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Cane Chair Business: Beautifying The Home, Swelling Pockets

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cane 2NIGERIA is, in fact, a blessed country, as this could be attested to by the ingenuity of its people to eke out living from anything they lay their hands on.

Little wonder some nationals, especially those from the Asian region, described the country as a land of opportunity. Cane chair weaving, a micro-section of the furnishing, interior and designing sub-sector of the building and construction sector of the Nigerian economy.

Though homespun, the weavers are filling the gap, providing alternatives to expensive upholstery used not only to decorate homes, but for comfort and relaxation. Using makeshift workshops, cane chair makers do not require the big machines to deliver their fragile, but beautiful pieces of furniture.

The tools are simply, harmer, file, drawknife, a pair of gloves, saw and a work cloth. The materials are available locally and are affordable. All any interested person needs to do is to undergo a six-month apprenticeship with one of the known hands in the business.

Under the Maryland bridge, Lagos, hundreds of cane makers, including women and children, are seen working on different aspect of the business, from filing to treating the woods and painting the almost finished products. With the level of activities going on here, this location, which doubles as the headquarters of cane makers association in Lagos and across the country, is fast turning to employment centre.

The business is huge, giving direct employment to over a thousand youth and similar number of farmers, who grow the bamboo, raffia and rattan used. Another set of people, who benefit from these products are the middlemen, the marketers, who take these products form the various local carvers to the big shops and even across the Nigerian shores.

Applying the law of multiple effect on the trade, means that cane chair or interior business is helping to provide employment to grassroots people, who most times suffer seasonal unemployment when they are not farming. Apart from being the headquarters of this business, the Maryland under bridge also serves as a display ground for exotic cane furniture for both local and export markets.

Here different types of beautifully designed chairs, baskets, settee, bed, shelves, wardrobe and others compete for attention. According to Henry Omoroye, weaving cane chair gave him his first building in Lagos and his first foreign currency.

“Though, I may not be selling so much within a week, if I put together all that I make, including selling other accessories in a month, I may be going home with something between N150,000 and N200,000; which work will actually give me something like that,” he asked.

Speaking on the business, Mr. Mark Ewibeano, chairman, National Cane Chair Association of Nigeria, said, “cane chairs are stronger than upholstery. It could last as long as 20 years, so far the webs are not cut. They are also beautiful and add to the ambience of the room or any place they are placed.”

On its general acceptance and patronage, Ewibeano revealed that the local patronage is high, especially during festive periods when people buy interior decors as gift items for friends and loved ones or to enhance the beauty of their homes.

Towards the end of the year and its beginning, the demand is also high because some people may want to change the aesthetics of their homes. “The market is very good.

Apart from local customers, foreigners do come to buy our products and on such occasion, we make more money, at times even sell in hard currency. “ Once your finishing is good you will surely go places, as the market is wide and nobody in the business would ever say he is running at a loss.

I am not saying there are no downturns, but the sales are good enough to off set the days of idleness,” he stressed.

Comparing the price of cane chairs to the conventional upholstery furniture, Ewibeano stated, “it depends on the place, time of the year and the haggling power of the buyer, but on the average, a set goes between N50,000 to N200,000.” Explaining how they source their materials, Ewibeano said, “we get all our materials, including chemicals used to treat the woods and to give our finished products the sheen locally, which makes our products cheaper, giving us an edge above imported ones.

“But our major challenge is getting a warehouse or large production ground to store our wood, rattan and others from direct sun heat. Imagine, we go as far as Edo and Delta States to get our materials, but poor storage could turn our efforts to nothing,” he revealed.

With this small production line, one would think these carvers are only working to enrich themselves, but the carvers’ chairman said, “we pay taxes to government, they come here to inspect our books and receipts. We also pay different levies and rates to the Federal and state government agencies; so, with this you can see that we are not only employers of labour, but source of revenue to the government, even though it is little.”

Upping the business, Stanley Okoh, who serves as a middleman, buying finished products from the local weavers and reselling to the big shops, revealed that the trade is as lucrative as any other in country.

“ I get some of the chairs in the range of N50,000 to N200,000, spray them with different colours and embellish them with foams and other beddings to give that classic look.

“ I sell to hotels, restaurants and homes. The market is good and I make enough to pay my bills,” he added. Computing the contribution of the cane chair makers to the economy, Okoh, a University of Lagos trained business administrator, said he cannot be exact because of the dearth of data.

He, however, revealed that the artisans have been able to absorb some youth, which if not engaged in any productive endeavour may use their creativity in the negative way and to the detriment of the society.

“Apart from this, they have been able to sustain themselves, attract foreign revenue, because at times we are paid in foreign currency by our customers, and make Nigeria one of the cane chair destinations in West Africa, which is a plus to our economy. “And of course, we should not forget the ripple effect of this on the grassroots people, especially the farmers in states like Edo and Delta, where most of the rattan and raffia come from.

The economy is huge and with the right motivation they will do more.”

“The business is huge, giving direct employment to over a thousand youth and similar number of farmers, who grow the bamboo, raffia and rattan used. Another set of people who benefit from these products are the middlemen, the marketers, who take these products form the various local carvers to the big shops and even across the Nigerian shores.”


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