The Thread: Why the Igbo apprenticeship system (ímù ólú) should be adopted

Amara Nwankpa is advocating taking advantage of cultural models to build businesses in Nigeria. The model he’s pushing forward is the Igbo apprenticeship system, which has survived for years and years and has been quite successful among Igbo traders.

In Igbo land, there’s a culture that frowns on children roaming the streets doing nothing, so if a child is unable to go to school, his relatives ensure that he learns a trade- usually it’s the type of trade that his family people have been involved in.

So boys and girls (usually those out of primary school or secondary school) would intern with the owner of the shop who runs either a spare parts, second hand clothing, supermarkets business etc for a specific period of time (10 years or so) to learn the trade. It is an unpaid apprenticeship- but meals, clothing and t-fare are provided for. When the years are over and the boy is as good as his master, the master sets him up with some cash -and goods- to start his own shop.  Sometimes, in order to prevent the apprentice graduate from squandering all that capital at once, the master tells him that at the end of one year, a certain percentage should be returned. The apprentice graduate also  get his own boys who learn at his feet and on and on it goes.

Now, because the apprentice will go home with nothing if the business fails at the end of the day, the apprentice knows he has a stake in the business remaining successful and gives his all towards it.

Twitter NG discusses the pros and cons of this system. See below:


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