Nigeria has always been known as one of the African countries with the largest economy. The nation’s crude potential has produced rapid growth in various sectors. Aside from oil and gas, Nigeria is also rich in mineral resources, with kaolin being one of them. Multiple sources reported that the deposit of kaolin in Nigeria totals roughly 2 to 3 billion metric tons.

Kaolin Market in Nigeria

The market for Nigerian kaolin is considered sustainable, large, and continuously expanding. This, of course, has relevance with the growing applications of this raw material in the country itself. Restrictions on kaolin imports also play a significant role in this matter. All this is done to promote the development of the country’s local industry.

Like anything in the global economy, the kaolin market in Nigeria is not immune to fluctuations. As per data published by Statista, the overall production of kaolin in the country amounted to approximately 7,000 metric tons in 2020. Comparing this to 2019, there was undoubtedly a drop.

According to Dr. Hussaini Doko Ibrahim, Director General of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) in Nigeria, the yearly demand for kaolin is roughly estimated at more than 360,000 tons. However, with only 125,000 tons of domestic production, there is certainly 235,000 tons of shortfall.

Kaolin Uses in Nigeria

Example of the use of kaolin in nigeria

Kaolin is a chemically inert industrial material with a wide range of uses. These include pulp and paper making, cosmetics production, paints, chalk, and agro-related sectors. According to Dr Ibrahim, kaolin can also be used in medicinal formulations.

When properly processed, the kaolin may be utilized as a diluting agent in pesticide and fertilizer products. This clay mineral can also serve as a smoothing agent for paper surfaces and a strengthening agent for rubber and plastics

In Nigeria, the pharmaceutical sub-sector is the largest industry that uses kaolin. Dr. Ibrahim further reported that the material was used as an adsorbing agent to produce diarrhea medicines

Approximately 700 metric tons of kaolin were required in Nigeria for anti-diarrhea formulations alone. That figure is aside from the amount needed to produce other types of medications. However, those pharmaceutical industries did not use local kaolin in Nigeria for production. This is primarily due to the kaolin’s poor quality because of the lack of industrial processing.

Related: All Steps in Kaolin Production – Mining and Processing Explained

Kaolin Deposits in Nigeria

According to the document from RMRDC, some kaolin deposits in Nigeria are relatively small. Despite that, a number of localities are considerably vast and sufficient to meet the demand for raw material resources for various industries.

The vast deposits are in Plateau, Katsina, Ogun, Bauchi, Niger, Kwara, Oyo, Enugu, Ekiti, and Benue. Among all the states, Katsina provides the best quality Nigerian kaolin. Mining experts said it is one of the purest kaolinitic minerals that are great for pharmaceutical industries.

Aside from Katsina, Ekiti also produces sedimentary kaolin in enormous amounts. Some scientific studies showed that Ekiti’s kaolin is suitable for use in ceramic brake pad industries for automobile manufacturers.

Nigerian Kaolin Trade Activities

As mentioned above, Nigeria’s pharmaceutical industries prefer using imported kaolin rather than locally mined. In 2021, kaolin imports into this country soared by roughly 88%.

In this case, China was the primary kaolin supplier to Nigeria, which amounted to 18,000 tons per year. This accounted for around 99% of Nigeria’s total imports. Other kaolin-supplying countries include:

As for exports, shipments of Nigerian kaolin to other countries finally saw an increase of approximately 4,159% after experiencing a decrease for three years. The top exporting countries for Nigerian kaolin are:

  • Gabon, accounting for a 63% share of total exports
  • China, accounting for a 35% share
  • Equatorial Guinea, accounting for a 1.19% share 

The Future of Nigerian Kaolin

As explained, Nigeria has small deposits of kaolin, and some of them are adequately vast to meet the demand for kaolin in local industries. However, certain sectors, like pharmaceuticals, have yet to show any interest in locally mined kaolin. The reason is that local kaolin needs to have the required quality for the said industry.

As a result, there have been large quantities of kaolin imports to the country annually. The RMRDC collaborated with the local government to promote quality industrial kaolin processing by establishing three processing plants in Katsina and Kano states to prevent this development.

The effort to increase the local production of kaolin in Nigeria is currently ongoing. Once the demand for quality kaolin by domestic industries is met, the government can expand the kaolin export market. The Nigerian government may work with private companies to ship quality kaolin into the country. This enables the government to understand how to produce high-quality kaolin, which can increase the nation’s prospects of exporting the said mineral.