The Artisan: The Kano tannery supplying the world’s most luxurious brands
The city of Kano in Northern Nigeria is the largest commercial hub for the leather industry. The tanneries in Kano are bustling with activity as men work on hides and various skins for brands the world over. These traditional tanneries are Nigeria’s oldest and they are also the biggest suppliers of local leather.
However, the Kano leather industry’s reach is far beyond what we could have imagined. It seems Nigeria’s northern city is the supplier for some of the most prolific brands around the world including Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
These innocuous- looking tanneries are the driving force of a profitable leather industry. They and their products keep hundreds of thousands of people in gainful employment and feed a sector of the fashion industry which is quite literally worth billions of dollars.
Kano tanneries, like other leather processing centres, are the beginning point in the leather producing value chain. The tanneries receive hides and skins that have been stripped from slain animals and take them through the tanning process until they become leather. Aside from the usual cow and goat skin, they also specialise in a range of exotic skins like snake and crocodile.
Leather produced at these centers goes on to become footwear, bags and clothing and are transported from Kano to various points all over the world. Some of the world’s biggest fashion brands are known to source their leather from Kano tanneries. In 2016, it was revealed that French luxury powerhouse Louis Vuitton were using leather that was supplied from parts of Northern Nigeria. Testament to the sheer quality of leather goods being produced right here in Nigeria and a sign that our artisans are the foremost in the leather industry.
Image by Eleanor Whitehead
The big reveal came from The Economist’s correspondent Eleanor Whitehead, whose recent tour around Northern Nigeria included a visit to the city of Kano, where she met the team at the tannery.
She posted some photographs of the establishment, which is owned by Igbo businessman Chief Koffy Ndubuisi Udeagha, captioning her picture:
This is God’s Little Tannery, one of Kano’s last surviving leather tanneries. It supplies Louis Vuitton
The question becomes, “What African brands are tapping into this opportunity.”
Nigeria exports a large amount of leather goods. One generous estimate put the annual revenue from the leather trade at a whopping $100 million. However, it also imports about five times this value.
It’s certainly a market that is rapidly expanding and holds a lot of potential for the economy. If local producers were to be provided with the machines and steady power supply they need to lower production costs and optimise productivity, it could prove a veritable goldmine for the country as a whole.