The Ageless and Successful Aro Igbo Business Framework

The Ageless and Successful Aro Igbo Business Framework

In JS2, I read my first Igbo novel –  “Omenuko” by Pita Nwana. Then “Ukwa ruo oge ya” and “Isi akwu dara na ala” both by Tony Ubesie. Though “Isi akwu dara na ala” remains my all-time-best with the trappings of Ada and Chike staged during the Biafran war, “Omenuko” had a deeper meaning after I read the Richest Man in Babylon.

Omenuko  is recorded as the first novel in Igbo. How can you do more even in the time of scarcity? Like the ageless zen-insights from the Richest Man in Babylon, Omenuko offered insights on trading systems which many ancestral Igbo traders dominated in most parts of West Africa. In the novel, the Aros were noted through the main actor (Igwegbe Odum) who was an Aro. The Aros were legendary traders (the Nnewis of their eras) who went into new villages and within years would become the wealthiest, controlling commerce and industry.

The Aro people or Aros are an Igbo subgroup[1] mixed with Akpa and Ibibio ancestry that originated from the Arochukwu kingdom in present-day Abia state, Nigeria. The Aros can also be found in about 250 other settlements mostly in the Southeastern Nigeria and adjacent areas. The Aros today are classified as Eastern or Cross River Igbos because of their location, mixed origins, culture, and dialect. Their god, Ibini Ukpabi, was a key factor in establishing the Aro Confederacy as a regional power in the Niger Delta and Southeastern Nigeria during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Reading Omenuko you would extrapolate a framework for success: Arochukwu people hedge risks by typically doing deals in teams with the shared interests that everyone destiny is aligned with all. So, if you go into textile business as one man from Mbaise, Arochukwu people would go as ten people in one team. With the scale, they would get discounts and suddenly within years, only they would dominate the markets. Add the Igbo apprenticeship system which they practice efficiently and religiously, you have no chance to compete against them. There is no part of eastern Nigeria you would not see the Aro people: they won territories through excellence in trade.

Today, that framework remains as valid: strength comes by finding partners to scale missions. You can achieve more if you find a partner to team together. The Aros have relatively diminished, economically, (compared with Catholic-serving Nnewis) because of unbridled polygamy which mutated their wealths upon deaths, but the business framework that made them trading legends remains.

Partnership wins business battles; do it more.


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