Zerma Africa sees challenges, opportunities in West Africa


PHOTO: Jeff Cawcutt of Zerma Africa and Max Paeslack, the Zerma international sales director, were in Lagos for Propak West Africa

GETTING involved in Africa, even when it’s one of the biggest economies on the continent with seemingly large opportunities, is challenging. When it comes to the sale of processing or recycling machinery (and there is a dire need for reprocessing equipment across the continent), that is perhaps even more challenging, as Jeff Cawcutt of Zerma Africa found at Propak West Africa in Lagos, Nigeria, in September.

The Zerma granulating/shredding solution, which combines European technology with Chinese systems and efficiencies, has proved successful in South Africa over the past few years with many converters and recyclers finding the price-to-performance ratio attractive. Zerma specialises in plastic, rubber and wood processing and the experience in each of these specific sectors has enabled it to enhance its technologies for the others, to the point where the wear and throughput performance for just about any plastic crushing challenge to date has been met by Zerma’s systems.

But Jeff and Zerma international sales director Max Paeslack found the going tough in Lagos during the 16-18 September show. This is akin to any salesperson arriving at a new platform and having to go the extra mile to convince potential customers of the efficiency and suitability of its machines. There is no doubt that there is massive demand for recycling systems in Nigeria, where the population demographics are relatively similar to those of South Africa, with the difference that the country’s population is about three times larger – this means that there are at least three times the quantity of plastic scrap around, and a large portion of that is going to landfill or is jettisoned as litter.

Jeff and Max interacted with visitors to the Zerma stand and met some interesting people. Perhaps the fact that Nigeria does not as yet have the sector environmental associations that are active in South Africa (such as Polyco, Petco, SAVA and the Polystyrene Association) has meant that opportunities for increased recycling have not materialised. As a result, recyclers on the ground in Nigeria have not been able to participate in industry-wide programmes to boost recycling, and the use of recycled materials has as a result not become as popular as it is down on the southern tip of the continent.

But Jeff wasn’t expecting to see an overnight miracle and at the very least, Zerma Africa’s first real involvement in Nigeria at least opened the door. Zerma Africa has participated in shows in Egypt and Morocco and sold machines across the continent (its recycling lines have proved fairly popular in Kenya), and plans to continue that process in West Africa.