May 13, 2017 – Aba Shoemakers In Fear As Abia State Governor Signs Contract To Establish Chinese Shoe Factory In The State
Shoemakers in Enyimba City, Aba are currently living in fear after the state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu recently signed a deal with China to establish a shoe factory in the State.
At the Ariaria International Market, there are many sections solely designated for shoemaking. At the market there are many clusters of shoemakers who produce various types of shoes. At the section known as Shoe Plaza, shoemakers there produce female shoes only.
At Bakasi or Umuechilegbu shoe section, the shoemakers only produce shoes and bags for men. Also, a section of the market called Powerline is made up of shoemakers that also produce shoes for women.
The shoemakers at the Ariaria International Market are so gifted that with stove, gums they join leathers to soles to produce shoes that find buyers not only in other part of the country but also in sub Saharan Africa.
The volume of trade that goes on, on daily basis is such that it accounts for a large portion of the state’s internally generated revenue. But with the recent plan by the state government following Governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu’s trade mission to China and the signing of memorandum of understanding between the state and Chinese shoe manufacturers for the establishment of a shoe factory in the state, shoemakers in Aba have expressed mixed feelings.
Mr. Joe Iko is a shoemaker at Shoe Plaza Ariaria Market who has been in the coupling of leather and soles to make shoes said the decision to bring in Chinese shoemakers is a wrong step. He said: “Our grouse is that we were not consulted before the state government took the decision.
Bringing foreign shoe manufacturers into Aba will throw us into the labour market. What government should have done is to find a way to bring in machines that will assist the shoemakers to go into large scale production and abandon the use of stove and other crude methods that we have been using.
I have lived in and made my living in Aba in shoemaking. I don’t know how to do any other thing apart from shoemaking. If I am thrown out of the business by the Chinese, where will I go? I am asking this because they, the Chinese, will throw us into the labour market.” Okemili Izuiuzo said he started as a cobbler in Aba and later learnt how to make shoes especially for women.
I have made money from shoemaking to train my four children who are all graduates. The act of shoemaking in Aba is now on another level; all we need is to be given machines.
“We are not afraid of the Chinese shoemakers but all we are saying is that before they resume, we should be equipped to enable us to compete with them effectively,” he said.