The cobbler at work
Ghanaian made shoes have made important inroads into the local market and with most of them produced in Kumasi, they are generally associated with the Ashanti Regional capital, hence the reference Kumasi shoes.
The foregone notwithstanding, shoemaking has gone beyond Kumasi, as some local cobblers are now based in Accra producing shoes which the Georgio Brutinis and other designers would envy.
Yaw Barimah Agyapong Addo, a JSS leaver, is one of such brilliant designer shoemakers and rightly spoiling to enter the international market.
Out of curiosity I showed the gentleman my designer footwear and asked him to replicate it which he did flawlessly.
Impressed with his craftmaship I thought I should introduce him in particularly and the local shoemaking industry in general to the country as a department worth investing in or supporting.
?I started learning this trade in 2002 as an apprentice under the direction of Mr. Amoako in the Agbado quarters of Accra passing out in 2005. Before setting up on my own I served my teacher for eight months as part of the terms of the deal,? he said.
Starting with a paltry capital of 50 cedis, Mr. Yaw Barimah Agyapong Addo today has his own business and even imparting his shoemaking skills to others.
With three apprentices passing out from his workshop, he can comfortably smile and pat himself on the back for jobs being well done.
?I started life selling booze then it dawned on me that I should learn a trade. Shoemaking was dear to my heart and what better way to start than polishing shoes while in my village of Obyan near Abetifi in the Eastern Region? he said.
Thirty-one-year-old Addo, popularly called E-Cash, now produces shoes, which are in turn sold in town by two persons.
People also come to him with their designs and he produces these for such customers from his Korle Gonno base near the St. Mary?s senior High School in Accra.
He has a mixed impression of the local shoemaking industry. ?Some are of good quality but others need improvement,? he said.
?We need loans to buy the expensive inputs needed in our industry. Items such as leather, trimming and cutting machines and others are expensive because they are imported. Because of the low sales we record we are unable to raise the money needed to buy large quantity of some of the inputs such as leather, sole and others. With the necessary support and further training we can produce to meet international standards,? he said.
He added ?some of the inputs such as leather could be produced locally but that is not the case and so we have to rely on the imported stuff which besides the cost is difficult to come by sometimes.
?A Ghanaian resident in the US bought some of the shoes I produced and took them to that country.
?He bought 20 pairs from me at a cost of GHC80 a pair.?
Exuding confidence he thinks he can make major inroads if he is supported.
The unemployed youth, he said, could make a living by learning shoemaking ?but regrettably, our youth do not like learning trades under apprenticeship programmes as some of us did.
He observed that Ghanaian ladies prefer imported shoes but according to him ?some of them turn up and make orders though.
?Very soon I shall be producing ladies shoes and this could change the trend. I wish I had many young persons learning the trade from me.?
He said he enjoys his work, a dream he worked towards from his very youthful days.
?When you do what you like you definitely derive satisfaction from doing it that is why I have no regrets in the work I do,? he said.
There is no doubt that the shoemaking industry can become one of our export businesses given the abundance of the talent in that direction. Working under the business name E-Cash, his trade mark, which appears in his products Yaw Barimah Agyapong Addo can definitely assist in curtailing the unemployment menace afflicting the country today.
Perhaps a shoemaking module under the Ghana Youth Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEDA) can be considered by policymakers at the governmental level.
By A.R. Gomda