L-r: Hon Eziuche Ubani, Bentley and Chidinma Chukwuemeka, co-founders, The Footwear Academy (Winners of the Hackathon challenge), Prof Paul Nwulu, Ford foundation and Mr Kelechi Nwosu , CEO of TBWAConcept Unit at the at the event

Mary Ekah

Footwear Academy, a footwear training firm, has won the maiden edition of the Proudly Made-in-Aba Hackathon Challenge, designed to proffer solution to challenges currently faced by Aba entrepreneurs, especially in the finished leather, garment and steel fabricating clusters. Footwear won the challenge with a solution to upgrade the skills of Aba shoemakers to enable them to improve the quality of their products, using modern equipment and technology. Bentley Chukwuemeka, co-founder, The Footwear Academy, stated that their plan is to introduce Aba shoemakers to modern technology to enable them speed up production. The Footwear Academy also intends to reduce the apprentice period from five years to six months.

For their effort, which was considered to be the best by panel of judges made up of seasoned entrepreneurs and professionals, Footwear Academy won a sum of $50,000. Clintonel Technology came second and won a cash prize of $30,000 with a solution to digitalise and automate the metal fabrication process in Aba, through Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM). While the third prize of $20,000 went to Ogwugo Technologies, an online marketing platform designed to handle trade activities between buyers and sellers in broad categories.
The technology according to Tochukwu Chukwueke, co-founder, Clintonel Technology, would help shoe manufacturers and metal fabricators in Aba to reduce production cost, increase production speed, multiply production volume, improve finishing and generate more revenue. Chima Abafor, co-founder, Ogwogo.com, explained that the firm is offering a dynamic platform built from scratch to adapt to modern e-commerce technology as well as e-commerce problems.

The three-day event was organised to enable young minds to hack and pitch ideas that can solve real problems faced daily by entrepreneurs (Abaprenuers) in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State. The event organised by TBWA\Concept, a global marketing communications firm and sponsored by Ford Foundation is in continuation of the ‘Proudly Made-in Aba campaign’, geared towards promoting goods made-in-Aba.

Programme manager, West African Office of Ford Foundation, Prof. Paul Nwulu, said the Hackathon Challenge was organised to find ways of using technology and innovative ideas to help influence the lives of shoemakers, fabricators and garment makers in Aba.

He explained that they received 400 entries, out of which 10 best ideas were selected for the final, from which the judges further picked the best three as winners. He stated that Ford Foundation is committed to supporting the ideas to bring them to life.

The Managing Director, TBWA\Concept, Kelechi Nwosu, revealed that the ‘Proudly Made in Aba Campaign’ has increased patronage to Aba artisans.