The agreement, which was facilitated by Market Development in the Niger Delta (MADE), a DFID sponsored project, would enable BoI provide funding for the Aba finished leather cluster to produce seamless products, as well as increase the volume of production.
About 5,000 artisans are expected to benefit from the first roll out of scheme, which is expected in few weeks.
Betsy Obaseki, managing director, BOI Investment and Trust Company Limited, described Aba as a potential hub for finished leather goods with good prospects to put Nigeria on a global shoe manufacturing map.
She expressed joy over the collaboration, which according to her would give the cluster financial advisory and funding support with the intention to grow the sector, improve quality and quantity of their products.
“Already, they are doing so well, they are producing over 20,000 pairs of shoes per day and so you can imagine the potentials. And so when we support them more, we expect that they will produce a lot more.
“And already they are exporting to West African Countries and we expect them to be able to do better so that they can produce high quality products that they can even export to Europe and the rest of the World.
“Nigerians are going to start sourcing their shoes and other finished leather products from within, which will help us to save scarce foreign exchange.
“We believe in this cluster as a potential sector for growth and development of Nigeria. Nigeria has a huge population so rather than go abroad to buy those expensive shoes, we support our own, build capacity, enable them to do these things for us locally, by so doing we will keep our money within the country, rather than using it to help others to develop their economy.”
Tunde Oderinde, team leader of MADE, observed that the partnership between BoI and LEPMAAS would boost local shoe industry and appealed to the beneficiaries of the first batch to be prompt with their repayment to create opportunities for others.
According to Oderinde, “this is the beginning of good things to come. I know that if we can start this well, irrespective of what we are able to get as funding tranche now and we can repay, I know that BoI will be interested in increasing and also increasing the number of beneficiaries of the subsequent batches.
“So, we are going to be our brothers keeper here, we are going to be guaranteeing ourselves as well as ensuring that what is giving out is paid back at the right time.
For Okechukwu Williams, president, LEPMAAS, the partnership with BoI is a milestone development that would impact positively on the product quality of the finished leather cluster in Abia State.
He applauded MADE’s contribution towards the growth of the FNS, saying, “in all our relationships they have always been the initiators and facilitators and today is another milestone in our relationship and we are very much grateful to them. And for BoI accepting to partner with us in the development of the cluster is a positive action.”
Market Development for the Niger Delta Programme (MADE) is a DFID supported project aimed at promoting livelihoods in Nigeria through value chain (cassava, oil palm, poultry, aquaculture, recycling and agro inputs) promotion to increase economic growth, employment and incomes.
The programme is targeted at the nine states in the Niger Delta region, namely Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayela, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers states.
It utilizes the Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) approach to ensure that interventions are pro-poor and inclusive of vulnerable groups, working in close collaboration with the extractive industries to support community engagement. NNF is partnering DAI in providing logistics and technical support for the programme at the design stage and implementation and is also a member of the MADE Technical Advisory Board.