For many years, poor quality shoes have dominated the market, making them less competitive in the global market. To check this, many Nigerians are in support of the production of quality footwear.
When thinking of a shoe brand that is characterized by quality and durability, it will not be necessary to go too far before reaching Italian and Spanish shoes. However, these brands are desirable but inaccessible to most Nigerians who are mainly low-income earners.
To solve the problem, young Nigerians are creating quality, durable, and affordable shoes. They made shoes that made inroads into the market.
Some shoemakers based in Lagos and Abia produce shoes that Georgio Brutinis and other great designers would envy.
One of them is the CEO of AB Leather Work, Abraham William, a shoe manufacturer in Lagos. He learned the trade in 2002 in the state of Akwa Ibom and then came to Lagos to establish a business. Although he started with a small capital, the business has grown like an oak. His clients include those outside Lagos. People also come to him with their production concept. He also developed to pass on his skills to others, so that more than five students left his workshop. Unfortunately, he said, unemployed youth who can make a living from shoemaking do not like learning under apprenticeship.
For the growth of the industry, he said that young people need equipment and technical knowledge. He said shoemakers need funds to buy expensive soles, such as leather, trimming, and cutting machines, which are costly because they are imported. He noted that although Nigerians prefer imported shoes, some still order.
A graduate of the Business Administration said that young people could acquire skills and contribute to the growth of the footwear and leather industry. He added that quality leather plays an essential role in the production of shoes because it convinces the customer that he has bought a good product.
The founder, Right legs, Temilade Adegbite, specializes in the manufacture of footwear for men, women, and children, such as shoes, sandals, and slippers, in unique designs. She created Right Legs to serve customers who need oversized shoes and children who wanted good school shoes. Adegbite, who has big feet, said it was not easy for her and the others to get the right designs. She, therefore, thought of creating unique shoe models in all sizes. Today, Right Legs offers quality and elegant shoes of different designs and sizes.
Before the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), traders from West African countries burst into Aba in the state of Abia to buy various models. Traders from Chad, Ghana, Togo, the Republic of Niger and Cameroon came to the international market from Ariaria to Aba to buy shoes and other leather materials. And when they were unable to reach the market, they sent their product specifications to shoe manufacturers by SMS or phone call to manufacture them and transport them to their destinations. Millions of shoes are said to be exported from the international market of Ariaria to the West African coast.
The Aba leather industry consists of shoes, trunk boxes, and belts. It provides jobs for thousands of people, many of whom specialize in designing, patterning, cutting, skiving, sewing, peeling, and finishing. It includes groups such as Powerline, Imo Avenue, Bakassi, Aba North Shoe Plaza, Omemma Traders and Workers, ATE Bag, and Ochendo Industrial Market.
In 2017, the governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, signed $1.5 billion deal with the Chinese shoe firm at the first investment forum of the governors of Nigeria and China. The Abia state government has negotiated an agreement with the Huajian shoe industry in Dongguan, Guangzhou, China, to establish a shoe factory in Aba. The plant is expected to produce 5,000 shoes per day and create 10,000 direct jobs and 50,000 indirect jobs. Ikpeazu, who signed an agreement with Huajian group chairman Zhang Huarong, is optimistic that it will bring much-needed competition to Aba’s native shoemakers. It would also gradually abolish the manual shoe techniques carried out by shoemakers.
In addition, the company involves investors training 100 Aba shoemakers in China to use the latest technologies in the manufacture of shoes. Students are expected to constitute the majority of the staff at the Aba plant in China.
“The main limitation of our shoemakers is that most of the work is done manually; this has lasted for decades. We need to change that. Therefore, we plan to introduce automatic shoe production to you, and China is the key here. The objective is to achieve 75% local automation within 24 months. ” “This plant will create 10,000 direct jobs and 50,000 indirect jobs in the secondary markets to be created,” said the governor.
The state government has launched a Made-in-Aba campaign to attract foreign investors and promote Nigerian shoes in major foreign markets.
The president of the Nigerian Association of Small Business Owners (ASBON), Dr. Femi Egbesola, said that the future is bright for young people. His words: “The shoe manufacturing industry in Aba is worth over 200 billion naira, but the size is still small compared to the number of players involved. The sector is not limited by education, government policies, gender, or the need for large capital and infrastructure. The demand for shoes continues to grow steadily.
If the government can curb the influx of shoes imported into the country, the demand for local shoes will remain unmet and, therefore, the need will open to more young people. “
Egbesola added: “The footwear sector remains one of the jobs that can never wade or fade off. It is a crucial need, and demand will continue to grow. It is wise to encourage young people to take advantage of the limitless opportunities and potential in the footwear sector. The sky will be the limit if it can add creativity, innovation, and uniqueness to the job. “
The president of the Nigerian Association of Micro-entrepreneurs (AMEN), Prince Salvador Iche, said that Nigeria is endowed with great entrepreneurs and innovators. Lack of electricity and logistics, he said, hampered the efforts of entrepreneurs. Iche noted that micro-entrepreneurs need support to progress.
At the Made-in-Nigeria shoe show in Lagos, shoemakers called on the federal government to stop importing used shoes, noting that this was hurting the local footwear industry.
They examined an environment suitable for petrochemical companies, which act as an auxiliary industry for raw materials, such as polyurethane and polypropylene chips needed by the footwear and leather industry. According to them, there are several petrochemical companies in Nigeria with minimal capacity to meet local demand. The national coordinator of the exhibition of Nigerian-made shoes, Emmanuel Ugbodaga, called on the government, in particular the National Guidance Agency (NOA), to address the consumption complex that the Nigerians exposed by choosing foreign labels on local labels. He said: “Even when we produce high-quality shoes at affordable prices, Nigerians still believe that foreigners are superior. This way of thinking requires a re-orientation of the mindset of Nigerians by the government.”
The Director-General of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce (NACCIMA), Ambassador Ayoola Olukanni, described the footwear and leather sector as promising, saying that NACCIMA is committed to supporting the sector. “We are working on ways to access finance to increase the capacity of micro-enterprises in the sector,” said Olukanni.
The CEO, Tecnfilm SPA, one of the biggest producers of raw materials for the production of soles in Italy, who was at the fair, Roberto Cardinalli, said that he was happy to be in this country for the first time. He added that his company is ready to partner with Nigerian companies to procure quality and affordable raw materials for the production of soles. The exhibit offered free masterclasses to improve the skills of artisans.