By Eric Ugbor
ABA – SHOEMAKERS in Ariaria market have expressed worry over the state government’s plan to bring a foreign investor who would produce shoes in Aba to compete with local shoe-makers.
Some shoemakers who spoke with Vanguard in Aba yesterday in separate interviews said that the arrangement would strip them of their little income and make them jobless.
Ikedi Ohaeto, said that the government may benefit from the taxes the investor would pay but noted that the investor would in turn take the made-in-Aba shoe market away from them.
He said ,”It is not fit for Governor Okezie Ikpeazu who is championing made-in-Aba products 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 cheap man-power from Nigeria, how can we compete with him producing with no machines but bare hands?
“I am not too sure that Aba shoe-making 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”, he said.
Chinbueze Onyeizu said that the governor should change his mind on bringing the Chinese to Aba to produce shoes that would compete with their own in durability and cost.
He said that rather than bring the Chinese to increase shoe production in Aba, government should buy machines for them to boost their production and give them time to repay the cost of the machines.
Onyeizu noted that the idea of bringing the Chinese investor in the area of shoe production with machines to compete with people producing with bare hands would be counter-productive for the Aba shoe industry.
Another shoe-maker, Ken Ora said that it would seem that the governor does not want to complete the Umukalika Industrial City that would house the Shoe, Finished Leather Products and Garment Clusters at Obingwa.
He argued that for the Industrial city to be without machines would be like talking of sending a man to work without equipment.
“If the shoe-makers that would be located at Umukalika do not have machines, how can they compete with the Chinese coming with machines and other advantages?Again, the machines we need cannot be purchased individually by us because we do not have the funds to do that and so we look up to government to help us” he said.
According to him”And if Abia state government would want to buy us machines 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.
The state government had April 2017 secured a $1.5 billion deal for Mr Zhang Huarong’s Huajian Shoe Industry based in Dongguan, Guangzhuo, China to establish its factory in Aba.
The government had said that the Chinese investor’s presence would engender competition among shoe-makers in Aba but did not say what the state may loose from the shoe factory deal.