Nigeria exports most of its raw leather and imports leathergoods. This is par for the course for many third world economies. For example, crude oil and raw aluminum are exported, then gasoline and pressed aluminum sheeting or cooking foil is imported. In many cases made from the same raw material but at a much higher cost.
Long term this is unsustainable and when Winston Udeagha joined his decades-old family leather business, God’s Little Tannery in Kano, he became part of an African value chain whose end point is the exclusive shelves of Europe’s luxury emporiums.
Realising that such an economic model could not create prosperity in his native country, Winston struck out on his own over three years ago and founded Winston Leather.
“For the last 500 years traders have bought leather from Nigeria, and if we have this raw material that is good enough to make leather for some of the biggest fashion houses in the world, then we can take that same leather and make finished leathergoods in Africa that attain the same quality, because it’s the same raw material,” stated Winston.
Winston went beyond making leathergoods from sheep and goat skins and incorporated exotics such as crocodile, python, ostrich and even monitor lizard into his collections. His aim was to attract a growing band of consumers from across the continent and create an image of excellence as an African luxury brand.
Nigeria generating $600m in exports in 2019, according to a report by JCR-VIS Credit Rating Company. In 2020, the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) estimated that Nigeria’s leather industry could generate over $1bn in export earnings by 2025.
Winston Udeagha wants to be part of this prosperity.