africa have started purchasing their own grand format printers so that they can print locally.

An unfortunate challenge that African print suppliers face is the case of a channel business in East Africa that saw supplies drop from a regular 2,000-unit multifunction printer (MFP) shipment to fewer than 100 units.

Primary challenges

Print industry players in Africa are asking some probing questions that also demonstrate the primary challenges they face, such as:

  • Where should they devote their limited resources?
  • Which markets represent the best opportunities for them?
  • How are customer expectations evolving and how they can tailor offers to suit them?
  • How they can cross-sell and simultaneously leverage their existing resources?

It is clear that there is a high demand for devices, parts, and consumables, but supplying has become somewhat troublesome due to the lack of printers and print-related parts available to the African market. Supply is having significantly greater impacts for some original equipment manufacturers (OEM) of digital production equipment this presents a big opportunity to foreign suppliers that are looking to partner with local African companies or supply directly to B2B purchasers in Africa.

Market opportunities in Africa

The African continent is also seeing significant interest in capturing software-related solutions. The growing global shift toward cloud solutions, particularly accessible to the small to medium enterprise (SME) market across sectors from fintech to retail, healthcare, insurance, and others, is driving near double-digit growth.

As digital disruption continues to intensify, there has been an upswing in cloud computing, where applications and products are no longer hosted on desktops or laptops and instead, users can directly access such services from the cloud. Cloud printing is therefore emerging as one of the hottest trends in the industry, with 67% of organisations expected to increase their use of cloud print management, and a further 5% planning to move to cloud printing completely.

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed business priorities and ways of working around the globe, and Africa is no different. Consumers now prefer to work in the cloud due to its benefits such as flexibility, the potential to increase productivity and efficiency and delivering real cost benefits. Providing cloud-managed print services is no longer an add-on but a prerequisite in Africa.

Printing services that are convenient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly, whilst delivering a great quality output will pave the way for future trends in the printing industry across Africa.

Market trends in Africa

There are trends toward growing sophistication in some of Africa’s emerging markets, such as the embryonic solution sales approaches that have taken root in Ghana and Kenya. That implies the transformation of both the suppliers’ desire to establish greater relevance with customers as well as evolutionary customer requirements.

But, while solution selling is demonstrating a stronger presence in many sub-Saharan African markets, product sales still form the bulk of the market.

Availability of stock

The lack of available stock ins Africa is the overriding challenge across the board. One of the ways organisations are dealing with it is by branching out to source equipment from multiple vendors as it enables them to continue serving their customers. One of the problems around that is existing sole agency channel agreements.

However, many OEMs are taking long-term outlooks to work with their channel partners in this way throughout Africa. This is a tight industry across the continent.

Another way African print equipment suppliers are dealing with stock challenges is by growing segment diversification within markets. It enables suppliers to leverage their existing skills to grow revenues in adjacent segments, diversify risk, and maintain or even grow revenue streams.

While we can expect the OEMs and channels to continue to battle supply challenges for the foreseeable future, they demonstrate sector health by keenly investing in data to determine adjacent market growth and expansion opportunities.

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