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Business News of Thursday, 31 March 2022


'The Aboki empowers cobblers and leather artisans all over Nigeria' - Cynthia E. Chisom

Founder of  The Aboki Africa Cynthia E. Chisom Founder of The Aboki Africa Cynthia E. Chisom

Cynthia E. Chisom founded The Aboki Africa in 2018, a social enterprise focused on transforming the leather industry in Africa by building the right infrastructure for sustainable growth and development.

Could you tell us about your company?

I founded The Aboki Africa, a leather tech startup based in Abuja, out of my passion for the art of shoe repair.

I quickly recognized that this industry is underdeveloped with lots of gaps in its system and structure and my focus became to empower at least 1000 cobblers with a workspace access to consistent customers, knowledge and tools/equipment.

What’s your goal as a company and what’s your strategy for achieving it?

Our goal is to raise the standard of shoe repair in Africa and we do this by rebranding the art of shoe repair and by using technology to connect local leather artisans to well-paying customers.

We also connect local leather artisans to funding from investors. This funding is focused on improving their
environment and creating better working conditions for them so that they can deliver excellently.

Furthermore, we help leather artisans gain access to helpful educational resources that can open them to the endless possibilities of their craft and skill.

So far since 2018, The Aboki has been able to connect 40+ local artisans (directly and indirectly) to customers across 12 states in Nigeria and provided over 8000+ shoe repair services and served 1000+ customers. We have been able to help these artisans generate a minimum of 80,000 per month in revenue.

This is a critical metric for measuring the impact of our work. The company currently has 7 workstations in Abuja and is soon to triple that number in the year 2022.

How much potential for growth to do see in this sector?

Africa's leather sector is part of a global industry that is expected to be worth $30bn by 2027 (Businesswire).

Nigeria is a consistent supplier of leather to Asian and European markets; our leather ranks the highest quality globally. Nigeria is one of the highest producers of leather and finished leather products in Africa.

African countries have 25% of the world's sheep and goats but produce less than 10% of global output of hides and skin.

There is a direct relationship between Nigeria’s leather production and poverty. Most leather production can be found within the poorest states in Nigeria. More people go for this craft because it is a quick low revenue earning job.

About 95% of cobblers across Nigeria come from the north, most of whom have very little or no formal education. They usually move from street to street with their toolboxes and a pocketful of hope in search of customers in the neighborhoods.

These small scale entrepreneurs make their living through daily earnings from shoe repairs. Although their processes are crude, they are active players in Nigeria’s informal sector.

This tells us that activities and sales within the leather industry can significantly reduce poverty in Nigeria. Successful development of this sector could reduce poverty in rural areas.

Because it is a labour-intensive sector, it is an important source of employment across the patchwork of its pan-continental supply chain.

If this industry is properly developed in the continent, Africa can be both a source of raw materials and an exporter of finished goods, able to exceed the forecast made by NESG of reaching an industry value of 1 billion dollars by 2025.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic and the work-from-home trend affected your operations?

It hasn’t. Being a startup, the company has always worked remotely. Interacting with the teams and artisans only when it is critical.

This made us very prepared even before the pandemic and we have followed this same model post-covid19.

What is The Aboki’s growth strategy for 2022?

There is so much work that is required from us as a company. Our growth strategy for 2022 is to launch a Shoe Making and Repair Academy for the younger generation to inspire them to consider the craft early on, so that they don't have to wait till they are unable to get a job before they acquire this skill.

This is to be called The Aboki Academy.

Our desire is to launch an investment program that can give the public the opportunity to sponsor the operations of some of the artisans.

There are some artisans who need to move to a bigger workstation in order to explore the possibilities of their craft. This move will give them the opportunity to employ more people to join them in the craft, provide training to the younger generation and earn more.

If on their own they can finish 20 pairs in a week, they can accomplish four times that number with a larger space and more people. With an investment of a minimum of 300,000 naira the public can participate in the empowerment of these artisans.

This initiative is set to launch in the second quarter and is called The Aboki Empowerment Program.

What are the long term ambitions you’re aiming for, as a company?

Our long term goal is to be one of the key drivers of growth and development in Nigeria, helping her to exceed the NESG forecast of an industry of $1bn.

To have over 5000 artisans empowered with workstations spread across Nigeria and three countries in West Africa within the next four years.

Which 3 African countries will perform best in terms of business in 2022?

I’ll go with Rwanda, Mauritius, Morocco in no particular order. Their government policies are centered around creating an enabling business climate for startups and entrepreneurs.

Any news or information from The Aboki Africa that you’d like to share?

We are giving primary and secondary schools the opportunity to be part of The Aboki Academy.

We will host a unique summer program for schools to engage the kids in a craft they can earn from, and they will be given the opportunity to practice at any of our workstations during the holiday period.

We are also looking for partners who are interested in establishing artisans across different cities in Nigeria, giving these artisans a simple workstation, equipment and tools while The Aboki focuses on getting them customers to earn from, helping them build a better structure and access to knowledge to improve their craft.