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The Transformative Power of the Igbo Apprenticeship System in Afamefuna; An Nwa Boi Story by Kayode Kasum, Netflix.

Apprenticeship, Igbo, Netflix, Afamefuna, Igbo Apprenticeship System, Nwa Boi, Business, Mentorship, Kayode Kasum, Netflix.


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Business, Law, Leadership, Entrepreneurship. Oyemaja, The Transformative Power of the Igbo Apprenticeship System in Afamefuna; An Nwa Boi Story by Kayode Kasum, Netflix.
Oyemaja; The Transformative Power of the Igbo Apprenticeship System in Afamefuna; An Nwa Boi Story by Kayode Kasum, Netflix.




Introduction


You will agree with me that the Igbo tribe of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria is known for one major thing, “Business” I watched Kayode Kasum’s Afamefuna on Netflix and for the first time in my long years on earth, I finally understood the reasons Igbo men with shops in Alaba, Aba and Onitsha have a lot of money without likening it to the ritual movies of Kanayo O. Kanayo and Pete Edochie. While the movie bothered on a murder mystery, betrayal, and blackmail, Afamefuna took us on an intricate walk through the Igbo apprenticeship system, from the nwa bois engaging in akpiriko to serving their masters for about 20 years and subsequently gaining freedom and becoming masters set to groom another set of ‘nwa bois’. Here we will explore the growth and evolution of the Igbo Apprenticeship System (AIS) and how it has managed to remain one of the most lucrative and relevant business systems in the Country.


The Movie


The movie’s prologue reads;


“The Igbos in Africa have been practicing for centuries what is known today as stakeholder capitalism. The Igbo apprenticeship system (IAS) has been recognized as the largest business incubator in the world as thousands of ventures are developed and established yearly through it. For the Igbos and some Africans, it is a working system which has brought equality and peaceful coexistence in communities”.


-Harvard Business Review

 

Stakeholder capitalism is a business model that prioritizes the interests of all stakeholders, not just shareholders. It considers the needs of employees, customers, suppliers, communities, and the environment alongside financial goals. By taking a broader perspective, companies aim to create sustainable value, build trust, and contribute positively to society. This concept is quite similar to the centuries-old economic practice of the Igbo people in Southeast Nigeria, known as the Igbo Apprenticeship System (IAS). Stakeholder capitalism is embodied in the IAS, which places a high priority on sustainable business practices, shared wealth, and community advancement. In the Igbo Apprenticeship System, Igbo-owned enterprises that are successful act as sponsors and mentors to potential entrepreneurs, giving them market access, resources, and training. This apprenticeship concept fosters communal unity and economic resilience in the Igbo community by passing down knowledge and skills across generations. Emphasizing inclusivity and fair opportunity is one of the main characteristics of the Igbo Apprenticeship System.


About the Igbo Apprenticeship System


According to research conducted by Ogechi Adeola, a Professor of Marketing at the Lagos Business School in Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos State, the Igbo Apprenticeship system is divided into other bits namely,


  • Imu Oru - Learn a craft.

  • Imu Ahia - Learn a trade.

  • Igba Odibo/ Igba Boi – Become an Apprentice


Although their approaches vary, the three forms of IAS are focused on imparting knowledge or entrepreneurial abilities. In the Imu Oru and Imu Ahia types, tutorship is funded by the mentee or mentee's parents/sponsors, in contrast to the Igba-boi/Igba Odibo where a mentee will receive tutoring for free for a predetermined number of years. We can observe the prominence of the initial two forms amongst the Yoruba tribe where you pay your neighbour who is skilled in hairdressing or Carpentry to train you for a particular period and when you are skilled enough, you are set free to go forth and create your own business and train your people if or when you like. One observation I want to point out here is during this trade learning period, you are learning from and working for your boss, all proceeds made during your learning go to the boss, as you are to gain knowledge and not profits, you are only allowed to make your profits after your freedom and establishment. The Igba Boi system is what is dominantly practiced amongst the Ibos and the system is termed the largest business incubator platform in the world.


In this system, the Igbo ethnic group follows a particular type of apprenticeship system wherein the apprentice lives and works for a while under the guidance of his or her craft master. After that, the master helps the apprentice establish a business by paying the apprentice's rent and giving him or her supplies or money to get started. It is also expected of the apprentice to use the networks, expertise, and abilities he developed while working under his craft master to expand his company after he becomes independent. According to Afamefuna, the Igbo Apprenticeship System is a complex cultural institution that weaves together social, ethical, and economic strands to create a strong sense of community. We can observe some sense of community in the movie from how Odogwu housed and treated the apprentices. For a JJC in the country who randomly waltzes into Odogwu’s shop, it will be easy to convince them that the boys are not related to Odogwu in any form. The IAS goes beyond just introducing the boys to the business and trade but goes as far as housing the apprentices and giving them a sense of family and inclusion. After living and working for a while under the guidance of his or her craft master, the apprentice is settled by the master, who pays the apprentice's rent and gives him or her materials or money to establish the business, I mean, if the apprentices were not housed in Odogwu’s house, we would have missed out on the girl tussle between Afamefuna and Paulo, and Paulo’s death mystery.


