BY STANLEY AHUKANNA in Umuahia•
Abia State government has said that plan is to establish first automated shoe manufacturing plant in Aba to boost Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the State.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, while disclosing this to journalists in Aba, said the factory was expected to come on stream in July this year.
Ikpeazu said it was in pursuit of the automation that his administration decided to send 100 Abia youths to China to learn how to operate the machines.
“In doing automation, naturally, the first place to start is capacity building. We reached an agreement with the vendors of the machine that we were importing and decided to train 100 youths.
“The first 30 has gone and they have come back. So we have 30 people that will be the first staff in the first ever Aba Automated Shoe factory that will open around June or July,” the governor said.
He listed the automation as part of the fallout of the aggressive marketing he embarked upon to sell the Aba brand, adding that SMEs in Aba were breathing fresh air because major obstacles that were militating against their growth have been eliminated through his aggressive marketing of mad-in-Aba products, locally and internationally.
He said it was through the aggressive marketing that the Presidency launched the SME Clinic in Aba, which brought about an interface between the SMEs and federal government regulatory agencies, which has helped to remove many administrative bottlenecks.
Ikpeazu added that it was through the same aggressive marketing that the federal government sent the Rural Electrification Agency “to use our gas here to pilot the provision of power for the Ariaria shoe cluster and they are doing a pilot scheme with 1, 000 shops that for the past three months now, have enjoyed uninterrupted power. So, Power is coming too just because we marketed aggressively.
“We have achieved automation. We have achieved power somehow and the interface between the Standard Organisation of Nigeria and other regulatory agencies and the SMEs has made the relationship between the average manufacturer and the agencies more cordial now than before,” he said.
“So, all these impediments that we saw before, just by marketing aggressively, we have been able to get it to them and we know that with sustained pressure, by next year, it will be difficult for you to criticize made in Aba shoes, bags and leather works because all the things you think that we need to encourage them, we have managed, by the special grace of God, to put in place,” the governor said.