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An overview of Nigeria’s leather industry

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By Abraham Adekunle

Rich culture and craftmanship tradition resides in this untapped sector.

Imagine walking through the bustling markets of Kano, enveloped in the rich scent of freshly tanned leather and surrounded by a variety of artisan-crafted leather goods. This scene captures just a glimpse of Nigeria’s thriving leather market, brimming with potential and historical richness. Nigeria has a deep-rooted tradition of leather craftsmanship. There are techniques honed over centuries and passed down through generations. From the ancient tanneries of Kano to the modern manufacturing hubs in Lagos and Aba, the country’s leather industry not only reflects cultural heritage but also plays an important role in economic growth.

One of Nigeria’s strengths lies in its abundant livestock population, which is estimated at around 20 million cattle by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This massive resource provides a steady supply of high-quality hides and skins, essential raw materials for the leather industry. Also, the rising middle class with increased disposable income fuels domestic demand for leather products. The global luxury market is increasingly drawn to ethically sourced and high-quality leather goods. Nigeria, with its rich traditions that artisans have kept going for generations, has the opportunity to capture this niche in this industry.

Opportunities and challenges to address in the sector.

There are many opportunities in this sector. One of them is abundant raw materials. The country’s substantial cattle herds offer a prime source of top-tier hides and skins. By investing in processing facilities, the country can use its raw material wealth to meet both local and international demand. There is also growing demand for these products. Consumers worldwide are tilting towards environmentally friendly and sustainably produced leather goods. Nigeria has the potential to lead in sustainable leather production, catering to this expanding market. But it should be noted that strategic infrastructure and policies can enable Nigeria to tap into global markets and start exporting the products. Examples like Ethiopia showcase the export potential for Nigerian leather products with the right support and market access.

However, as there are challenges that the government and stakeholders must address. Challenges such as unreliable electricity, water, and transportation infrastructure stall industry growth, leading to higher production costs and logistical complexities. Another is quality control. Inconsistent quality standards and regulatory gaps contribute to perceptions of Nigerian leather products as subpar in global markets. Enhancing quality assurance processes is important for competitiveness. Also, despite a legacy of craftsmanship, Nigeria faces a shortage of skilled labor in the leather sector. Investments in vocational training are needed to nurture a skilled workforce.

Emerging trends and top leather craftsmanship hubs in Nigeria.

Regarding emerging trends, there are three to watch out for. They include: sustainable practices, technological advancements, and e-commerce opportunities. First, eco-conscious consumers drive demand for sustainable leather goods. Nigerian manufacturers are adopting eco-friendly practices like chrome-free tanning and waste recycling to meet this demand. Second, digital tools and automated processes are changing the industry for better, improving efficiency and product quality for Nigerian entrepreneurs. Finally, online platforms offer a gateway to global markets for Nigerian leather artisans, bypassing traditional barriers and unlocking new opportunities.

While there isn’t an official ranking, several locations stand out for their leatherworking traditions in Nigeria. Kano is known as the heart of Nigeria’s leather industry, which has a rich history and expanding market for leather goods. Aba is famed for its shoemaking industry. In fact, a large percentage of popular footwear sold on the mainstream market is likely made in Aba. It is a hub for both handmade and factory-produced leather footwear. Sokoto is renowned for “Kalabawa” leather, a soft and lightweight variety used in clothing and bags. Akwa Ibom is home to skilled artisans crafting sandals, belts, and other leather items.

Related Article: Leather exports to hit $1Billion by 2025

Of course, Ogun State blends leather with “Adire” textiles, while Maiduguri specializes in saddles, horse gear, and utilitarian leather products. Taraba State is known for “Langai” sandals, a popular regional footwear choice. Gombe State produces everyday leather items like bags and wallets. Artisans in Kaduna focus on decorative leatherwork for furniture and home decor. Last but not least, Oyo State is the historical center for leatherworking, including belts, pouches, and musical instruments. Nigeria’s leather industry is a combination of tradition, innovation, and untapped potential. By addressing challenges, embracing trends, and leveraging its strengths, Nigeria can position itself as a global leader in the leather market, enriching both its cultural heritage and economic prosperity.

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