The Igbo Business Model is very unique.
The Igbo Apprenticeship system popularly called ‘Imu-Ahia’; which translates to ‘to learn market/trade’, has been considered as perhaps; one of the major factors; that helped pull the majority of South-Eastern families out of poverty within 30 months of the Biafran civil war. It is a framework of formal and informal indentured agreements, between parties that ultimately facilitate burgeoning entrepreneurial communities within the Igbos. It is an economic model that originated in South-Eastern Nigeria, hence, its widely practiced by the Igbos . Its purpose is to spur economic growth, stability, and sustainable livelihood by financing and investing in human resources through vocational training.
The system has three (3) major types; An Apprenticeship System locally known as Igba-boi or Igba Odibo; A Hands-on Craft Learning System also known as Imu Oru or Imu Oruaka, as well as the Trade Learning System known as Imu Ahia. Although, these systems are aimed at transferring entrepreneurial skills, they differ in their approach. Unlike the Igba-boi/Igba Odibo, where a mentee will be tutored for free for pre-agreed years, the Imu Oru/Imu Oruaka and Imu Ahia types entails that parents/sponsors of the mentee or mentee pay for tutorship.
Successes and Lessons
You may wonder the reason for the high success rates of the ‘Imu-Ahia’ system despite the absence of structures and processes like Seed Rounds, Equity Splits, Venture Capital, and so on.
Firstly, apprentices avoid the malicious use of the master’s resources as it is believed that such actions could inhibit success in their future businesses. Therefore, this fear engenders honesty during the years of service as every proven act of theft, diversion of the fund, and flamboyant use and wastage of business finances terminate the agreement. There are cases of apprentices managing a business branch with little or no supervision. This ownership mindset, encourages them to commit enough sweat equity into their master’s business.
Secondly, the Igbos have recorded successes in their various ventures across the world. Central to the attainment of these successes is the high level of solidarity amongst them. Some of the observed business success in the Igbo businesses are:
- their ability to cope in a dynamic environment
- likewise, their ability to organize, reorganize and forecast
- among the list is also their prowess in delegating responsibilities
- they also have unique abilities to recognize and utilize business opportunities
- as well as leverage apprenticeship training
- they also poses energetic and hardworking spirit
- pursuing their businesses with courage and confidence
- critical thinking and curiosity to learn
- creative and innovative skill
- determination and independence
- optimism and perseverance
- finally, they poses risk-transformation skills
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