The combination of the Igbo apprenticeship system and the handholding model of entrepreneurial prosperity possess a tremendous capacity to cause sustained prosperity for the continent, all things being equal. While the former unleashes outstanding employment prospects alongside the creation of entrepreneurial vehicles, the latter facilitates speedy growth and good performance of these enterprises. Combined, both possess unique potentials in refocusing, the direction of capacity building and innovation within the continent. As a result, less focus will prospectively be on the inherited Western-style theory loaded education with virtually empty content on the required practical aspects necessary for the speedy attainment of technological transformation. One of the fascinating aspects of the imbued opportunities in this combined model is that both are homegrown. The apprenticeship model is in the DNA of the people of West Africa, particularly the Igbos. It is also easily replicable across the rest of the continent with all the relevant contextual modifications that will make the adaptations yield fruitful results. A second advantage is that both have seamless integration with each other. Skills, requisite training and business financing, are natural outcomes from the Igbo apprenticeship model. These attributes and resources result in the birth of profit yielding enterprises. However, because of the particularly challenging environment of doing business in Africa, this newly born enterprises also face higher risks of morbidity if not properly nurtured and handheld. That is where the handholding model of prosperity creation takes over. It is a seamless continuity that if adopted at the continental level will cause a new era of well-being and the banishment of poverty.
Like country governments, multilateral institutions have critical roles to play in this process. Multilateral channels of entrepreneurial development have unique advantages in this respect for several reasons. They are less politicized than the bilateral channels and therefore largely more politically neutral in convening global partnerships. Second, multilateral institutions appear to be more in tune with international standards and norms and consequently bring it to bear in most of their activities. To that extent, multilateral development institutions help in facilitating the seeding of globally accepted ways of doing things which helps in reinforcing its neutrality. Third, they have better access to and in the dissemination of public goods and the mobilization of resources. Multilateral development finance institutions are more apparent in this sphere of operation. Fourthly they facilitate multi-stakeholder and cross-border operations much easier when compared with bilateral channels. These qualities of multilateral development channels put them in unique positions to promote the mainstreaming of the Igbo apprenticeship system and the handholding model of development.
Working with country governments, multilateral organizations promote and support the development, testing and dissemination of such combined prosperity-creating frameworks as the apprenticeship system and the handholding model. This collaboration is widely evident in the many donor-funded activities promoting dual-track apprenticeship system in several African countries. However, enhanced engagement and involvement of multilateral organizations’ entrepreneurial development channels will considerably rev the intensity of expected outcomes. Again, a review of the role of these agencies requires some adjustments that would enable improved outcomes. Key expectations from the government and multilateral development agency groups in the mainstreaming of the combined Igbo apprenticeship system and handholding model of entrepreneurial development include the promotion of the concept leveraging its multi-stakeholder platforms; dissemination of the feasibility of the ideas, including actual cases of their application and the several lessons learned. The expectations will also comprise the facilitation of partnerships and resource mobilization for critical actors with boots on the ground. Fostering partnerships among stakeholders to work together across sectors and in nurturing capacity in various countries will expedite the transformative power of these models to occasion prosperity across the continent.
Multilateral development agency intervention is not necessarily in terms of financial and other kinds of aid. While that may not be bad, that is not what Africa particularly needs in terms of the promotion of the Igbo apprenticeship system and the handholding models of entrepreneurial prosperity. Multilateral development agency support in whatever form should ideally focus more narrowly towards overcoming micro-level impediments to the increased success of apprentices in going through the process and in setting up businesses afterwards. Even though the Igbo apprenticeship system contains internal dynamics for overcoming loads of the challenges that entrepreneurs in Africa typically contend with, multilateral organizations can help in reducing them. Let us consider, for instance, the multi-donor financing windows that may be open to newly graduated apprentices and entrepreneurs. Multilateral organizations have a pivotal role to play here in terms of donor coordination and in achieving better programme focus on the entrepreneurs based on the severity of need. It may also require deepened relevant and practical research for enhancing the capacity of the apprenticeship and handholding mechanisms to perform excellently.
