In Aba, Nigeria’s China of Africa, local manufactured shoes carry dollar price tags

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Adesola Dike is an undergraduate in a Nigerian top University in Lagos State, he has flairs for foreign made fashion brands, but over here in Nigeria, she only has access to those foreign fashion brands shipped into Nigeria as ‘second handed clothes’.

On the side of Nigeria, The Ariaria International Market is an open-air market located in Aba, a city in Abia State Southeast Nigeria, which is popularly referred to as “China of Africa” because of its versatility in the making of wears and leather works locally manufacturered shoes from leather goods have re-labelled to the names of foreign famous brands. What’s more, the products also wear dollar price tags.

These shoes which look attractive are vintagely displayed in our markets. Not just Lagos markets but popular markets across Nigeria. One common thing with all of them is that their price tags are printed in dollars. There price range is usually between $50 and $59. They have famous brand names like Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, Russell and Bromley, amongst others, and yet their prices are below $60.

Ordinarily, such brands, even when on sales, are priced higher. As at the time of going to press, dollar was exchanging for N360.00 per dollar. At that rate, $59 will amount to N21,240.00 but at Lagos and Enugu markets the said shoes and sandals sell for N4,000-N5,000 far below the supposed dollar price.

Some of the smart traders or more greedy ones, engaged in selling second hand foot wears, go as far as adding these Aba manufactured ones with famous brand names and foreign price tags with their other fairly worn foot wears. At the second hand shops, they even sell as high as N7,000.00, convincing the buyers that those are the original ones as they got them as ‘stock’. Stock is the name they call fashion goods imported from grey markets.

Unfortunately or fortunately, consumers patronise them as they tend to have more confidence now in second hand goods than brand new products. They believe that most brand new products in the open market are manufactured in China and as such are of low quality, but if the products are from Europe and USA, even if they are fairly used, will end up lasting longer as their quality is higher.

Unbelievable as it sounds, investigations reveal that Aba shoe manufacturers first transport their wares to Benin Republic and Nigerian marketers import them into Nigeria as foreign foot wears. Market investigations reveal that this trend has been going on unnoticed by consumers for over five years now.

However, the good news is that consumers are patronising the foot wears which come in trendy fashionable styles. In an interview with a buyer, Ngozi Nwankwo, in Balogun market Lagos, she excitedly gushed, “I thank God for these Aba shoe makers. The shoes are good and affordable. Before I was buying only solid imported shoes but they are quite pricey now. Some sell as high as N20,000 for a pair while Italian shoes and bags that we used to buy N18,000 now sell for between N65,000-N75,000.

“Whether they are made in Aba or Europe, I do not really care. What matters to me is that the foot wear is well made and the price attractive,” said another lady who was trying the Aba made sandals with foreign price tags.

However, some of the traders deny vehemently that the shoes are manufactured by Nigerians. They claim they are manufactured by foreigners and imported into Nigeria as ‘stock’.

However, accountant turned shoe manufacturer, Mr. Abiodun Folawiyo, group head of the fast rising brand Shoepeed Lagos, disclosed in a previous interview that Aba shoes are exported to other African countries and imported back into Nigeria.

“They do this and put foreign labels and dollar price tags because they believe it will attract more patronage and priced better. Nigerians put more premium on imported things, though that is gradually changing. Aba shoes are well made, it’s just that the brands are not well structured. There has to be a campaign around them,” stressed Folawiyo, who is also the Director General Shoespeed Academy.

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