LEADERS IN LEATHER
The Nigerian leather industry has steadily contributed an estimated N85billion annually to the country’s GDP since 2009. The industry generates an annual income of N24.5 billion with limited support and is expected to contribute an estimated N12billion in informal exports to West-Africa year-on-year. It currently engages about 143,000 people in the finished leather goods sector at various levels from input supply to production, and from processing to trading but has the capacity to create over 700,000 direct and indirect jobs. According to a 2014 World Bank report, leather and leather allied goods can easily become Nigeria’s second largest non-oil export and its second biggest earner of foreign exchange after Oil and Gas. However, although Nigerian leather is still mainly used in the production of shoes and bags, resulting in thriving local production and exportation to regional West Africa, the country still imports about $500 million worth of leather products annually. Also, of the 31 indigenous tanneries in the country, 20 have closed down while 11 of the 12 shoe manufacturing companies located in Kano, Sokoto, Lagos and Abia state also closed down between 2000 and 2011. Presently, major tanneries in Nigeria continue to produce for export.
A number of leaders have emerged in this industry - against all odds - working tirelessly to reverse this statistic. There is Femi Olayebi, who founded the Lagos Leather Fair to shine a spotlight on the immense potential of this industry and give a platform to proudly Nigerian creators and designers such as Aisha Ugah, Ginika Okafor, Otejiri Ejumabone and Yemisi Oladapo. Collectively, they are by hand creating what the future of export in Nigeria could look like. AYODEJI ROTINWA had a conversation with all five designers, essentially representing countless more, on what it would like for the leather industry to move from potential economic contributor to an inevitable one