On this week’s episode of Marketplace Africa, CNN International explores how the leather industry is growing in Nigeria. The programme also meets Trevor Ward, who explains why Nigeria was an attractive location for starting his consulting firm, W Hospitality Group.
Thought to be worth around 700 million dollars annually, the leather industry in Nigeria is rapidly growing. The programme meets designer Femi Olayebi, who became a champion of the industry after launching the annual Lagos Leather Fair.
She tells the programme why the fair has been a success: “Not only did it promote the established startup leather designers and smaller platers, it brought to light the high level of activity that was happening within the leather space. We wanted to promote ‘Made in Nigeria’ but we also wanted to see with all the backward integration that was happening it was time we started looking inward. We didn’t need to go out there and buy leather shoes or leather bags when [we have]it right here. So not only did I invite the leather designers to the table, we invited machinery suppliers, we invited the tanneries… We just wanted to invite the major players along that value chain and the stakeholders were there and they were absolutely surprised at what they saw.”
Her brand, Femi Handbags, is already well established but she believes that with the right support there could be many other successful businesses like hers in Nigeria: “There are so many people interested in this industry, so many people that want to succeed within this industry so we need to help ourselves and we need to bring us to the attention of the policymakers and say, ‘You know what, we are right here. We are a force to be reckoned with, we are a niche industry but you’ve got to take us seriously.’”
Iyalode Lawson, National President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, tells the programme that she is aware of how important the leather industry could become and that by 2025, it could be worth one billion dollars annually: “The leather industry is coming on [in Nigeria]with the diversification of the economy because the oil boom is no longer there so everything now has to go back to the cotton pyramid, the groundnut pyramid, the leather industry. We are now going back into all these areas of diversification whereby the economy will pick up and there will be more jobs.”
Also in the programme, host Zain Asher meets Trevor Ward to learn more about how he defines success and why he moved his company from London to Lagos. Ward outlines why Nigeria was an attractive base for his consulting firm, W Hospitality Group: “In Africa, I found that there was no competition for what I do. I was a pioneer. I’d been plodding along in London, and I was an owner of our consulting business there, and we were struggling because of competition. [I realised], ‘Oh look, I’m now earning a lot more money than I was when I was in London, and I’m able now to make decisions about what I do with my money,’ as opposed to just constantly going along with the treadmill, if you like, and I was building up some capital.”
On whether he realized his company would experience such rapid growth in Nigeria, Ward tells the programme: “I moved to Africa in 2003, set up in Lagos, and from about 2005, the business was growing ten, twenty per cent each year, and that was wonderful. When we reached the million dollar income, that was the height of the growth of Africa, when Africa was really rising. We had almost double digit growth in Nigeria and in other countries. After 2010 with the Ebola and the oil crisis, Africa didn’t rise anymore. Several countries went into recession, including Nigeria. So my company is now less than it was. I’m very happy with that.”
Ward explains how his definition of success has changed over time: “When I started out, it was just earning more. It’s addictive. Getting the next deal, signing a nice consulting contract and another one and another one… Then I realized, ‘Well, I’ve got enough.’ I just want to know that I am financially secure. That’s hugely important to me. So when I got to that stage, I just enjoy spending time with the family now. And still working, because work is addictive as well.”
‘CNN Marketplace Africa’ airs Friday 10th August at 1615 WAT on CNN International
The programme also airs at the following times:
- Saturday 11th August at 1615 WAT
- Sunday 12th August at 0100 WAT and 0715 WAT
- Monday 13th August at 0200 WAT and 1745 WAT
- Tuesday 14th August at 0430 WAT