So I've not yet made it to Aba (a few days more) but thought I'd share what I've experienced in the last week while leading up. In a country where raw materials, people per Sqm and resources are bursting at the seams, you wouldn't think I'd be having the trouble that I am finding what I need. I believe It's not always about just reporting the successes and triumphs of the journey, but equally as important to mention the failures, unanswered questions, sweaty inner thighs, and heat rash.
Upon entering this new chapter of Shekudo, my goal was to make sure I used 100% Nigerian materials (particularly bi-products) such as leather which started and finished in Nigeria. I.e. not sending xyz cow skin off to xyz country to get treated / dyed and resold back to Nigerians (which is often the agreement between Nigeria and Italy when it comes to most leather). I was dismissed a few times when I requested Nigerian start-to-finish leather and offered the Italian finished product over and over. Unbeknownst to many, Nigeria has an abundance of leather, some of the best in fact (i.e. Sokoto red goat skin demanded internationally by Global Fashion houses can be found here)* One tannery located in Northern Nigeria (Kano) actually supplies a chunk of its leather to Louis Vuitton. Yes, - now you know. However investment into many industries including leather is dire, with the economic benefits being ignored.
Chinese imports have recently flooded Nigeria and tend to take attention away from the many small industries and little guy manufacturers who are in direct competition with these cheaper substitutes. For example - Nigerian made shoes (particularly those from Aba) can compete with some of the worlds best (and the cheaper Chinese alternatives) with technique and craftsmanship handed down through generations. (You can read more here )
My journey will require me to travel to 3 seperate villages, each within 4-8 hours of Lagos and each other to find the raw materials I require. But I'm determined to find what I am after so I can feel comfortable delivering a genuine product which prides itself in being as close to 100% Nigerian as possible. Minus China, minus India, minus Italy (minus my sanity very soon).
I'll keep you posted.
**Read more here