The unenviable role that money has been playing in the politics of various African countries makes it difficult for those who lack such capacity to perform effectively. The enormous amounts of money required to procure candidates application forms by many political parties are the most discussed. Money also dominates virtually every phase in the processes that lead to the eventual casting of votes. Campaign success depends almost on the size of the contestant’s pockets. And because of the social and economic status of most rural dwellers, money and essential items that are usually in demand by low-income people play a crucial role in who wins the election. Thirdly, because of poor conditions of the justice system in Africa, the use of thugs in elections by contestants have become prevalent. Again, it requires lots of money to procure thugs even if their purpose is not the right thing. It requires lots of money to collect evidence and tenderable data such as videos of the activities of these touts for post-election court cases. Finally, even to seek redress in court or tribunal after an election requires a meaningful cache of money.
Unfortunately, many young people in Africa do not have the financial resources that can see them through these kinds of money demanding processes. With relatively high unemployment rates and low income, many young people switch off and are naturally marginalised in the political scheme of things. But it is not only in the contestable political office roles than the youths appear to be severely marginalised. The youths are equally not usually involved in critical political party decisions. Older party members and the often more influential members control the decision making processes of the party. In Nigeria, for instance, youth leaders in the two leading political parties are typically men and women who are by far much older than the upper ceiling age of the youth.
There is, however, another group of young Africans that self-exclude themselves from the political process. Many of these young ones are in the corporate sector. They have good jobs and earn a good income. They nevertheless have this perception that politics in itself is dirty and therefore are reluctant to be part of it. This self-exclusion thus raises the question of whether economic empowerment of the youths of Africa is the only reason for their marginalisation from the political process. Again, it brings to the fore the significance of perception of the manner of conduct of the political process in accentuating the African youth self-marginalisation from politics. Therefore, whereas the marginalisation of the youth in the political process can be induced by poor economic empowerment and the low-income levels of young Africans, it can similarly be attributed to the way the income-earning class of the youths also perceive the conduct of politics.
The summary is that the neglect of the youths has obvious implications that can no longer be ignored. There are increasing cases of insecurity, restiveness and other social vices that are attributable to high levels of youths unemployment. The neglect of the youths, the reduced scale of engagements on youth-related issues, inadequate policy designs and their implementation for resolving the challenges that are faced by the youth are some of the immediate causes of these consequential crises. Other manifestations of these challenges include the emigration of young Africans out of the continent, even to countries where their lives are at risk. Although not necessarily a holistic solution, but making more youths financially stable can help in a re-channelling their energies from unacceptable behaviours to the creation of value. The challenge is how this can be achieved at large-scale. One option that seems to have worked in the ethnic group of Nigeria called the Ibos is the entrepreneurial internship and apprenticeship programs. A modified version of this initiative is suggested as a real solution to the unemployment crisis that is threatening the continent.
The Igbo apprenticeship system is considered as the best global business incubation model. The uniqueness of the model has made the Ibo traders and artisans dominate significant markets across Nigeria. Apart from the markets in Lagos State which also have a considerable number of Ibo participants the markets in Onitsha, and Aba and Nnewi that are in the South-Eastern part of the country are collectively more extensive than any other market in Nigeria. There is practically no nook and cranny of Nigeria that you will not see a trader from the Ibo ethnic group. Although this practice has been historically associated with the enterprise nature of the Ibo man, it gained prominence when it played a critical role in the economic survival and resurgence of Ibo people after the Nigerian Civil War.
Under the model, the families of the would-be apprentices identify the prospective master under which the apprentice is to intern. The master is usually one who is reasonably prosperous and known to possess transferable skills that would enable the apprentice under his tutelage to equally succeed. Once identified, the would-be master is approached by the family of the would-be apprentice to discuss the possibility of accepting the responsibility of providing the latter with the needed entrepreneurial guidance. If this proposal is accepted, then a ratification process is then set in motion. It is at this point that you have variants of the apprenticeship system in Ibo land. The typical ratification process defines the terms of the apprenticeship. This will include such things as the number of years the apprentice is to serve the master before gaining freedom to be on his own, how much money the family should pay the master, the nature of post-apprenticeship settlement as well as other considerations that matter to both parties.
Most of the time, only a token is accepted by the would-be master before admitting the apprentice. In some versions of the scheme, substantial amounts may be paid by the family of the prospective apprentice. This version started to emerge following the economic challenges faced by some of the entrepreneur Masters. Some of them now have to consider the costs of taking care of the prospective apprentices for the number of years to be agreed that the latter would serve. The classical model, however, is prevalent because many potential masters consider the use of apprentices as a way of hiring cheap labour. Therefore the discount the cost of taking care of the apprentices against the wages that would have been paid. Although many apprentices would have mastered the entrepreneurial skills entirely to independently function, they are never the less not paid for those skills under the classical Ibo apprenticeship system. They remain apprentices throughout the agreed duration of the apprenticeship. The period most of the time can range between four years and in extreme cases, up to 10 years.
At the end of the apprenticeship duration, the master settles the apprentice. The settlement process requires that first and foremost the apprentice ceases to be one and is now free. Secondly, the master provides the now free apprentice with money (seed capital) and in some rare cases, some wares to enable him to set up on his own. The amount of seed capital is the quality of settlement provided by the master most of the time depends on how well the apprentice served the master. It may also depend on the Master’s assessment of the entrepreneurial capacity of the now free apprentice. For example, if the master feels that the now free apprentices cannot cope with large-scale operations, he is most likely going to set him up with seed finances that are consistent with that assessment. Another way in which freedom apprentices are settled is for the master to invite the former to become a partner in his own business. Again this model of settlement depends on several factors. The first is an excellent impression that the now free apprentice are immensely value-adding and that to continue with him, or she will enable the businesses to do better. In all of these, a critical underlying factor is the issue of character. Regardless of the entrepreneurial awareness of the now free apprentices, the character was always a huge determining factor of the quality of settlement and possibly partnership invitation that he may receive.
Although the apprenticeship system has always been an integral part of the Ibo entrepreneurship structure it nevertheless against stridency after the Nigerian Civil War. The Ibos not only lost the war but considerable economic and financial grounds. Many lost their businesses. Worse still the administration then decided to pay 20 naira to every bank account owned by an Ibo man. Faced with the loss of income of grandiose proportion, the Ibo’s chose to embark on massive, commercial trading and merchandising. A smaller percentage also went into other artisanal activity such as carpentry, building, shoemaking, and so on. And perhaps that is why there is no nook and cranny of Nigeria and indeed the African continent that you will not find an Ibo man. But one exciting thing in this aggressive entrepreneur pursuit was the decision albeit not written to democratise the skills and expertise acquired.
Frontpage December 12, 2017