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Sustainable Print High On The Agenda Canon Frontiers Of Innovation, Expo 2020 Dubai

Digital printing and personalisation are major growth drivers
The print industry in Africa and the Middle East is growing despite predictions; Digital printing and personalisation are major growth drivers; Sustainability is high on the print industry agenda.

The future of print in a digital world was in question even before COVID-19. Yet, according to regional experts, in discussion at a special edition of Canon Frontiers of Innovation during Expo 2020 Dubai, there is good reason for cautious optimism in Africa and the Middle East. Although the global print market experienced a pandemic-induced slump in 2020 future growth is forecast.

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Expo 2020 was an apt setting to explore this complex topic. “Printing is about making memories that last a l******* and Expo is all about experiences,” said Dina Storey, Director of Sustainability Operations for Expo 2020 Dubai. Storey was joined on the panel by Temitope Ekundayo, CEO of Printivo Ltd, Nigeria; Zahir Hassan, Managing Director of Power Print, Dubai and Dennis Micheni, CEO of DiscoverBrands3D, Kenya.

The pandemic brought challenges as well as interesting opportunities. “COVID-19 provided an opportunity for us to pause, reflect and assess how to best develop the print industry in the future,” said an upbeat Hassan. He highlighted new demand for health-education signage, tremendous growth in printing for e-commerce and delivery businesses.

It has stimulated a shift toward a more hybrid print/digital world with the widespread adoption of QR codes and customers began to look at alternative means to print, with online, on-demand and smaller runs, easier updates and reduced storage requirements. “Today digital, on-demand printing is the norm,” said Ekundayo. “When we launched in Nigeria in 2013, printing online was considered ‘impossible’. He explained how technology has bridged the gap, enabling printers to deliver high-quality at speed. Turnaround times continue to shorten with increased automation, AI and workflow integration improving speed and efficiencies.

To meet changing customer desires, print has begun to position itself as a creative industry. Research for Canon’s 2021 ‘Creating Customer Value’ Insight Report, found 80% of brands wanted more creative input from their print service providers and businesses in the region are responding: “We are a tech company that provides creative solutions. Creativity in design is important; it allows you to customise and edit everything simultaneously, ensuring a perfect end product,” shared Ekundayo. Hassan concurred; “The human touch is an aspect of printing that will ensure longevity.”

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Crucially, the technology is now available for more creative print solutions. 3D printing is an excellent example and is forecast to grow at over 17% ( While printing on a wider variety of media is also proving popular, even on traditionally challenging surfaces like leather and fabrics, as well as environmentally friendly plastic alternatives, such as Tyvek.

The personal touch is driving growth ( in certain print sectors, as marketing becomes more customer-centric. “In this age of the individual, there’s enormous potential for personalised printing at scale,” said Ekundayo.

Brands are seeing limitations to digital campaigns and customers are reportedly experiencing digital fatigue ( Print provides an irreplaceable offline experience, creating collateral that reflects personal choice, from apparel to customised travel itineraries and d******* vouchers. Integrated, highly personalised campaigns, with both online and print elements, can make marketing come alive in a way that is not possible in a digital-only execution.

Growing consumer demand for environmentally-friendly products ( has put sustainability high on the print agenda and this was a particularly important area for Storey. “Expo 2020 Dubai embodies the principles of sustainable development. We’re excited to work closely with Canon, to see how the printing industry innovates to be sustainable – environmentally, socially and economically.”

Levelling up to meet sustainability goals, Dennis Micheni of DiscoverBrands 3D Printing in Kenya recently received an award in the Under 35 Environment Category Youth Agenda Kenya 2021. His company is piloting an innovative project that recycles PET waste into an affordable 3D printing filament. “We are creating a whole value chain by generating value for our products where we can collect what we create; there’s no loop, no leakage,” he explains.


Canon has a longstanding commitment to sustainability, as the first company to recycle printer cartridges more than 30 years ago. According to Mai Youssef, Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director, Canon CNA, their green credentials are industry-leading; “Recently we have been recognised by CDP, for climate change and water security. We have also been rated in the top 1% of companies ( in the EcoVadis Sustainability Performance Overview.”

It seems print is not about to go away, it is a growing industry. Research by Canon shows 30% of communication buyers believe print will be an important ingredient in the marketing mix for years to come. “Delivering fast, high-quality print solutions that combine creativity, sustainability and cutting-edge technology make print a powerful tool within a complex digital ecosystem,” said Youssef.

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