In the early 2000s, whenever the term “made in Aba ” popularly called Aba made is mentioned. It is synonymous with fake, inferior, or substandard.
The commercial city of Aba produces over 800,000 shoes and 90,000 bags daily with a net worth of up to N120 billion– Guardian newspaper. These products are commercialized all over Africa since its industrial inception in the late 70s.
Following the inferior quality of the production materials, these products were quick to damage, their prices a reflection of the sub standardization.
To infiltrate the market, the producers upscaled the production quality and rebranded their products “Made in Italy” to compete with the Italian products in the market. It is not surprising that one could buy a made in aba product for an Italian price unknowingly. At one point it was hard to tell one from the other as the local manufacturers imitated the Italians’ craft to the letter.
As the day progressed, some local manufacturers started to own their own brand with their name. You can see brands labeled as UG shoes, AK labels. This drew attention to the potentials left untapped from the growing industrial hub powerline and Ngwa road Aba was becoming.
The Ikpeazu led administration put these into perspective and launched the “made in Aba” project campaign with the ambition to make a Taiwan out of the city projecting it to make an average of a billion dollars per annum in coming years. To achieve this, billions of Naira have been pumped into the project. It has been 5 years, let’s look at how it has fared.
Practicality– As one of its major strides, the government sponsored the training of 100 youths, who were to travel to China in batches with a view to enhance and manifest their skills in the use of automated shoemaking technology. We are yet to hear the progress or otherwise.
The project also had on board TBWA Concept, a virile advertising, and marketing firm, in liaison with Ford Foundation which took the bill, decided to sensitize the global audience leveraging CNN to showcase the ongoing trail-blazing milestone.
But the Critics of the advert on CNN says.
The advert made the business look like some “meelum ebele local manufacturers” which is a failure of purpose as the idea was to project it as an industrial hub.
Popularity– There should be a “Proudly Made In Aba” campaign, with extensive showcasing of quality products with “made in Aba” legibly splashed on them. Propaganda should be put to use- Henry Okelue.
An ICT professional- Henry Okelue captured the pitfalls of the campaign in one tweet. The campaign is yet to focus intensive energy on “photo speaks”, engaging influencers, conducting massive awareness.
Other social media users have described the campaign as a “notion” rather than a feasible campaign.
Reflective patronage– Mr. Akpaka a shoe manufacturer at Powerline Ariaria Aba recounts “We have not seen any much changes from what we used to sell before, our normal customers, sometimes new ones”
This is different from a female clothes designer-Miss. Uche Ababa’s point of view “These days I and some of my boys get customers from other African countries, they call and say they saw our number on the internet, they pay and we send their cloth”
Widespread views and opinions on social media show that Nigerians abroad place orders for made in aba products. This can be attributed to the widespread campaign.
Improvement in quality of Lives– Improvement in quality of lives of persons living in Aba has deteriorated instead of appreciating as expected. 20% of people living in Aba are directly or indirectly linked to the production and commercialization of made in Aba clothes, shoes, bags, etc.
It is expected that if significant changes are reckoned in the Ikpeazu made-in-aba project, it will tickle down their lives.
With these, it is not hard to see that the made in Aba project has taken a number of giant steps at the rooftop, but little steps that impact the beneficiaries directly- a call for action to the overseeing bodies.
With what you know about the made in Aba concept, the growth, the process, the media, and publicity, Will you wear a made in Aba product?