Aba shoes attracted national and international attention in 2017, with direct and indirect purchases hitting a new high.
Between January and June of 2017, over N1.6 billion worth of shoes (and garment) were bought from Aba by the Nigerian military, individuals and corporate organisations.
This included 50,000 pairs of military boots by the Nigerian Army, the cost of which is estimated at N300 million, orders from the Nigerian Navy, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), the police and Civil Defence Corps, Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia State governor, told BusinessDay in an exclusive interview.
The Nigerian Prisons bought more than 50,000 pairs of shoes from Aba in 2017, apart from direct orders from Aisha Buhari for the supply of thousands of pairs to school children in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in the North East.
“Market leaders in Aba told BusinessDay that hundreds of traders from Cameroon, Ghana, Togo and other parts of West and Central Africa bought thousands of cheap Aba shoes directly at Ariaria, while a number of manufacturers exported to the regional market within the year to earn foreign exchange.
“Apart from our local market, we have patrons from Cameroun, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo DR and the rest, and most of these customers are foreigners. Customers from Benin and Togo source from Lagos and so most of these transactions take place in Lagos, because people from Senegal, Ivory Coast come into Lagos to buy Made-in-Aba products,” Okechukwu .C. Williams, president, Leather Products Manufacturers Association of Abia State (LEPMAAS), told BusinessDay in an exclusive interview.
Made-in-Aba shoes broke into several online shops as well as in Lagos superstores.
Four million pairs of shoes are produced each week in Aba by over 70,000 shoe makers, mainly micro-, small-and medium-scale, according to leaders of various sections of Ariaria Market in Aba.
Ariaria Market is the shoe hub in West Africa, with nine clusters, including Imo Avenue, Shoe Plaza, Bakassi (Umueghilegbu) Industrial Market, Old Site, Bag, Belt, Trunk Box and Powerline Clusters.
Prominent Nigerians, including former president Olusegun Obasanjo, have placed orders from Aba shoe makers, as shoes, belts and trunk boxes from the city increasingly gain market traction.
The Aba shoe industry is worth over N120 billion, according to BusinessDay calculations. The industry is yarning for funding to realise its full potential and the