Nigeria’s shoe-making industry holds a lot of prospects, but for the appetite of Nigerians, especially the elite, for foreign products, says Gbenga Olanipekun, the Chief Executive Officer of Ibadan-based Melandre Shoes.
Olanipekun told Financial Street that Nigerian shoemakers make good stuff, but face poor patronage, especially from the elite members of the society who prefer foreign products to even better local brands.
“The Italian industry uses the same leather as many Nigerian shoemakers. The difference is in the quality of machines they use for finishing. In Nigeria, our shoes are largely hand-made, while theirs is industrially produced. But do you know that hand-made shoes abroad are far more expensive? Regrettably, here, our work is taken for granted,” he said.
The talented shoemaker shared his recent experience with a client who ordered four pairs of shoes online from Lagos. He said the order also came with a question about the shoes’ origin, which he ignored, suspecting that the answer could ruin the transaction.
He said when his agent in Lagos delivered the shoes to the prospective buyer, the man first showered so much praise on the shoes, and asked for the country of origin. The agent happily answered that they were made in Ibadan.
At that point, the prospective buyer’s enthusiasm quickly waned and he opted to buy just one, the entrepreneur lamented.
He appreciated Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for supporting made-in-Nigeria products when he was in Ibadan in 2018 for a Small and Medium-scale Enterprises clinic.
“Osinbajo really encouraged us at that event, ” he added