By Gloria Irabor |
Before now, furniture making, being a subcategory of carpentry, was looked upon with disdain, especially by those who reasoned that, having gotten a college degree, a white collar job was simply the only path to dignity and prosperity. However, that is fast changing, as more and more people in Nigeria are getting to appreciate the creative art of combining wood, metal, fabrics, cushion etc., to give allure and beauty to chairs, tables, wardrobes, cabinets and other household furniture.
Today, with a preponderance of raw materials in Nigeria, the furniture industry in the country is proving to be a gold mine of sort, currently providing qualitative and affordable furniture to a teeming market across the country, with a good number of professionals flooding the industry.
Gone are the days when locally-made furniture was necessarily below standard and unsuitable for the taste of affluent Nigerians. If there is any margin in terms of quality in this regard, then it must be because the potentials in this particular industry are yet to be fully tapped due to a multiplicity of factors.
As such, you find that many Nigerians, up till date, would still prefer to purchase imported pieces of furniture, as opposed to the locally-made ones because of certain differences in quality and durability. But you will be amazed that some of the materials used for furniture production, like Melanin Face Chip Boards (MFC), can actually be manufactured in Nigeria. “How?” you might want to ask. Dusts derived from plain wood, usually found in saw mills, can be used to manufacture this particular material. But it is usually heaped and set on fire, which is why manufacturers import MFC from countries like China.
Nevertheless, the horizon looks very bright for the sector, as notable furniture experts with sophisticated products, comparable to what is obtainable in countries like Italy and the U.S.A, are springing up around the country by the day. Not only are these bourgeois class of furniture makers springing up, patronage of their locally-made products is also on a rapid rise, with individuals and corporate organisations alike pitching tent with them.
One of such furniture makers is Tony Ohifeme Ezikiel, CEO, ITEX Furniture, who has gained international recognition, with a seminar room named after him by the University of Oxford Business School, United Kingdom, thus becoming the first African to be honoured by the prestigious institution.
Tony Ohifeme has made immense contributions to improving the business climate for local furniture manufacturers in Nigeria, dating back to the time when he led the call for the government ban on the importation of finished furniture ten years ago. To the surprise of many, his outstanding sophisticated works stem from 80% locally-sourced materials and 20% imported materials.
Taiwo Ojo, owner of Grand Furnishing Company Limited, a major furnishing company in the heart of the nation’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is another landmark professional in the industry. He records a monthly turnover of about N5million and employs the use of sophisticated machinery in his craft.
Another outstanding giant in this industry is Ibukunoluwa Awosika, a woman who has not only succeeded in carving a niche for herself, but has also left indelible footprints in the Nigerian furniture industry. She is the Managing Director of the Chair Centre Limited, an ultra-modern furniture company that gained franchise from Sokoa Chairs of France, during the ban on importation of furniture into Nigeria.
This modern furniture factory is engaged in the domestic production of international standard office facilities, and the importation of semi-finished components for full assembly and sale to the local market.
Starting production with about 400 likely models within the Sokoa S.A and France collection, it introduced other models into its collection as the need arose. Today, the company can boast of over 45 staff, with branches in Accra (Ghana), Tinapa and Calabar, and an annual revenue of over N300 million.
However, despite the prospects that abound in the Nigerian furniture industry, one of the challenges facing it is the lack of enough professional furniture makers to meet demand, as opposed to wayside carpenters, who equally try to make chairs, beds and tables. This definitely creates an immense opportunity for a myriad of Nigerian youths, who could embrace the vocation and learn the craft of qualitative modern furniture making. It also provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs who might want to invest in providing this training at a cost.
Either way, the sector is definitely an untapped gold mine.
Picture Credits: IO Furniture