Sector must move beyond paper to meet sustainability demands and counter digital creep
The future is bright for the Middle East & Africa’s stationery market, with a new report predicting the sector will achieve annual growth of 3.2 percent over the next six years to reach a regional record worth of US $12.93 billion.The report, by event knowledge partner 6Wresearch, makes for optimistic reading but points to shifts needed if the sector is to reach its full potential with the sustainability of products and supplies a key growth factor. Growth hotspots The Middle East will be the region’s strongest performer at a predicted annual 4.3 percent growth, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia being the main driving forces, while Africa’s forecasted 3.1 percent annual growth will be largely propelled by South Africa and Nigeria. Investment in education is expected to account for two-thirds of the growth, with the remainder attributed to office investment. Growing literacy and the spread of education are pushing the sector forward, but an accelerated adoption of digitalisation could hinder progress. It’s a factor that sector players are advised to heed in forward strategies. “There is an opportunity for growth, but the increasing adoption of technical devices in schools and colleges means manufacturers of stationery products and office supplies need to remain responsive to industry needs and carefully manage their supply base,” said Syed Ali Akbar, Show Director of Messe Frankfurt’s Paperworld Middle East, the region’s largest international trade exhibition for the stationery, paper, gifts, and office supplies industry. Change checks Alongside digitalisation lies the rising demand for sustainable products as suppliers have to live up to new client demands for carbon-limiting supplies and distribution chains. “These are genuine issues that are here and now, and we have reimagined the role of Paperworld Middle East to address these issues,” explained Akbar. “The show is now also a knowledge-sharing forum and an ideal space to network, share ideas, source new products and discover innovative solutions that are sustainable, promote efficiency and productivity, and are cost-effective.” When the 2022 show opens its three-day run at the Dubai World Trade Centre on November 15, it will find an expanded product showcase encompassing office and school supplies but also festive decorations and brandable merchandise. Office stimulants Yet in an ironic twist, the growth in office investment, stimulated by tech start-ups regionwide, could help offset the impact of digital adoption. Office space requirement is rising sharply in Nairobi and Lagos post-Covid and is exacerbated by demand from Africa’s growing start-up community. 6W predicts Africa’s venture capital investments will exceed US$10 billion in 2025, creating greater demand for stationery products. In the Middle East, the UAE remains a hotbed of activity with post-Covid demand for office space in Dubai surging to a five-year high amid a huge influx of foreign companies looking to expand or relocate in the country. Office units with a combined 480,000 square feet of space were delivered in the first quarter of this year, bringing the city’s supply to 107 million square feet, all of which is expected to generate demand for office stationery supplies.