Skip to content

Case to Have the Igbo Apprenticeship System Taught in Economics

Nigeria’s Igbo community have a reputation for being highly successful businessmen – partly thanks to a community-run apprentice scheme that emerged from the ruins of war. The Igbos, emerging from defeat following the 1967-70 civil war, managed to recover a significant portion of their pre-war economic status within just two years. This was despite the Nigerian government confiscating bank accounts belonging to many Igbos. It then gave them equivalent to $420 today to start anew, while others saw their property seized by neighbours in some parts of the country. The ethos of the club, the Igbo philosophy of “onye a hana nwanne ya” (don’t leave your brother behind) is seen as a guiding principle of the scheme. The apprentice system is mostly aimed at boys and young men as families are generally unwilling to let their daughters live with a businessman for the five years or so it takes to learn a trade. Prominent Nigerian businessmen such as auto tycoons Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Motors and Cosmas Maduka of Coscharis Group are among the products of the scheme. Economis] Adam Smith believes that success in business entails ensuring driving out your competitors, but this system is hinged on bringing more people into the business,” he says. In the forthcoming issue of the Harvard Business Review he says he wants “to present the Igbo Apprenticeship System [IAS] as a thesis for the world as the conversation continues on stakeholder capitalism, not just shareholder capitalism”.