The Igbo Apprenticeship System had come off as one of the most successful business models of the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria. In this economic model, a businessman picks an Igbo boy to teach him his trade, the Igbo boy usually in his teenage years have to leave his parents house and spend about 5 to 7 years in the Master’s house.
The Igbo apprenticeship system allows a businessman to take a young person to learn about his business and eventually get settled (given start-up capital) after an agreed period of time, which usually lasts between 5 to 7 years. During the service period, the younger person (servant) serves the businessman (master) while learning the business.
The Igbos have used the system to build themselves and relatives into renowned businessmen and women even where apprentices have little, or no formal education.
The Igbo apprentice System, however, does not limit the boy to the learning of trades alone as over time, the boy who usually left the parents house as a teenager will have a lot of growth to do now in a different environment with different people. He learns other aspects of life like mannerisms, respect, basic literacy and more… The Whole Apprenticeship period could also be rigorous as over time it entails a lot of hard times as a nairalander noted a typical apprentice boy’s daily routine would look like this…“After working at the shop, comes home and fetch water, run errands for madam some even wash clothes, won’t be in the sitting room when his master and mistress are there, wash dishes before going to bed. Early morning wash car if his master has other things then he would attend to those, Eat his meals most times without meat and still be cheerful to his customers even immediately after he was scorned for wrongdoing and again there is are language barrier with outsiders”
Why Do the Igbos Not employ other tribes in their apprentice Model?
A peculiar reason why Igbos have not left their community in employing of apprentice could be that it is easier to discipline a fellow Igbo than others, for instance, If an apprentice misbehaves, to call him to order is very simple being that you know his relatives”
On another hand, Some Igbos see their apprentice system as a business secret as a nairalander had this to say “The Igbo apprenticeship system is our best-kept secret. It is one of the reasons why we were able to bounce back just a few years after a terrible war that wiped out our economy.
The system is imbued in our culture and it won’t change. It is the best way to retain your economy within and avoid capital flight. Most apprenticeship ends up becoming greater than their former bosses and the generational wealth continues to grow. Go to the North or South-West Nigeria, you will see Lebanese, Syrians, Indians, Philippines or Chinese running even basic things like bakery, shops, small hotels or restaurants & they will employ a few locals to do their dirty work while paying them peanuts, and their entire profits repatriated to their home countries. However, you can’t find such economic sabotage in the Eastern part of Nigeria. These Asians realized that they can’t compete with the Igbos and thus decided to avoid our cities.
Just like the Jews, Igbos learnt early enough how to rally within themselves to form a united front against hordes of enemies who wouldn’t mind to decimate them if given the opportunity.
The beauty of it all is that we have used it to effectively control certain sectors of the economy and we are gradually taking over from the Asians, even outside our own region.”
All in all the Igbo Apprenticeship System being a splendid business model needs maintenance, also it needs to be sustained as it had proven to be a masterstroke system in poverty alleviation.
Would Other tribes Copy The Igbo Apprenticeship System?
It may be realistic if other tribes copy the system but I sense a particular phobia in other tribes following a trend that the Igbos would have a clear lead and dominion in, while the business model is the type of methods that works and most needed in an economically challenged country like Nigeria, I doubt the views of Igbos by others would ever let them subscribe to the system as the rivalry between the Igbos and most other major tribes becomes more overwhelming every passing day.
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