Another highlight of the Igbo Apprenticeship System for me was the Akpiriko (Price Inflation). The movie describes Akpiriko as a means of making extra profit on the sale of goods. So, picture this: Obum, one of the apprentices under Odogwu, decides to play a sneaky move and sells stuff at crazy high prices. I will call that outright cheating, but under the IAS portrayed in Afamefuna, Odogwu informed us that Akpriko is part of the business and cool when the inflation is moderate and not too high.  Well, when the client finds out and complains to Odogwu, the big boss mentor guy, things get interesting. So yeah, the moral of the story: don't be like Obum, folks. Keep it fair and square in the business game, and you might just make some extra enough to start a business on the side. According to Odogwu, the idea of "Apriko" presents the notion that conducting business entails more than just exchanging goods and services for cash; it also entails strategic negotiation and an appreciation of the value that each party brings to the table. This shows that while generating a profit is a goal, it shouldn't be equated with exploitation, emphasizing the significance of justice and honesty in economic transactions. Afamefuna and the audience learn a crucial lesson from Odogwu's distinction between morally righteous commercial methods and unethical greed: the importance of ethical considerations in commerce.


One thing I think we should all appreciate from the IAS and its teachings in Afamefuna is the subtle teachings of ethics, perseverance, and integrity infused into their businesses. We see these things in reality when we visit their stores, especially in the Alaba and Apapa areas of Lagos, the hard work exhibited by this tribe is unmatched. In his evaluation of the restoration process following the Civil War, Odogwu remembers that "we were given 20 pounds." An Igbo man does not beg. It was because of those twenty pounds that we began to work hard, struggle, grow, and rise to this point."  serves as a moving reminder of the value of perseverance, hard effort, and self-reliance in the face of hardship. "An Igbo man does not beg," as said by Odogwu, captures the spirit of tenacity and resolve that has always pervaded Igbo culture.  The experience of rebuilding following the civil war's devastation demonstrates the Igbo people's toughness and resilience, as they opted to push forward through perseverance and hard labour rather than letting their circumstances define them.


The Final Blessings and Future of Apprentices


The setting up stage marks the end of the approach. This phase starts the innovation process and summarises the entire learning process. A freedom party is frequently held as a graduation and commencement event to mark the beginning of the former apprentice's business. Such an event is honoured by the families of the mentee and the mentor. The apprentice receives benefits from the mentor at the ceremony, typically in the form of cash or material goods, to start their independent business venture. Inducting prospective entrepreneurs into the private enterprise journey is the essence of settlement. It is presumed that they must have been aware of the fundamental strategies needed to spur innovation, necessary competencies, and market connections for partnerships. The scenario depicting Afamefuna's ceremonial transition from apprentice to master captures the spirit of the Igbo Apprenticeship System (IAS), emphasizing the sharing of money, wisdom, and cultural values. As Odogwu declares, "I'll give you the key to my shop and you'll come in here to carry things to sell forever," The saying "The more you sell, the more you carry" represents the start of Afamefuna's commercial career as well as the conclusion of his apprenticeship. This kind deed highlights a key tenet of the IAS: affluence is designed to be shared, generating a wealth circle that benefits the community as a whole. The conclusion of Afamefuna portrays a significant aspect of the Igbo Apprenticeship System's transformative power. It illustrates how this system cultivates successful entrepreneurs who remain deeply rooted in their cultural heritage. By blending commercial activities with traditional practices, the Igbo Apprenticeship System ensures holistic development among its participants, promoting both individual success and communal well-being. This depiction underscores the enduring relevance of the IAS as a model for Igbo community advancement and cultural preservation, as showcased through Afamefuna's narrative journey.


Conclusion


Before concluding, I have an important question, from what we have seen about the Igbo Apprenticeship System, we know that the system produces more billionaires every year. Hence, this is the point where I ask you, Reader, would you rather be an apprentice for 20 years or attend the University for 4 or 5 years? I know what your answer is, let us proceed.

The film Afamefuna explores the Igbo Apprenticeship System (IAS) in Nigerian cinema, highlighting the significant influence of cultural and economic practices on the formation of personal identities and societal standards. The importance of media and storytelling in promoting economic awareness, protecting cultural heritage, and addressing social issues is highlighted by this study. Afamefuna's analysis shows how the IAS goes beyond simple business dealings to ingrain principles like diligence, decency, and reciprocity into the community's very fabric. Broader economic models that support inclusive growth and fair opportunity distribution, such as stakeholder capitalism, are consistent with these ideals.

The Igbo Apprenticeship System has proven and will continue proving to us that there is more to “Igbo people” wealth than what other Nollywood movies have portrayed to us. Through the journey of apprentices like Afamefuna, we witness the transformative power of the IAS. Apprentices undergo rigorous training, learning not only practical skills but also the importance of integrity, perseverance, and ethical conduct. Mentors play a crucial role in shaping the character and abilities of apprentices, instilling in them a sense of responsibility and stewardship.


As regards the question I asked earlier, I’d rather go to the university and marry an apprentice, or go to the university and marry an Odogwu’s daughter.




Oyemaja Executives,

A Division of The Oyemaja Group.



2 Comments


This post is a critique which delves into the Igbo Apprenticeship System as dramatized in Kayode Kasum's Netflix movie - Afamefuna.


The writer did justice to the subject of discourse as exemplified and dramatized in the movie. Thank you for giving us something to read after watching the movie.

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Wow, this blog post provides such an insightful exploration of the Igbo Apprenticeship System! I've always been fascinated by the entrepreneurial spirit of the Igbo people, and this analysis really sheds light on the cultural and economic significance of their apprenticeship tradition. It's inspiring to see how the IAS fosters not just business skills, but also values like integrity and perseverance. The comparison to stakeholder capitalism offers a fresh perspective on how traditional practices align with modern economic principles. Overall, a thought-provoking read that deepens my appreciation for Igbo culture and its contributions to Nigeria's business landscape.

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