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Multi-billion naira potentials of Nigeria’s footwear industry

The emphasis on the need to increase patronage of Made-in-Nigeria products has been a recurring theme in recent years, particularly as it becomes more imperative for the country to reduce the need to depend on importation.

Last year, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) even anchored its annual summit on the theme “Made in Nigeria”, in further recognition of the need to rescue Nigeria’s ailing economy.

One of such ways many entrepreneurs have made a mark for themselves has been in the foot wear industry, where in Aba for instance, it is estimated that four million pairs of shoes are produced each week by over 70,000 shoemakers, mainly micro- and small-scale, according to leaders of various sections of Ariaria Market in Aba.

In Lagos, Taiye Adejumo, a graduate of the University of Ilorin, is one of many gifted Nigerians, championing the Made-In-Nigeria cause, contributing his bit through the production of quality foot wears.

Adejumo started “Torch Footies”, his foot wear company in July 2016 with N20,000, having graduated from the University in 2014, but no job was forthcoming.

The motivation was not entirely due to lack of employment, as Adejumo said in a interview that “having big feet of size 47, I used to makes shoes for myself while in school so after graduating without being able to secure employment, I went back into shoemaking, and it has been a success.”

A major challenge in penetrating the Nigerian market is the culture of preference for foreign goods. This penchant for items, which mostly have to be imported, also implies that producers of local alternatives step up their game and deliver to expectations.

Adejumo, responding to this, remarked that “the average Nigerian majorly has issues with the pricing of the shoe, irrespective of the quality. But, we have been able to improve on that because I for example, continue to learn from shoes made abroad and follow a host of Nigerians who are making shoes abroad (thereby improving on quality and justifying the price-tags by gaining more knowledge).”

“At our own brand, we try to make different concepts of one style, so that if you don’t want it in a particular way, you can have it in another form. We are beyond a shoe brand because we also educate people on how to wear shoes. We have a fashion blogger that wears our shoes, dresses properly on it and we post online,” he said.

Getting good shoes is not easy, especially when you source for good materials, Adejumo further explained, lamenting the difficulty in access to quality materials with supplies that are often unstable.

Presently, the major source of materials in Lagos is “Wey Street” in Mushin, where entrepreneurs like Adejumo have to patronise almost everyday and build a synergy with sellers of materials so that they don’t sell either fake materials or those not up to standard.

The dynamics of the Lagos market can however be said to be different from Aba for instance, where traders from Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Ghana and other parts of West Africa file at the market to buy and resell in their countries. Shoes and slippers are cheap at Ariaria and tell little story about the innovations and craft that go into them.

The industry is now estimated at N96 billion and has produced millionaires who are redefining the way the business of shoemaking is done.

The contrast with Adejumo’s craft, is the fact that he focuses on classy, top-notch, custom-made products which he says cost more to hand make.

“The shoes are handcrafted from top to the sole, nothing is bought readymade”, Adejumo said. Having started with Brogue shoes, he now makes a wide array of shoe designs including sneakers.

Like many small businesses in the country, scaling up Torch Footies as Adejumo noted, will be facilitated by available of machinery in the country, and infrastructure which will support growth for the business. Getting good machines will reduce labour, and also make production time shorter, and increase productivity.

Another peculiar challenge with the foot wear industry which Adejumo identified is the inconsistency in availability of materials. Usually, after purchasing some types of materials once, they will not be found in the market again. Hence, shoe designs made from them become short-lived and go out of cycle without the manufacturer wishing to cease production.

“In a year, we have come very far, and it can only get better with time over the next five years,” declared an optimistic Adejumo. He expresses the belief that the future of Made-in-Nigeria products can only get better with determination, and commitment from Nigerians to support goods coming out of the many creative local ventures.

 

CALEB OJEWALE

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