Aba is Nigeria’s major footwear hub and the market is valued at over N120billion. The activities and value of the industry is big enough to affect economic development in the South-East region and encourage trade relationships between various countries and Nigeria.
A report by Research and Markets show that in 2017, the global footwear market size was approximately $246.07 billion. Growing at a CAGR of 4.5 percent in the period 2017-2023, the market is projected to reach $320.44 billion by the end of the forecast period.
Similarly, it notes that the market growth is primarily attributed to high demand for convenient and comfortable footwear, adding that the key focus areas of these companies are innovative designs, product developments, and advanced technical fabrications, to boost the product sales.
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India one of the fastest growing emerging markets and has its shoe manufacturing hub located in various areas in the country. In 2018, the country became the second largest footwear producer and one of the top 10 exporters. Its export was valued at $2.8 million that year, accounting for approximately 9.6 percent of the total global footwear output annually.
While India’s success was not overnight, the government supported the industry through grants and accessible loans. In 2017, the Indian government established the Indian Footwear Leather and Accessories Development Program (IFLADP) that grants 20-30 percent subsidy for Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSME) for capital expenditure purposes which include building a plant and buying machinery.
Furthermore, to encourage the business owners, the government set aside Rs2, 600 crore as a special package for fuelling the leather and footwear industry and also generate employment. Provision was also made for 300,000 people to be trained with the aid of government sponsorship annually.
The federal government needs to roll out accessible intervention funds that will help scale up production and promote expansion in Nigeria’s footwear industry, also adequate infrastructure should be made available to aid output and boost production to meet market demand globally and domestically.
The Indian shoe industry focuses on supplying domestic demand which is usually high before meeting global demand. Patronage of the made-in-Aba products should increase more importantly, the Executive Order 003 established by the president must be strictly complied with,
India’s footwear industry is driven by technological innovation and advancement. In line with global best practices and trend, the Aba leather industry must be centered on and driven by technological innovation in its output, design, activities, and branding. This will attract a wider market and improve patronage.
Furthermore, branding and marketing strategy must be indigenous and domesticated. Findings reveal that artisans in Aba brand their products as ‘made in China’ in order to boost market reach and improve patronage locally and globally. While it might serve its function, it kills the prospects of boosting Nigerian-made products and has negative impacts on local consumption of goods.
Shoemakers will need to work on rebranding and repackaging of their products for higher and wider consumer attraction/acceptability.
“Branding is important because it helps to change the perception of consumers who think that Aba products are inferior,” said Amanchukwu Nwankwo, a shoemaker in Aba.
The industry is in need of foreign investors and partners that will foster the much-desired growth development. Ken Anyanwu, national secretary, Association of Leather and Allied Industrialists of Nigeria (ALAIN), told BusinessDay in Aba that entry of foreign investors and partners into the market would enable the industry to compete globally and make funds for expansion easily accessible.
“With the presence of foreign investors, stakeholders in the industry will be exposed to trainings that will inspire new innovations and designs as well as external knowledge from foreign bodies.
Furthermore, access to foreign investors and partners will lead to reduction in infrastructure problems and reduce the lack of necessary machines and instruments. This will provide a platform for industrialization and increase output,” he said.
Taking cue from India’s shoe industry, Aba has the potential to become more significant in economic development agenda and become a more competitive hub.