Multilateral development finance institutions [DFIs] investments in the infrastructure and industry sectors play the most significant role in fostering entrepreneurial growth. Infrastructure inadequacy and the concomitant disadvantages of the costs of transacting are critical undoings for most African entrepreneurs. Working with home governments, multilateral development finance institutions, which has a vast cache of investable funds, can promote the apprenticeship and handholding models. It can efficiently actualize this through the structuring and financing of investments in power, roads and a lot of other logistics infrastructure that considerably brings down the cost of transacting for small entrepreneurs. It is in the optimization of this potential advantage that country governments have a complementary role to play. Working with its domestic financial institutions, country governments can better facilitate the engagement of the DFIs in frontally intervening in infrastructure acquisition.
They can also facilitate the integration of the system for the promotion of the Igbo apprenticeship system and the handholding model, and their replication and dissemination. There are at least four ways through which multilateral development agencies can facilitate this. The first is through the promotion of effective partnerships. This step demands that multilateral agencies actively engage with governments and communities to link, integrate and synergize their efforts in the apprenticeship’s mainstreaming and handholding models for entrepreneurial development. The second is by facilitating more robust engagement with the government and getting the latter to endorse the mainstreaming of these programs. Several African governments still do not consider and leverage the enormous economic potentials in scaling up the deployment of the apprenticeship system across their country. Multilateral agency groups by working closely with the country government can rev up the government’s interests and encourage their fiscal and other support for these programs. The third is by enhancing the willingness and working with the government to build the trust necessary for the effective promotion of the programs. Being considerably politically neutral and with a strong capacity for multi-donor coordination and funding, multilateral agency channels can enhance the believability of the programs and make the governments buy into it. The fourth is by encouraging country governments to develop social regulations that will speed up the mainstreaming of these initiatives.
There is absolutely no doubt that the combined Igbo apprenticeship model and the handholding system for entrepreneurial prosperity are innovative enough to attract good support. There are also several pieces of evidence showing the capacity of the models to either bring businesses into existence and transform dying businesses into profitably performing ones. However, although a good percentage of those who need them know about them yet, the programs do not enjoy as much patronage as it should for several reasons. First, even those who know about this program and desperately need them find it challenging to take advantage of them, as there are no very well-known structures in place. Second, even where some skeletal system exists, there are equally other layers of constraints militating against the leveraging of those opportunities. Third, there are still issues of integrity and believability. However, most of these constraining factors are easily conquerable if multilateral agency groups play strategic roles in the promotion of these initiatives. This will enhance both the knowledge of the program, believable pieces of evidence on the capacity of these programs to deliver claimed results and the integrity and funding that multilateral donor groups bring to bear in such instances.
Multilateral groups are always at the forefront of global best practices. One of such is in the optimization of lessons learned and what works. Getting involved in the mainstreaming of the Igbo apprenticeship system and the handholding models of entrepreneurial development will further facilitate the spreading of the prosperity creating innovation by broadcasting lessons learned and what works. Because of the multilateral development agencies’ cross-border network, it is easier for them to facilitate far-reaching reviews and collate experiences of the aspects of program implementation and innovation that genuinely works, the landmines to avoid and how to make the innovation deliver better results. These also help in further promoting the concepts and in widening the universe of those who experience them. While country governments have this capacity, they can scarcely match or beat multilateral agency channels in this.
They also have a considerably greater capacity to foster partnerships in program funding and implementation. Multilateral development channels can much more easily leverage new funding structures and vehicles to ensure that this initiative receives the expected level of mainstreaming. Even in execution, it has a much better capacity to engage competencies across platforms and borders to ensure that deployed resources deliver expected outcomes and impact. For instance, one would expect that the African Union and African Development Bank can strengthen bonds with other regional development banks to leverage this opportunity. Actualizing these partnerships with other regional development banks at country government levels will be much more difficult. It is a time for the African Union to rethink its relevance in promoting genuine continental development based on time-tested and African based models for enduring economic growth and prosperity.