Indigenous African Enterprise: Volume 26

Cover of Indigenous African Enterprise

The Igbo Traditional Business School (I-TBS)

Table of contents

(18 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxxii
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Section I An Introduction to the Igbo Traditional Business School (I-TBS)

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Abstract

Being Igbo is synonymous with being enterprising. This is perhaps the most popular impression that many people have about the Igbo of south-eastern Nigeria. Historical antecedents indicate that prior to colonisation, the Igbo engaged actively in trade and agriculture. However, the events of the Nigeria Civil War (1967–1970) had an indelible impact on the economic activities and achievements of the Igbo. Since then, this ethnic nation has risen from economic ashes, and evidence abound in different commercial spaces across the globe. A critical driver of this economic renaissance is the Igba-Boi/Imu Ahia traditional business apprenticeship model. Founded on the Igbo philosophies of communality, co-prosperity and interdependence, the model is characterised by the transgenerational transfer of entrepreneurial skills and the reproduction of business champions. In this chapter, we assess the centrality of enterprise in the Igbo culture; appraise entrepreneurial activities of the Igbo during the pre-colonial and colonial periods; discuss the consequences of the Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970), as well as the post-civil war economic revival. Specifically, we analyse the processes, opportunities and challenges of the Igbo traditional business apprenticeship. Broad-based recommendations highlight imperatives for sustainability and leveraging across cultures and contexts.

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Igba-Boi model of entrepreneurship incubation among the Igbos in south-eastern Nigeria records outstanding and robust successes in producing entrepreneurs with global impact. Therefore, the need to understand its nature, process, driving force, challenges and make suggestions to reinvigorate it has become urgent and valid. Also, with the persisting overbearing influence of Western and lately Asian philosophies in the development of business theories and practice, it is long overdue to mainstream Africa's entrepreneurial philosophy into extant discourse; this chapter contributes to this effort. Such an attempt follows the belief that Africans with their indigenous systems hold higher hope for the development of the continent. Since the rest of the world had at some point in history leveraged on Africa's civilisation to forge ahead, this chapter argues that Africa stands to contribute to the global search for efficient incubation of entrepreneurs using the Igba-Boi model. The chapter is guided by and framed with reviewed publications, philosophies and theories that explain Igbos' construction of social realities and worldview. Structural functionalism and conflict theories offer in-depth insight in explaining the success story of the Igba-Boi institution. The chapter, in particular, adopts the Igbos' interpretation of their cosmos, its eschatological implications in explaining their tenacity and doggedness in successfully meeting all the requirements for graduating from Igba-Boi incubation system. By discussing Igba-Boi as a socioeconomic institution, this chapter draws attention to areas of neglect for improvement in order to harness its high potentials for enhancing its contribution to business practice in Africa and development of the continent.

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Over the years, there have been calls for the integration of the Igbo Traditional Business School (I-TBS) into the contemporary entrepreneurship space, especially in Africa, to scale up entrepreneurial activities. The I-TBS model has demonstrated prominence in influencing entrepreneurial culture, skills transfer, start-up support mechanisms, enterprise success and sustainability; however, its reliability and replicability are often questioned. Among a myriad of issues, lack of comprehensive documentation that isolates the merits as well as demerits, is a concern. An understanding of I-TBS’ validity, reliability, replicability and compatibility are others. As a result, it has been difficult to accord the model the needed recognition. This desktop review chapter, is an effort to contribute to the improvement of the model, synthesise its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with specific reference to the Igba-Boi entrepreneurship scheme. The Atlas-ti v8 software was used in the synthesis. Based on the review, attributes such as togetherness and solidarity in business, free transfer of skills, upholding entrepreneurial culture which are passed from generation to generation and building family/social ties were key strengths of the model. The weaknesses come in the form of lack of regulations to monitor irregularities, inappropriate contractual method and the abuse of mentees. Openings for interested individual to access training, assurance for start-up capital and partnership/collaboration options were key opportunities. False accusations of mentees, breaching settlement agreement, unfair dismissal of mentee, and lack of solid ground for justice, are the major threats. It is expected that these findings will form the basis for further research and policy actions to improve the model.

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Section II Indigenous Business Management and Succession Planning

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In many countries (Nigeria inclusive), major components of job creation and economic growth, are driven by small and medium-sized businesses that are mostly family-owned. However, over 50% of such businesses fail after intrafamily leadership transition. This chapter seeks to understand and explain the strategies that owners of medium-sized family-owned businesses explore in ensuring the sustainability of their business after a leadership transition from the founder. The focus is on three business leaders who sustained their family-owned businesses after a leadership transition from their founders. The conceptual framework is based on the transformational leadership theory. Data collection was from artefacts, company documents and semi-structured, face-to-face interviews. Analysis of data was supported by follow-up questions and member-checking to enhance the trustworthiness and credibility of the interpretations. Four themes that emerged were the founder's desire and support for transition, the preparation of successors or level of preparedness, trust and credibility of successors, and clarity of vision of both the founders and successors. Findings from this study may contribute to positive social change by providing leaders of African family-owned businesses with strategies for managing leadership transitions and ensuring the survival of the business after these transitions. Sustainability of family businesses might lead to job retention and creation, as well as enhance wellbeing and incomes of communities, family members and the African economy.

