Wednesday, June 5, 2030
The Nigeria shoe industry was, for many years, the underdog. Despite the nation’s enormous endowment with quality raw material (unprocessed) leathers – better than those found in Europe, including Italy and Spain – the industry was flooded with low quality products.
As at 2013, there were at least 30 leather producing companies in Kano. Unfortunately, 90% of leathers produced were exported majorly to Italy and Spain, where they were further refined and sold back to Nigerian shoemakers, or subsequently changed into finished products which were exported to Nigeria at exorbitant prices.
It only took one government policy to turnaround the fortunes of this industry.
First, the Federal Government, in 2019, after much international politicking, banned the exportation of unprocessed and semi-processed leathers and mandated companies willing to buy leathers from Nigeria to set up their factories in the country - starting from three years after the ban. This gave local manufacturers ample time to gradually win over the trust and loyalty of Nigerian and other African consumers.
It was during this period that Nigerians discovered that some of the good quality shoes they had been buying in boutiques as Made in Italy were actually sourced from Nigeria shoemakers. Twenty-five prominent shoe traders were arrested and sent to 15 years in prison for buying Made in Nigeria products and rebranding as Made in Italy – so they could sell them for over 800% their price.
Owing to the reforms in the industry, many now produce with giant industrial machines that can produce about 1,000 pairs of shoes in a day. The industry has gained massive acceptance as consumers can now purchase same quality of shoes for 25% the price of Italian shoes. Pricing is now driven mainly by design and not quality. The quality control measures put in place by the Standard Organization of Nigeria (S.O.N) makes it almost impossible for companies to produce poor quality leathers.
The industry last year grossed N356B and directly employed over 300,000 people.
ShoeSpeed is one Nigerian brand that has gained global stardom. The brand’s tentacles were further expanded when its products - belt, shoe and wallet – were proudly showcased at this year’s Golden Globe Awards by Denzel Washington.
The Chairman of ShoeSpeed, Mr. Abiodun Folawiyo in an interview with Nigeria Tomorrow News said, “The government believed in us, in our capacity and ability to adequately serve the African market. It was that strategic decision to discourage the export of our leather to Italy and Spain, and the taxes on imported shoes that saved our industry. Why should we send our raw materials out, only for us to buy them from them as refined or finished products?
“As I speak, there are, at least, 55 companies in Nigeria that can refine our leather to the best quality you can get anywhere in the world,” enthused Folawiyo.
Companies from other African nations not only come to Nigeria for raw materials, they also come to be trained in the business of shoemaking.
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