The first things that come to mind when we consider doctors are stethoscopes and hospital hallways. However, there is a new kind of doctor working in the busy streets of Pretoria Central. The citizens of Pretoria have relied on Eric Poku, often known as “the shoe doctor,” for more than two decades.
Eric Poku’s background narrative begins in Ghana, which is more than a thousand km distant. He had learned the trade of cobbling from his father and so he set off for South Africa in the year 2000. Poku opened his shoe-stitching shop on Bosman Street in the middle of Tshwane in 2002 with little more than his knowledge and willpower.
Perseverance Through Adversity
Getting going was a struggle. Metro police officers frequently ransacked his home and business, suspecting that he was involved in the illegal drug trade behind the scenes of his shoe store. In his recollection, Poku says, “They did not believe that I was just fixing shoes.”
When his South African wife helped him get a trading license, though, things turned around for the better. Now that the cops couldn’t take his tools and the shoes of his customers, Poku could devote his full attention to his trade.
The Typical Workday of a Shoe Surgeon
These days, Eric Poku has made quite the name for himself in the Pretoria Central area. From Monday through Saturday, he can be found working outside the Tshwane Emergency Medical Services building. Starting about 5 in the morning, his trolley full of shoes in need of repair or collecting is a regular sight at these busy crossroads.
Poku’s commitment to his work is inspiring. “Some of these shoes have been with me for years,” he says, “but I will not throw them away or sell them because these are not my shoes, but my customers’.” His honesty shines through in his unmatched dedication and care for his customers’ possessions.
A Wide Range of Customers
Poku has built a devoted and varied consumer base over the years. The same police officers who once examined his possessions are now among his regulars. They’re in good company, as Poku already fixes the shoes of firefighters, cab drivers, and government workers.
However, Poku’s skills aren’t limited to fixing things. He also makes handmade leather sandals for men and women, which sell like hotcakes for R250 a pair in the summer.
Future Looking Up
Eric Poku, who started out making shoes by hand in the streets, has grander ambitions: he wants to open a factory where he can employ young people in South Africa by making shoes.
Poku is a breath of fresh air at a time when quick fashion frequently takes precedence over quality. His life exemplifies the value of hard work, perseverance, and the enduring allure of well-made goods. Sole ailments treated and moods lifted, one pair of shoes at a time: meet South Africa’s resident shoe doctor.
About The Author:
Lunga Dlamini is a journalist specialising in African start-ups and entrepreneurship. Lunga’s fascination with innovative business models and emerging market trends guides his writing. He has an MBA and has been with Africa Nova since its inception.