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This chapter aims to highlight talent management approaches and succession planning principles deployed by traditional Igbo businesses in Nigeria. Insights came from interviews of a purposively selected sample of Igbo businesses drawn from different sectors of the Nigerian economy and different geopolitical zones of the country to give a national representation of the approaches they deploy in talent management and succession planning.

The chapter commences with a brief literature review of talent management and then proceeds to indicate the methodology deployed in data collection, analysis and presentation. The next section presents findings in detail on how Igbo businesses embark on talent management activities such as talent identification and attraction; interviewing; talent assessment; apprenticeships; training; risk considerations; compensation and rewards. Some training areas discussed in detail include nature of the sector, customer service, inventory management, supplier management and cash handling. The subsequent section highlights some challenges with talent management and approaches Igbo businesses adopted in overcoming them.

The chapter also provides some insights as cases of approaches traditional Igbo businesses adopted in succession planning – this gives more perspective on the contextual circumstances that inform the strategies the businesses adopted in talent management. The chapter concludes by discussing in general, succession planning approaches deployed by traditional Igbo businesses.

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The Igbos of south-eastern region of Nigeria are known for their rich cultural heritage which permeates all their socioeconomic life. Sacrosanct among their social institution is their business practice which has outlived generations, but its impact is still felt not only in the south-eastern region but also in Nigeria as a whole. Igbo business practices have become integral to an average Igbo man's life, and it is the cornerstone on which their values are promoted. This is evidence in their desires to make wealth and be successful hence the adage ‘ego ji oru’ which means ‘money has the answer to projects’. Generally, Igbo culture and values are reflected in their business practices. The Igbos have a strategic model of attracting, retaining, transferring knowledge and developing talents. This unique model has contributed to the sustenance of Igbo businesses through manpower development and has also influenced their business performance over the years. The Igbos seek and develop talents in their area of business interest for continuity, performance and value creation. This chapter explores how talents are recruited to become apprentices and how knowledge is transferred to these apprentices by their Igbo master known as ‘oga’. Also, the effects of the recruitment process and the knowledge transfer mechanisms on business performance are evaluated. The chapter adopts a case study approach and sampled six small Igbo businesses in Ajah market, Lagos. The chapter revealed that the Igbos have indigenous strategies of recruiting and developing talents which influence the performance of their business. Informed recommendations were made for business in Africa at the end of the chapter.

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Section III Financial Practices, Sales Negotiation and Conflict Management

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This chapter concentrates on sales negotiation and reveals that negotiating agreements on goods and services among the Igbo traders involves demystifying many complexities – such as nature of persuasion, trust and communication patterns between traders, among other concerns. To aid our understanding, the authors surveyed three Igbo-dominated markets including Computer Village, Ikeja – dealing in the sales of phone accessories; Tejuosho Market – dealing in the sales of clothing materials; and Ojuelegba Market – dealing in the sales of vehicle spare parts. The authors concluded that the negotiation pattern and approach adopted by the Igbo trader often depends on several variables, including the product, the market, the buyer, the individual trader and other invisible circumstances surrounding the bargaining process. When negotiation breakdown arises, the Igbo traders have a well thought-out strategy that can be adopted to address the situation and persuade future bargains.

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As Africa strives to catch up with the rest of the world at the economic, political and sociocultural fronts, there is an increasing coalescence around the need for backward integration and the revival of traditional business management practices as enablers in the global war for economic dominance. Unfortunately, a significant consequence of colonial rule was the systematic denigration and portrayal of traditional African institutions and knowledge systems as inferior to those of the West. Although the negative depiction of the African worldview has been extensively challenged in the academy, changes in their perception and adoption have remained slow. The ‘Igbo Apprenticeship System’ (IAS), widely recognised as the largest business incubator platform in the world today, is a great testament to the sophistication and resilience of indigenous African business models and the need to scale up their impact as a strategic step towards the economic emancipation of the continent. However, one fundamental aspect of IAS's success story that is hardly ever mentioned in the extant literature is its approach to conflict management. Understandably, business by its nature is competitive and conflict-prone. Nonetheless, the Igbos appear to have successfully managed different types of conflicts associated with their traditional business model without recourse to western methods or processes. Using a conceptual approach, this chapter attempts to examine the efficacy of the conflict transformation mechanisms in the ‘Igbo Traditional Business School’ (I-TBS) against the background of emerging challenges in the twenty-first-century business environments in Africa and around the world. From the prism of the Conflict Transformation Theory, the chapter argues that I-TBS can serve as a vehicle for the economic growth of the continent, but it must be prepared to deal with ‘new’ conflicts and demands arising from within and outside of its ecosystem.

