In shoes’ paradise

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February 12, 2019. It is a sunny Tuesday morning at Imo Avenue, one of the several leather clusters in Aba, the industrial capital of Abia State.

Christian Nnajiaku is cutting leather and fabrics into shape. He has been in this business for more than 15 years, so he understands shoe-making as a lion knows its prey.

To produce a pair of shoes, a shoemaker needs processed leather, adhesives, fabrics, nails, dye, heel, fittings, decorative items, and finishing materials such as polish, lacre and waxes. And Nnajiaku has all of them.

As chief executive officer of the small-scale Chris-Kenzy Industries, he calls the shots and ensures that customers get value for their money.

He handles the cutting process, but his neighbour, Agapitus Mmadu, does the stitching with a manual sewing machine. As in a typical manufacturing setting, there is division of labour. The sewing machine used by Mmadu costs about N40, 000, but a sophisticated electric one is five times the price. Yet, he is not perturbed as this is what he can afford now.

Stitching is over and it is time to set the shape of the toe box and heel counters. Amaechi Okoye, a young man in his thirties, handles this process with a machine fabricated locally in the industrial city. He uses coking stoves to get the shoes into shape, unlike in a modern shoe plant where a thermoplastic machine heats the counters inside the toe and heel. But there is little Okoye can do. In fact, he has come to see his manual machine as an old wine that tastes better with age. He employs two young men in their 20s and has two others as apprentices.

Nnajiaku takes back his shoes and begins the sole and leather assembly process. But this … Read More...