In an effort to boost local textbook printing and avert another crisis, the Ministry of Education has pledged that the Council of Ministers will waive customs duties on imported paper for textbooks. The move aims to encourage domestic printing companies by reducing costs on a key material.
If approved, the pledge hopes to prevent the issues students faced last year when new curriculum books were not physically printed in time, forcing schools to distribute only digital copies that disadvantaged some rural learners without technology access.
Minister of Education Birhanu Nega (PhD) announced on Thursday that “the tax on paper imports will be lifted starting this year,” acknowledging the challenges faced by local printers due to the tax burden.
Birhanu said at least 40 million textbooks are needed for students across Ethiopia. But the plan for now is to at least provide one textbook for every two students.
“We expect the local print companies to be able to produce the required number of textbooks, as the waiver would boost their capacity,” Birhanu said.
Birhanu however said there is a long-term solution to be soon implemented through collaboration with Ethiopian Investment Holding (EIH) to address the textbook demand in Ethiopia.
According to him, the Ethiopian Investment Holding (EIH) is partnering with Toppan Printing Co., Ltd., a Japanese global printing company, to establish a joint venture to set up a local printing company in Ethiopia by 2023/24.
“EIH’s agreement will enable mass printing of books locally. This is crucial for a big country like Ethiopia, which has a huge number of pupils in school,” said Birhanu.
Ethiopia has traditionally relied on contracts with foreign printers, primarily in India, leading to foreign exchange pressures.
However, Birhanu anticipates that “once the joint venture printing factory with EIH is established, we will stop importing books,” marking a significant step forward.
EIH officials have confirmed that the joint venture investment in the paper industry is currently in progress, marking EIH’s maiden foray into the manufacturing sector.
“It will be EIH’s first portfolio in the manufacturing sector. It will be a game changer. We will disclose the project soon,” said an official at the state sovereign fund formed last year, refraining from disclosing further information about the companies.
While further details about the project are yet to be disclosed, the state sovereign fund expressed enthusiasm about its potential, emphasizing its transformative impact.
Ed Note: We regretfully have to correct a mistake in our previous reporting regarding customs duties on imported paper for textbooks. While the Ministry of Education pledged that the Council of Ministers will soon waive these duties, we incorrectly stated new legislation had been approved to this effect. In fact, no policy change has been formally implemented yet – the Ministry has only committed to proposing the removal of duties to the Council. We sincerely apologize for the mistake and the inconvenience it may have caused to the Ministry and our readers.