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The Igbo people of south-eastern Nigeria are generally acknowledged as traders and astute entrepreneurs. Extant literature has investigated the various indigenous practices of Igbo entrepreneurs that ensure business success. Despite these efforts, knowledge of their financial practices has been limited. This chapter provides insights on the financial practices that are common amongst Igbo micro-entrepreneurs and the immense benefits of the practices. To unravel these practices, in-depth interviews were conducted with 15 micro-entrepreneurs involved in supermarket, spare parts and food items businesses in Lagos, Nigeria. Using a grounded theory approach, four significant financial practices such as rotating financial contribution, deferred financial arrangements, financial settlement practice and financial prudence common among the Igbo micro-entrepreneurs were identified. Based on the findings, relevant recommendations were made for financial educators and the management of modern financial institutions to adapt and incorporate some of these indigenous financial practices in teaching curricula and financial product designs.

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Section IV Business Incubators and Models

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The Igbos are renowned for their success in business. This chapter traced the pre-colonial and post-colonial innovations among the Igbos to highlight salient factors that could be responsible for their outstanding success in recent times. In the pre-colonial era, the Igbos made their livelihood through vocations such as blacksmithing, traditional medicine, farming, pot moulding, hunting, food preservation, and textiles, especially in cloth weaving. The post-colonial period which witnessed the Nigerian civil war, led to a disruption of their entire business structure. However, through the principles of apprenticeship and hard work, ingredients of success in the pre-colonial years, the Igbos were able to rebuild their business structure and became renowned for their success. They retained some of their pre-colonial crafts such as cloth weaving of which the Akwete fabric is a good example and has gained both national and international prominence in recent times. The chapter presented the case of the Akwete Weaving Centre of Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (AE-FUNAI), established to promote cultural heritage and enhance the entrepreneurial skills of students in the craft through modern apprenticeship. The chapter made recommendations on ways to enhance the Akwete Weaving industry and effectively harness its potentials.

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Recently, there is an increasing academic and practitioner interest on the Igbo ethnic group, their business activities and how they have utilised industrial clusters to drive local industrial development in the southeast region of Nigeria and the country at large. However, there are relatively few studies that have explored the mechanisms driving this development. Our chapter focuses on explicating the Igbo business industrial clusters and its inherent locally generated venture capital approach built on the Igbo traditional culture and philosophy. We draw on previous literature to show the three phases: assessing competency, providing the start-up capital and continuous replication process involved in creating and sustaining the locally generated venture capital approach as operated by Igbo business industrial clusters. We contend that overall, this approach has the potential to drive modern business and industrial policies for driving entrepreneurial start-ups, innovation, and economic sustainability. We conclude our chapter by highlighting the implications for Africa, African business practices and areas for future studies.

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Over the years, the impact of Nollywood on the promotion and development of Nigerian culture has cut across geographical boundaries. In terms of film production quality, the industry has made significant progress, even though there remains great room for improvement. In recent times, output from the industry gained global recognition, with films such as Lion Heart, King of Boys and Chief Daddy, to mention a few, attaining great landmarks in the film world in 2019. A significant feature in the Nigerian film industry is the wealth of diversity which reflects the true Nigerian nation. The involvement of Igbo indigenes in the Nollywood industry has helped put the Nollywood ideology into the consciousness of Nigerians and the world. Therefore, this chapter examines the relevance of the Igbo traditional business model in sustaining the dominance of Igbos in the distribution network of films in the Nigerian film industry, also known as Nollywood.

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Igbo communities in diaspora are arguably some of the most innovative communities, in terms of business start-ups and engagements in entrepreneurial activities. Despite the lack of material resources, individuals within these communities have often started and engaged in new businesses, in environments considered extremely difficult. This chapter interrogates the sociocultural conditions behind such Igbo entrepreneurial incubation. Drawing largely on the experiences of selected Igbo individuals in a diasporan community (South Africa), it investigates how such Igbo business individuals’ start-up their businesses. A qualitative research method which allowed in-depth semi-structured interviews to collect data from the respondents was adopted. A simple thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. The result showed pressure to succeed and pre-existing repertoire of business knowledge and skill-set as some of the conditions that stimulate entrepreneurial activities of the Igbo business individuals in diaspora. It also showed other conditions such as the untapped business-friendly South African market and the association with the Igbo business networks as important conditions responsible for creating the opportunities upon which such business start-ups and entrepreneurial activities thrive. Based on these findings, the study encourages economic policy makers in South Africa and other African countries to develop similar national business models, that draws from the indigenous practices within the ITBS model.

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Section V Recommendations for Policy and Practice

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In this chapter, we highlight the much-lauded Igba-Boi apprenticeship scheme that underpins the Igbo Traditional Business School. We explore the operational modalities of the scheme and its philosophical roots in the Igbo ontology. Acknowledging the effect of colonialism on the current trajectory of African ways of being, we compare the Igba-Boi scheme to the prototypical German apprenticeship system to highlight areas of potential improvement around levels of education, gender inclusivity and trade specificity. Based on this comparative evaluation, we recommend changes to the Igba-Boi model that will strengthen its utility for the educational needs of the formal and informal sectors of the Nigerian, and by extension, African economy.

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Index

Pages 247-253
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Cover of Indigenous African Enterprise
DOI
10.1108/S1877-6361202126
Publication date
2020-12-14
Book series
Advanced Series in Management
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-83909-033-2
eISBN
978-1-83909-033-2
Book series ISSN
1877-6361