Brazilian investors have shown interest in their products and are planning to make available to them modern equipments that will improve the quality of their products. The investors were amazed at the quality of the shoes, bags and other products, the Aba artisans were able to produce with their hands and raw equipments and reasoned that with modern equipment, the sky could be their limit.
The investors who were conducted round the Leather Cluster of the Ariaria International Market, Aba by some aides of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, and officials of the Leather Workers Union, including Lawrence Odoemelem, SSA, Investment Promotions and Elder Emma Ezeala, SSA, Investment Facilitation and Chinedu Nwagu, SSA, Investment Planning and Strategy, showed genuine interest in partnering with the artisans involved in leather works in Aba.
The Aba shoe industry project in South-East Nigeria is heading for global market with daily export figures of one million pairs to other African countries, the President of the Abia Think Tank Association, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa has said. He stated this during a press conference ahead of a two-day economic summit in Aba, said that the shoemakers produce quality that compares with the Italian brands, adding that despite leading the Africa market, they are yet to have presence outside the continent.
The Aba leather industry was pioneered by immigrants from Okigwe and Afikpo Divisions in the late 1940 – 1960s. The shoe industry started with about 15 shoemakers to grow into over 100,000 producers today, making Aba to be known as the shoe centre of West Africa with 45% of its total finished output exported to all countries in the ECOWAS region.
From the production of sandals made from old automobile tyres, the Aba shoes had evolved to match shoes, sandals and bags of international standards as this was largely due to the knowledge- transfer the market garnered when former Nigerian popular shoes and sandals brands like Lennards and Bata started outsourcing their shoe productions to the Aba artisans between 1989 to 1999.
The Ariaria International Market is an open-air market located in Aba, a city in Abia State, Nigeria. The market is one of the largest markets in West Africa and nicknamed “China of Africa” because of its versatility in the making of wears and leather works. The market was established in 1976 following a fire outbreak that destroyed the old “Ekeoha Market” in Aba. The market is known for its shoemaking and leather works making it one of the largest leather shoe-making markets in West Africa with an estimated two millions traders. The market cuts across three local government areas, the Aba North, Aba South and Osisioma in the state.