#BounceExclusive: This Shoe Maker’s Solution Will Change Nigeria’s Shoe Industry
Emmanuel Agwu had studied History and International Relations in Abia State University.
He graduated in 2005 but has not worked for any man except for his company, May17 Footwear.
Before he left school, job availability had started to wane in Nigeria but the number of graduates coming out of different universities continued to increase.
His father and uncle were shoe makers and he had developed an interest in the craft before he gained admission into the university.
Shoe making for Emmanuel is as simple as A, B, C, as he turns out good and beautiful shoes from his small but mighty workshop in few hours if he has to.
He makes huge supplies to Ghana from his small place somewhere around Fagba area of Lagos State because his shoes could pass for Italian shoes.
Bounce News was at his workshop to see how he goes about his craft, but Emmanuel believes the shoe making industry could grow and boost the economy if the government would consider his suggestions.
He gives attention to details.
"My shoes are cheaper than Italian Shoes yet more solid because I make shoes with much consideration given to our weather and our roads. I make them strong and durable for my customers,” he said.
“I will not deviate from this norm, he stressed; a little wonder he has no one working with him.
He started production of shoes under his label May17 in 2010 and since then his shoes have continued to improve in beauty and smartness.
His craft is not the reason he talked to Bounce News, but the fact that he believes that his idea is a reliable solution to the challenge facing Nigeria’s shoe production industry and the economy in general.
"Why have you not moved your business beyond this level to making substantial number of shoes?" Bounce News asked.
He gave a wide smile and began to dish out ideas that the government could apply to transform the sector if the “Buy Made in Nigeria” strategy would work.
“It is not about giving loans to people to boost their business. What will turn this sector around is not what the government is doing at the moment. People will take the loans and not be able to put it to effective use.
“If you take loan and you still spend so much on electricity generating plant, buying fuel and maintaining the plant, you will come back to zero level after some years. You will have no ready market to supply your shoes. Our population is our market but the government must help us to explore it maximally.
“I have not made any move for a loan because I cannot even use the modern machines that people who make shoes in large number use at the moment. I need training to be able to do that,” he said, still quite enthusiastic that the idea he has will work.
"What is this idea of yours?" Bounce News asked again.
“Look at it this way. The government has the highest number of employees and the Procurement Act should be made to factor in workers in different government offices. Make them get shoes made in Nigeria and subsequently spread the payment for the shoes across months for them to pay without feeling the pains of buying a pair of shoes.
“Consider a government worker having to buy a shoe at an affordable price and that payment is spread across 5 months. He will gladly make payment for the shoes. He can even afford to give a pair of shoes as a gift to his friend,” he explained.
Emmanuel believes this strategy will create a ready market for shoe makers whose products must have been evaluated and passed by government agencies based on durability, aesthetics and other yardsticks.
He also suggested that the government should call for shoe makers to present their samples and subsequently request that those selected should come to a designated place to make shoes similar to samples they had presented to be sure they made them.
“I am very much aware of what happens in the public sector. How some persons hijack the process and bring persons who do not know anything about what they claim just to make money,” he stated.
The shoe maker believes that a ready market for shoe makers in Nigeria will motivate shoes makers to perfect their craft and compete favourably with foreign shoes.This will further reduce importation of shoes and reflate the economy still trying to wriggle out of recession.
He has a bright idea that could work, but will the government follow this route and boost the economy or will they continue to dish out loans while the power sector has remained in the dark ages? We shall find out in coming years.