Aba Made Shoes: Clear Roadmap to Nigeria’s Employment Boom

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By Ajibade Morakinyo

As at August 2016, the United States of America recorded about 4.9 per cent unemployment rate, which reduced its number of unemployed citizens to 7.8 million, from 4.8 percent as at May 2016. But in Nigeria, as at June 2016, the country’s unemployment rate ‘rose’ to 13.3 percent, from 12.1 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), and still has the possibility of rising, especially in the present unfavourable economic atmosphere.

Although no country in the world can provide employment for its entire jobless residents, they must strive towards curbing it to the barest minimum through the establishment of entrepreneurial policies that would drive the society’s entrepreneurs. But, entrepreneurial spirit cannot be negotiated for just “anything”, rather, it can only be encourage by government office holders, by first patronising those few available entrepreneurs so as to motivate others in delving into entrepreneurship.

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It is beyond the fact that true entrepreneurship and innovative tendencies are embedded in Nigeria, as almost every state in the country has a major market, where people practice several small scale enterprise that gives it popularity.

The likes of Bodija Market in Ibadan, which is most reputable when it comes to fresh and dried food products; Computer Village in Lagos, which is the largest computer and electronics market in the southwest of Nigeria; Onitsha market in Anambra State, which is largely known for second-hand clothes imported into the country and other sundry items that cater to the needs of the Nigerian masses; Idumota in Lagos, which is hub for distributing Nollywood movies and the home of entertainment marketing in Nigeria; Gbagi Market, where you can buy desired fashion fabrics; Zaki Biam yam market in Benue State, which is one of the major sources of yam tubers for Nigerians; Kurmi market in Kano State, which is largely known for souvenirs such as dyed fabrics, sculptures, carved stones and woods, beaded jewellery, and woven materials; Ariaria international market in Aba, Abia State, which is often considered as the “China of Africa”, because you can get virtually every version of foreign products made in Nigeria and sold in this market; Jos main market, which is situated in Terminus, is well designed to make it easy for customers to find almost everything they want to buy without wasting time, and there are sections for electronics, fabrics, food items, souvenirs, and lots of other desired products, and many others, which Nigerians youths have dominated and flourished over the years.

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Examining the activities of youths in Aba, Ariaria market of Abia State, one would say the country should be part of the biggest exporters of various foot products, and a much larger proportion of Nigerians should reap the fruits of this trade, because the commercial hub of Aba has through dint of hard work by thousands of artisans carved a niche in finished leather products such as shoes, bags, belts, among others. But, while the artisans were busy churning out their products, government was not looking their way, and there was no conscious policy to encourage these local manufacturers, among countries of the world.

However, the potentials in these ones tend to be buried, as government was unable to convince the universe with great examples of their capability, in terms of patronising the market for different workers in its sector (Agricultural, petroleum, mining, works, housing, power, etc). This can be in a formal way, if scared of reputation.

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Even as Aba-made shoes, bags, belts and garments were making waves in other countries within the West African sub-region and even beyond, successive Nigerian governments wasn’t aware, due to it unavailable support for this artisans. However, Nigerians from other parts of the country contemptuously referred to Aba products as “Aba-made”, which as always encourage the expression of inferiority of these leather products in comparison to imported ones. This resulted to the artisans inscribing ‘made-in-Brazil’ or ‘made-in-Italy’ or ‘made-in-Spain’ on their made products in Aba. It was a survival strategy, anyway!

On no cost should the productive glory of a country be given to another country, since the federal government believes foreign goods is more quality than good made in their own country, why won’t they? Federal government spends over N2 trillion (about $4.3 billion) annually on purchase of goods, mostly foreign products. If this exortbitant could only be used to standardise its artisans’ products for quality production, this would encourage more unemployed ones to be an entrepreneur, in diverse area. But, kudos to the Nigeria’s present economic realities, which have made it possible for ‘Nigeria’s’ attention to be on patronising locally made products, thereby becoming a huge national agenda for all.

According to an experienced entrepreneur and Chancellor of a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Akpabio Centre for Leadership Development, Bassey James, who stated that for government to achieve its target on job creation, entrepreneurial development must be given proper focus. We need to train the citizens on various skills capable of enhancing individual development and the economy at large.

But, for Government who is not ready to the unemployed citizens, must be ready to patronise them, so as to encourage many of them to entrepreneurship line. However, in order to foster domestic productivity, the country’s government took a brave step was taking for it’s army, as they will no longer import its boots. But, this is with the help of the State Governor, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, who consistently and sustainably stood by his word of advocacy on Aba Shoe Makers, which is beginning to yield fruits as reports claim that the Nigerian Army has placed an order for an initial 50,000 pairs of military footwears Makers.

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Many Nigerians and foreginers may condemn this act, due to the products’ quality standardisation, but a living testimony of its quality came from a man with high profile national and international status, and a past president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, who has also become a strong voice in the campaign to patronise locally made goods. He stated when the made-in-Aba shoes were delivered to him by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu that “these shoes are so comfortable and they are so good. Anybody watching me, no matter how high or low, who wants to help Nigeria get out of recession quickly should call the makers of these shoes in Aba to make for them.”

Yes! It’s the way to get out economic recession of the country, but a way out of unemployment, the most. Developing and implementing favourable policies that would encourage more unemployed citizen of Nigeria to think and choose preferable skill, as youths in Aba Market, that would reduce Nigeria unemployment rate of 13.3 per cent.

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