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#Pulse36 Day 17: Maybe the future of Nigeria will be Made in Aba

Just one hour from Port Harcourt, along the PH-Aba expressway, one of the busiest markets in West Africa.

Thefamous Ariara Market, our first stop in Abia State.

Thismarket is probably where you’ll find the materials to make just about anything.From clothes, to even shoes.

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Andtalking about shoes, we headed straight for Shoe Plaza.

Everywhereyou turn at Shoe Plaza, there’s someone building a shoe or part of it.

Maybe the future of Nigeria will be Made in Abaplay

Maybe the future of Nigeria will be Made in Aba

(Pulse36)

We wentoff to meet the President.

That's his office with the flagplay

That’s his office with the flag

(Pulse36)

Here’s welearned from Honourable Christian, the President of Shoe Plaza;

  • 75% of the shoes worn in Nigeria is made in Aba.

  • There are over 1,000 shops in Shoe Plaza alone with an average of 4 people per shop.

  • Up to 40,000 footwears are manufactured every week in Aba. “My company alone makes up to 1,000 shoes per week,” he said.

Now, wehad no way to verify these numbers, but they couldn’t be far off from the trutheven if his numbers aren’t accurate.

As far aswe’ve seen, a lot seemed to be going on in Aba, but sometimes, this market isits biggest problem.

“Peoplehave a problem with Made In Aba products,” I started to ask. “Mostly because itappears that most of the products seem to be counterfeited. Take for example,we know neither Prada or Zara have factories in Aba. But a few minutes walk inthis market, and we’ll run into shoes with this brands.”

He satup.

“Yousee,” he sighed, “we’ve been trying to educate people that they need to change.But it’s a gradual process. We want every shoe that leaves this market to haveMade In Aba on it eventually.”

Ambitious,but possible.

Whatabout the China factor though?

“We stillhave to get raw materials from China,” Christian said. “And another problem wehave is equipment. There are some finishings that will be best achieved withequipment. In the absence of that, we have to use hand.”

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I have noidea how expensive this machine is, but I imagine the opportunity this is.Imagine a company, or billionaire financing it. He automatically gets a shareof Aba’s 40,000 per week operation.

Butmoving on, we took a walk round the market, and ran into this guy, Paul Andras.

He barely looked up as we spoke. Every second mattered.play

He barely looked up as we spoke. Every second mattered.

(Pulse36)

At firstsight, he was just another hustler in Aba, stitching together pieces of leatherto form the head of moccasins.

Then wegot talking.

“I actuallystarted working here during an ASUU strike in 2013,” he began.

“So Ijust came here to learn shoemaking instead of just staying idle.”

The firstconflict came 6 months after, when ASUU called off the strike and he had toreturn to school at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri.

“Themoney was too good to just leave like that. So I started to balance it. Atfirst, it was hard but I got used to it later.”

He’scurrently working on his final year project and has huge plans when he’s donewith school in November.

“I wantto get better at programming language by the end of the year. In fact, I paidabout 250k to learn Java at NIIT.”

He plansto focus on academic stuff. “This shoemaking hustle is temporary.”

But howmuch does he even make?

Paulspecialises in building the upper part of moccasins and he averages 100 ofthese daily.

On somedays, he pushes for 150. And this earns him up to 40,000 naira per week.

The grinding in Aba never stops. Nobody looks up.play

The grinding in Aba never stops. Nobody looks up.

(Pulse36)

That’s soimpressive, when you think of the fact that this single move made himcompletely independent of his parents financially.

It kindof put things into perspective. This is a guy who was, to me, or any passerby,just another semi-literate hustler in Aba. But not only is he educated, heprobably has more skills than I do.

I wonderhow many people in the super large market are like him, hustling hard. Strikingthe balance of paper, between money and a degree.

Follow our #Pulse36 travel stories on Instagram @pulsenigeriatravel

I alsowonder what Aba would become with the right influence. Imagine how much thiscity would fetch for Nigeria if fuelled with the right kind of support.

This shoe, along with the other one that made up the pair took 30 minutes to make.play

This shoe, along with the other one that made up the pair took 30 minutes to make.

(Pulse36)

IfNigeria will ever have an industrial revolution, it will most likely start offin Aba.

1/3,Pound Road, Aba.

Rememberwhat you heard at the end of all your favourite old Nollywood movies?

“51,Iweka Road Onitsha, and 1/3, Pound Road, Aba. GRAB YOUR COPY NOW”

Well, wemade a quick stop at Pound Road, and what did we find?

It's not what it used to be. "Government moved them elsewhere," someone told us.play

It’s not what it used to be. “Government moved them elsewhere,” someone told us.

(Pulse36)

Nothing.Just like 51 Iweka, this place was a shadow of its old self.

The onlypositive to this is that Nollywood’s demands outgrew this little addresses.

When we’dseen enough of Aba, we headed for Umuahia.

Tomorrow,we’re going to seek the iconic days of Biafra yesterday, and the future.

Read previous episodes HERE

*All photos were shot on the Samsung Galaxy S8+.

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