How a Nigerian wartime ploy creates billionaires

Onyeka Orie says he did not count on to obtain a retailer

Nigeria’s Igbo group has a repute for being very profitable businessmen – partially due to a community-run apprenticeship program that emerged from the ruins of the conflict, writes the BBC’s Chiagozie Nwonwu in Lagos.

Smiling 28-year-old Onyeka Orie seems to be on the picture of happiness in her cellphone accent store within the sprawling Laptop Village in Nigeria’s most important metropolis, Lagos.

The shop and the whole lot in it had been given to him by his former boss after Mr. Orie had labored for him with out fee for a number of years, studying the commerce.

“I served my oga [boss] for eight years. My oga gave me this store. I had run the shop for 4 years earlier than he gave it to me. I did not count on it, ”says Orie enthusiastically.

Born to farmers in south-eastern Nigeria, he mentioned he had little probability of lifting himself out of poverty as his household couldn’t afford to present him the schooling he wanted to get job in a rustic the place unemployment is rampant, even amongst these with a college diploma.

So after highschool he joined the path of different younger Igbo males to study a commerce beneath the apprenticeship system often known as “Igba Boi” – a follow the place younger individuals, principally boys , go away their households to stay with profitable businessmen.

Boys are anticipated to “serve” their boss, to do the whole lot for him – together with washing his automobiles and doing his family errands. In return, the boys study sensible abilities and study to run a enterprise. In addition they obtain meals and lodging.

Lagos Computer VillageLagos Computer Village

The 2000s noticed an explosion within the cell phone market in Nigeria and lots of exchanges within the Laptop Village in Lagos

On the finish of an agreed interval, their boss provides them capital to start out their very own enterprise.

The Igbo studying system has its roots within the post-civil conflict years in Nigeria, says Ndubuisi Ekekwe, a Nigerian professor whose article on the apprenticeship program is anticipated to seem within the Harvard Enterprise Evaluate later this month. this.

The Igbos, rising from defeat after the 1967-70 civil conflict, managed to regain a good portion of their pre-war financial standing in simply two years.

That is regardless of the confiscation of financial institution accounts belonging to many Igbos by the Nigerian authorities. He then gave them £ 20 (round £ 300; $ 420 at this time) to start out over, whereas others noticed their property seized by neighbors in components of the nation.

The Peoples Membership, a preferred social membership established within the city of Aba in 1971, can be credited with initiating the Igbo studying program.

The ethics of the membership, the Igbo philosophy of “onye a hana nwanne ya” (do not go away your brother behind) is taken into account a tenet of this system.

“The Peoples Membership was a socio-economic motion…[that] devised an financial mannequin of how the Igbo might emerge from the ruins of conflict and launched a brand new survival motion, “says Benedict Okoro, founding father of the Odinala Cultural Heritage Basis.” That is the genesis of Igba Boi in Igbo cosmology. “

Traders at the Aba marketTraders at the Aba market

The Ariaria market in Aba is standard for Nigerian-made items, a few of that are exported

The apprenticeship system is especially geared toward boys and younger males, as households are typically unwilling to let their daughters stay with a businessman for about 5 years to study a commerce.

As a substitute, girls usually study at established companies the place they pay to be taught for six months to a yr, whereas nonetheless residing at residence.

‘I received nothing after seven years’

Outstanding Nigerian businessmen resembling auto tycoons Harmless Chukwuma of Innoson Motors and Cosmas Maduka of Coscharis Group are among the many merchandise of this system.

In a 2019 interview with BBC Igbo, Mr Maduka mentioned the 200 naira (value round £ 1,000; $ 1,500 at this time) given to him by his boss on the finish of his apprenticeship in 1976 had laid the muse for his billion naira. enterprise empire.

Cosmas MadukaCosmas Maduka

Cosmas Maduka is likely one of the profitable merchandise of this program

The success of this system can be seen in japanese cities like Onitsha, Aba and Nnewi, the place sprawling markets entice merchants from throughout West Africa.

However the system isn’t with out criticisms, as a result of it depends on the goodwill of the employer to handle the apprentice on the finish of his service.

Ndubuisi Ilo, who now runs a thriving auto components retailer in Ladipo, Lagos, says he obtained nothing after serving his boss for seven years.

“My boss known as me at some point and advised me he could not afford to calm down [pay] me. He prayed for me and requested me to start out pushing myself. It was very tough at first and I even needed to sleep in a automotive, however now I look again and smile, ”he says.

Map: NigeriaMap: Nigeria

Map: Nigeria

Nonetheless, he doesn’t view his studying as a waste of time, as he used the acquired information to get into the enterprise.

“Some businessmen do not need to stick with the deal due to the sum of money it takes to start out a enterprise for an apprentice who has run out of time.

“A few of them accuse the apprentices of theft or one thing and terminate the deal,” Ilo mentioned.

Igba Boi agreements are often verbal and when a businessman reneges on them, apprentices have few choices for redress.

Men sat at an Igbo meetingMen sat at an Igbo meeting

Sturdy household ties exist among the many Igbo and a few disagreements are resolved at village conferences like this one.

Since many businessmen are relations, the prolonged household often tries to mediate any dispute and if that is unsuccessful, the ancestral village of 1 or each events steps in and tries to resolve. the issue.

Generally issues are resolved amicably, different instances they aren’t, leaving the apprentice to fend for himself after years of free work.

‘An instance for Africa’

Mr. Okoro’s basis seeks to institutionalize the Igba Boi program to attenuate the chance of non-compliance with agreements by people.

“An institutionalized system would have the backing of the legislation and never simply be one thing between the merchants and the apprentice and his household,” he says. “The apprentice will even get a certificates after his apprenticeship.”

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Mr Ekekwe notes that serving to potential rivals goes in opposition to conventional capitalist considering, nevertheless it goes to the center of this method, which typically appears to work effectively for all events concerned.

“[Economist] Adam Smith thinks that being profitable in enterprise means ensuring you drive out your competitors, however the aim of this method is to get extra individuals into the enterprise, ”he says.

Within the subsequent problem of the Harvard Enterprise Evaluate, he says he desires to “introduce the Igbo studying system [IAS] as a thesis for the world because the dialog continues on stakeholder capitalism, not simply shareholder capitalism ”.

On his web site, he means that it ought to be used throughout Africa. “Deliver the IAS Textbook to Economics in Nigeria!”

‘Higher than a college diploma’

Present knowledge on unemployment in Nigeria paints a dire image – 33% of these searching for a job can’t discover one. A lot of them are college graduates.

Mr. Orie says his monetary state of affairs is healthier than that of a lot of his friends who went on to college.

He additionally started to consider having a younger man from the village study beneath his steering, an act that’s on the coronary heart of the system.

A lot of his friends are actually hiring salespeople to run their shops, quite than utilizing the Igba Boi system.

Nonetheless, Mr Ilo says the way forward for the system that produced him and thousands and thousands of different businessmen is bound.

“So long as there are Igbo markets and merchants, there shall be apprentices,” he says.

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