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Aba shoemakers apprehensive over Chinese manufacturer

By Matthew Uche, Umuahia on 15/06/2017

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•Governor Ikpeazu.
•Governor Ikpeazu.

Shoemakers in Ariaria International Market, Aba in Abia State have expressed apprehension that the arrival of a Chinese investor who intends to establish a shoe factory in Aba may spell doom for the shoe industry in the commercial city.

The state government, in April 2017, secured a deal with Mr. Zhang Huarong, the Chief Executive Officer of Chinese-based Huajian Shoe Industry to establish a $1.5 billion shoe factory in Aba.

Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, had said that the Chinese investors’ presence would engender competition among shoe-makers in Aba.

But some shoemakers in Aba have disagreed, expressing apprehension that the deal would engender unfair competition that may throw the indigenous shoemakers off balance.

They argued that while the Chinese investor would be manufacturing with machinery, the Aba shoemakers would be producing with bare hands.

The local shoemakers are afraid that the disparity that may occur in terms of quality and pricing would put them at a great disadvantage.

They are contending that Abia State Government should have bought machinery and other needed equipment for the local shoemakers to help them produce quality shoes.

Some shoemakers who spoke with newsmen in Aba in separate interviews said the arrangement which would see the Chinese investor competing with local shoemakers would strip them of their little income and render them jobless.

Ikedi Ohaeto said that though the investors’ taxes may boost government revenue, local shoemakers stand the risk of being thrown out of jobs as the investor is bound to take over the market from them.

“Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is championing the campaign to make Made-in-Aba products to gain national and international acceptance. What is then the wisdom for him, at this point in time, to shop for an investor from abroad who would be a huge beneficiary of his effort which is supposed to support local and indigenous production?

“If the Chinese arrives with his machines and coupled with availability of cheap labour from Nigeria, how can we compete with him, producing with no machines but bare hands?

“I am not too sure that Aba shoemaking industry will survive long after the Chinese arrives to establish his shoe factory here. We need foreign investors but not in this way or this sector in Abia,” Ohaeto said.

Ken Ora, another shoemaker, expressed doubt if the Governor would be committed to completing the Umukalika Industrial City that would house the Shoe, Finished Leather Products and Garment Clusters at Obingwa which require machines.

“If the shoemakers that would be located at Umukalika do not have machines, how can they compete with the Chinese coming with machines and other advantages?

“Again, we cannot buy the machines we need individually because we do not have the funds to do that and so we look up to government to help us.

“And if Abia State Government would want to buy machines for us and recoup the money later, does it make business sense to bring in a Chinese competitor whose impact would make recouping their fund harder,” he queried.

Chinbueze Onyeizu pleaded with the Governor to change his mind on bringing the Chinese shoe manufacturer as his products would be superior to locally made shoes.

He said that rather than bring the Chinese to increase shoe production in Aba, government should buy machines for them to boost their production capacity and give them time to repay the money spent on procuring the machines.

Onyeizu therefore kicked against the idea of bringing the Chinese shoe manufacturer to compete with people producing with bare hands, insisting that it would be counter-productive for the Aba shoe industry.

 

Source News Express

Posted 15/06/2017 1:26:38 PM

 

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