The Challenges of Producing in Africa
With the help of his sons and wife, Obi runs his workshop in the heart of mainland Lagos, Nigeria. The journey to get there is hard and tiresome, with the last leg of your travel ending in a red and dusty road. You're greeted by an iron gate but once they open, you find yourself in a green estate, and oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city.
It may be that many people who are not yet familiar with producing in Nigeria think that producing things there would be quite easy. Unfortunately, producing in Nigeria is quite difficult. There is still a great lack of infrastructure, especially a lack of constant electricity- there's usually a soft hum going through Obi's workshop, reminding us that most of the time, the generator is running.
The story of Obi, the artisan behind each Kokumo piece is closely intertwined with the decades long story of the Nigerian economy. While the leather industry was once one of the biggest industries in Nigeria, ever since oil was discovered, it has now been neglected and forgotten. Now the majority of textiles are imported from China into Nigeria, while the leather they have are being exported to Europe instead of being used in their own market.
All the leather used for Kokumo come from local tanneries in the North of Nigeria, hopefully helping out with the revival of the industry in the North.