African print manufacturer making a difference on the continent

Keith VroonNovus Holdings, formerly known as the Paarl Media Group, highlighted that Africa forms part of its growth strategy as the company seeks to unlock value in sub-Saharan Africa. This is planned predominately through security printing, such as ballot papers and examination papers, as well as literacy and education products.

Specialising in printing, as well as tissue paper manufacturing, the company has established itself as a comprehensive commercial printing and tissue manufacturing operation on the continent. The business currently operates entirely in South Africa but services customers across Africa.

‘The sub-Saharan region offers great opportunity for us to extend our product offering and grow organically. As the African continent develops, together with its growing retail industry, we see an increase in the demand for paper and tissue products,’ says Keith Vroon, CEO of Novus Holdings, which was with listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange earlier this year.

The impact of manufacturing on literacy

Novus Holdings report that in sub-Saharan Africa, 182 million adults are unable to read and write. In 1990, the adult literacy rate in all of Africa was 53 per cent. It is estimated to be 63 per cent in 2015, according to an information paper by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

According to the print service provider, education is a critical element in developing Africa and a fundamental human right. The biggest barrier to increasing literacy is, however, the lack of books – especially in rural areas.

Vroon believes the physical production and distribution of educational materials is instrumental in the development and success of the continent. ‘Access to information, through written materials including text books, newspapers, reading books, posters, brochures and leaflets encourages literacy, and help promote a reading culture.’ He adds that learning materials are often limited throughout Africa.

Novus Holdings has been able to work on improving this. In South Africa, the company received significant support from the local government to help supply 26 000 schools across the country with more than 50 million workbooks annually.

It also printed and delivered more than 2.8 million school books to Angola, as well as printed and delivered school books to Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, DRC, Zimbabwe, Guinea and Mozambique.

Emerging African markets

Global print trends are playing out differently in emerging markets such as South Africa and parts of Africa, compared to Europe and the US. In these developed markets, digital and television are the dominant communication channels. In the emerging African markets, development challenges such as literacy, education and democracy contribute to a strong demand for printed products.

‘Given the demand for literacy, print manufacturing plays an important part in the development of Africa. We have a dedicated African team and approach business in African countries with partnerships in mind, specifically with funders and operators in the market,’ says Vroon. The business offers experience, diversified product offerings and scale, whereas local operators have a better understanding of the market dynamics and distribution options.

Vroon concludes that through the implementation of faster, more advanced technology and efficient, fully automated production processes, Novus Holdings ensures its position as the leader and preferred supplier of printing requirements for the sub-Saharan region. 

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