The African printing market showed signs of recovery from the pandemic in 2022 and 2023, but many of the after-effects linger as we move into 2024. Remote and hybrid work – and the drive towards digital transformation – continue to shape the market even as memories of Covid-19 lockdowns continue to fade.

By Chris de Beer, regional manager at Infosource

While we forecast positive growth for many segments and territories across Africa, it is the performance of the South African market that casts a shadow across the continent’s document capture and printing markets. Eskom’s continued woes, with no end in sight for load shedding, continue to dampen the growth of South Africa’s economy.

This has a significant impact on continent-wide growth, since South Africa is one of the largest markets in Africa. Vendors, distributors and resellers are showing remarkable adaptability in the face of the challenges they face. Many, for example, are diversifying their portfolios with services and solutions that enable customers to continue to print with no to little interruption during power outages.

Adapting to shifting workspace trends

There is growing demand in South Africa for compact printing solutions that fit into work environments with limited floor space. Even though the back-to-the-office trend accelerated in 2023, workspace and office solutions for hybrid and remote workers remain in demand. We will continue to see this for some time, given that many companies are still trying to cut office rental costs.

We expect to see moderate growth in the African print over the next three years as the industry adjusts to new product demands, more flexible business models and a shift in geographic emphasis. With Asian, European and US companies focusing on emerging market opportunities, there are exciting opportunities for print service providers that provide higher value at lower cost with localised support.

Commercial print, like advertising and promotional products, is seeing a slight decline in volumes as digital transformation accelerates. Book printing has shown strong growth in recent years and will continue to do so in 2024. Print equipment sales will follow these market trends, with many OEMs keen to diversify their equipment portfolio.

The rising emphasis on inkjet systems across Africa has opened up new growth opportunities for vendors and their channel partners. Some vendors predict a decline in demand for analogue systems, with growth driven by next-generation inkjets that support digital transformation and offer improved print quality, low cost per page, local support and higher productivity.

Colour printing revolution

In the wider African market, a shift from mono printing to colour printing has spurred growth in demand for laser and inkjet printers. Colour printing will continue to grow in 2024. The shift from mono printing to colour for small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs), is predicted to intensify, which will contribute to even higher growth across the African continent.

With the pace of digitisation picking up in industries such as education, healthcare, legal, financial services, and logistics, multifunction printers and scanners will also experience strong sales. This category will pick up some slack for office automation vendors and resellers as paper volumes decline in the years ahead.

In general, while there are nuances between different countries and product categories, vendors have much to look forward to in 2024 and beyond. We expect to see a continued recovery from the lows of Covid, as well as an increase in vendor investment and activity as the industry looks towards Africa for growth.