In-spite of the current economic recession biting Nigerians, Shoemakers in Aba, Abia State has said that the recession in the economy isn't their major problem.
But recent investigation proves that lack of good roads, steady power supply and lack of funds are fully contributed.
As residents of Aba always complain of bad roads, likewise the traders and the consumers.
The ever busy industrial hubs of the market are home for shoes of all sizes and shapes. These sections comprise Bakassi Zone, Shoe Plaza, Power Line, and Imo Avenue spanning over two square kilometres. All four sections are populated with artisans who specialized on foot wears of different kinds.
The market is estimated to house over 70, 000 shoemakers besides apprentices under their tutelage. When visited the market on Monday, many workshops were locked while the open ones were busy doing what they know how to do best despite some daunting challenges.
Interview with one of the artisans Mr. Okoro, he identified their major challenges as high cost of raw materials, importation of inferior materials especially gum and chemicals from China, and the unwillingness of leather producers in Kano to sell genuine leather to aba shoemakers Aba shoemakers.
He lamented that leather dealers in Kano prefer to sell their original leather to Italians and other foreigners who would pay them in hard currency. “Now people adulterate chemicals and sell to us because it is also hard to get original chemicals from Italy,” he added.
Other challenges of the shoemakers according to him, include; unstable power supply, absence of modern equipment and machines, poor access road, and lack of funds.
He called for government intervention especially on the area of modern machinery which he said, would make their products compete favourably in the international market. He appealed to government to provide financial assistance to the artisans to boost their business. He said that a loan of N1 billion could change the stories of the over 70, 000 shoe makers in the market.
This, according to him, will enable them acquire the multi- million naira modern shoe threading machines used by their counterparts. “ I know that my members alone are over 10, 000 and if government can give us N1, 000,000 loan each which we will pay back in one or two years, Africa will be a small market for made in Aba shoes.”