…As Enugu-Mmaku launches transportation revolving capital
Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
It is regarded by some as the ‘venture capital of Africa’, the Igbo mentorship and apprenticeship system is one of the finest examples of the African spirit of community, sharing and enterprise. According to some, to combat youth unemployment, host an intern and inspire hope in the younger generation.
All these captures the seminar by Chinedu Nebo, a professor, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and one-time Minister of Power and Steel, during the handover of commercial vehicles to some young persons in Enugu-Mmaku, a community in Awgu Local Government of Enugu State by Enugu Mmaku Development Union Entrepreneurship and Education program. The seminar was organized by the Entrepreneurship and Education committee of the union to prepare the minds of the beneficiaries on business ideas and profit-driven management methods.
Nebo carefully styled the Igbo spirit: onye aghana nwanneya, (be your brother’s keeper), particularly in the face of Nigeria’s current economic challenges – marginal recovery from a second recession in five years.
He commended the initiative of the community for thinking in the direction of empowering mainly the young people from the community, to move out of poverty level and become managers of their own transport businesses.
He shared his life experience that was not easy at the early stage; and how he finally became what he is today, through community help and mentoring. He encouraged the youths to be focused and have faith in God to achieve their set objectives.
“You must see the gesture as a very good assistance, and work hard towards bringing back the money for the community to empower other sets of people. The fund should be a revolving fund from which many people from this community would benefit. When it is used well, the community would be economically strong within a few years from today,” the professor told the young people.
The Igbo apprentice system is an extension of their entrepreneurial spirit where an induction strategy is utilised to induct mostly young Igbos into entrepreneurial ventures by established entrepreneurs locally referred to as Oga. This venture can be a trade, an enterprise or a vocation, in some cases serving also as a domestic help. The Ogas are former apprentices that had served, and were handed resources to begin their own enterprises. This system is informal, and has unstructured training programs to learn and master skills required to embark on own enterprise.
The Igbo culture of entrepreneurship can be traced back to the slave trade business from the 15th century. By 1800s about 320,000 Igbos have been sold at Bonny, as well as 50,000 at Calabar and Elem Kalabari. This process continued until the abolition of slave trade in the 1900s. Unlike most African communities, slaves from the Igbo ethnic group were exposed to entrepreneurship by their owners trading commodities like spices, sugar, tobacco, cotton for export to the Americas, Europe and Asia. This action kindled the entrepreneurship spirit of the Igbo people and galvanized them to quickly venture into various forms of entrepreneurship during the pre-colonial era. The colonial era met the Igbos as the leading exporters of palm oil and kernel, craftsmen, traders, merchants, cottage industrialists, etc. This culture of entrepreneurship has been sustained till the present age through the apprenticeship framework.
Various skills are imbibed in the apprenticeship training period. These skills are: technical, management and interpersonal skills. Some of them are forecasting, human relationship management, inventory control and analysis, opportunity recognition and utilization, supply-chain management, quality control, bookkeeping and accounting, oral communication, linguistic, plan and goal-setting, mentoring, innovative marketing, change orientation, finance, visionary, leadership, listening, organizational culture, network building, negotiation, venturing, coaching, customers’ relationship management, and team playing. They also are tutored to focus on returns on investment to enhance enterprise expansion, while maintaining no familial relationship when it concerns business.
These training are evidenced in provision of the sales and services solutions covering all industries and sectors the Igbos are involved in spanning: transportation, construction, manufacturing, real estate, commerce (import and export), mercantile trading, ICT equipment, artisanship, film, automotive, among others.
On his part, the current Vice Chancellor of Namdi Azikwe University (NAU), Awka, Anambra State, Charles Esimone, a professor; and Chinyeaka Oha, a resource person, encouraged the beneficiaries to be focused as they can become more than the ABC Transport Plc’s owner, Frank Nneji in the future.
The 10 young people would use the commercial vehicles in transportation business, and make regular financial returns to the Enugu-Mmaku Business Entrepreneurship and Education board. From here, as the chairman of the program, said, the community would use the program to help several other youths in the community to develop economically.
He said, the venture capital, if carefully managed would reshape the Enugu-Mmaku community economically.