As we examine a new application nexus of the Igbo Apprenticeship system, postulated by Dr. Olumide Odeyemi, I note one area which makes the system defective in modern capitalism. Largely, the present model of the system is ineffective and could be updated to be relevant in the new age of commerce and industry. Keep reading!
The soul of the Igbo Apprenticeship System could be likened to the U.S. Federal Reserve which largely works to keep the U.S. dollars stable (by reducing inflation) and maximize employment through interest rates. So, the Reserve has defined main focus areas even though it can use its systems to do other things. Consequently, the U.S. Congress uses those two main factors to ascertain the effectiveness of the Reserve policy. For the Igbo Apprenticeship System, the main focus is to prevent poverty by mass-scaling opportunities for everyone, and not building conglomerates!
So, you have a scenario where a man (trading in a city) goes to his village, picks 3 boys who might have lost their fathers, and decides to ensure they have meaningful lives despite the tragedies that befell them. Those boys serve him for some years, and one afternoon, he invites his kinsmen, friends, business partners and everyone as he “settles” them.
This settlement is simply dividing his market share among these boys. In other words, assume he holds 3% in that specific market, by the time he is done, he might be holding only 2%, releasing 1% to the boys. For him, the growth of his company is not what matters – it is that “his boys” do well. Then, he does not stop there, he begins to send the boys opportunities, making sure they are able to thrive independently. No Western textbook teaches that!
Yes, under Western education, we focus on the accumulation of market share. That is what business schools teach us – and what business, in the Western world, is all about. Come up with ideas and win more market shares. But the Igbo Apprenticeship System is not designed to maximize market share. Rather, it is structured to ensure everyone is just fine. This is the reason you enter into a community, everyone is doing well but no one is an iroko tree.
When a child is born, he belongs to the community. That is why Igbos name their kids “Nwaoha” [the child of the community]. The parents are agents to bring children into the world; the communities have duties to ensure the children thrive.
So, under Igbo Apprenticeship System, you see men who could have built massive assets and empires dividing their acquired market shares for over four decades, happily. That is why you will not see any big conglomerate in Aba, Onisha etc because the Igbo Apprenticeship System is not designed to have one iroko but many trees in the forest!
From the continental and global levels, Igbo Apprenticeship System is defective.But from the community level, it is perfect. There is no beggar in my village in Ovim (Abia State) because there is always help. But those helps come by relinquishing market shares by market leaders even as they fund their future competitors.
Largely, the more you look into the system with Adam Smith economics, the more it looks extremely troubling. But if you look at it with “Igbo Umunneoma” economics, you will marvel what men and women have invented to avoid extreme poverty and inequalities in communities. [Umunneoma means good brethren]
As Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and other U.S. Presidential aspirants speak out over inequalities as digital conglomerates rake all the values while others struggle, the Igbo Apprenticeship System is the most advanced system that is engineered to reduce mass-scaled inequality. But do not expect Amazon, Google, and Facebook to give out market share to competitors, and even fund them.
Yet, from America, they need to understand that some people are already practicing what they hope to happen. If they follow that redesign, the U.S. will become a nation of mass-micro-entities with limited conglomerates. That means, no company will have massive scale to deal with big challenges at the upstream level since accumulated capabilities will be largely downstream.
I will be speaking this October in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, and I will be looking at a new leadership nexus by examining present market mechanics, human society and culture. A Harvard professor will score the Igbo Apprenticeship System poorly because its market system works against the typical drivers in fixing market frictions: launch, scale, and dominate.
But the 200 CEOs who recently signed to upgrade corporate missions – “purpose of a corporation”- is coming back to a purpose Africans have been practicing for centuries – with solid results of better wellbeing in communities. Yes, humane leadership that seeks for the rise of all over just a few is African, even though everyone is running for the western system because they have convinced us that our system is defective!
Sure, we can improve this system to have it both ways by making sub-members of an apprenticeship hub to be in a cooperative that operates as a conglomerate. This is typical in Europe in entities like Frieslandcampina (makers of Peak Milk) which is owned by a cooperative of dairy farmers, yet structured to grow as a conglomerate. The daily farmers have a clear feeder system for their produce while the corporation works to maximize market share and profit globally.
1. Register for Tekedia Mini-MBA here (Aug 10 - Dec 3). Four months, online, and costs $140 or N50,000 naira. We also have Certificate courses on logistics, startups, career dev, etc.
2. Read my new book, The Dangote System: Techniques for Building Conglomerates.