By Benjamin Okezie Kalu
Distinguished guests, organizers of this esteemed event, fellow entrepreneurs, and esteemed members of the Igbo community here in Lagos, everyone, good morning….Continue Reading>>>
I am honored to be here with you today at the All Markets Conference 2023, organized by the NdigboAmaka Progressive Markets Association.
The theme of this conference, “Catalysing Partnership with Traders through Innovation, Technology, Analytics and Sustainability,” is very timely and important.
Reforming the “Igba-Boi” apprenticeship system.
I want to draw your attention to a remarkable aspect of our economic history – the “Igba-Boi” apprenticeship system otherwise called the Igbo apprenticeship system by business and economics experts worldwide.
This time-honoured tradition has played a pivotal role in the growth of capital formation in Igbo land, especially during the challenging post-civil war recovery period. It is a system that has been studied extensively by renowned institutions such as Harvard Business School, with business cases dedicated to showcasing its unique merits in top business schools worldwide. Today, it stands as a shining example of excellent venture capital in the world.
However, let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves a rhetorical question: How many of us in this conference still have apprentices? Perhaps a few. As we reflect on this, we must acknowledge that the “Igba-Boi” apprenticeship system is going into extinction, but we must be innovative in our approach to revive and sustain it. We cannot afford to let this invaluable heritage fade away, for it carries the seeds of our future prosperity.
This draws down to another important question we must ponder on – should we formalize the Igba-Boi apprenticeship system? What I mean here is whether a national apprenticeship system should be set up that adopts the core element of the Igba-Boi apprenticeship system and combines it with the conventional education system in Nigeria to optimize the benefits for our teeming youth.
This is why my office is open to you all Umunnem! Please feel free to come and engage in this fruitful discourse as we look for the way forward to advance a core element of our rich economic and business practices and ensure that it is sustainable for future generations.
Technology and sustainability
We also need to be more innovative in our use of technology. Technology can help us to improve our businesses in a number of ways, including increasing efficiency, reducing costs and expanding our reach.
Sustainability is not just about the environment. It is also about the growth of our businesses. We need to build businesses that can thrive for generations to come.
Sadly, we are witnessing the decline of popular Igbo business names in Igbo land. This agitates my mind. Let me ask you a few questions: Where is Odumegwu Ojukwu & Sons that was, at one time, the premier commodities trading consortium in Nigeria at its peak? Where is Ekenedilichukwu & Sons which was the premier transportation company in Nigeria at one time, that crisscrossed the lengths and breadths of the country?
In contrast, we all know the popular business families behind global brands like Toyota of the Toyoda family in Japan, Adidas of the Dassler family in Germany, Hilton of the Hiltons in the U.S, amongst the lot, are still thriving.
Without succession plans or sustainable business models, our businesses face uncertain futures. In contrast, we look at the Chinese, the American, and the British family businesses that have thrived for centuries, driven by innovation, technology adoption, clear pathways for business succession, and sustainable models. We must learn from them and adopt their strategies to improve our business style. The people and families behind the enterprises in Igbo land be it micro, small, medium or large must think out-of-the-box and craft out processes for the longevity and sustainability of their businesses.
To achieve sustainable business growth, we need to focus on building progressive business ecosystems that support small, medium, and large-scale enterprises among the Igbo community in Nigeria. This requires reforming the Igbo Apprenticeship system, which should include the establishment of innovation hubs, enabling modern financing options like listing on moderate stock exchanges, and establishing commodity exchanges for improved liquidity and trading of goods. We must also be open to equity investments and venture financing, fostering an environment that encourages risk-taking and innovation.
As individuals in positions of influence, both in the government and the private sector, we have a responsibility to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. We must work towards implementing legislation that ensures ease of doing business throughout Nigeria. Particularly in Igbo land, we need the support of our state governments to institute policies and frameworks that drive economic growth and sustainability.
Ummunem na Umunnam, Igbo bu Igbo, let me assure you that my colleagues and I from the South East are committed to this task in the next four years of the current administration. With me as the Deputy Speaker, we will work together towards an inclusive and prosperous Nigeria.
One of the key priorities of this current administration is the decongestion of our seaports and investments in key infrastructure including roads, rail, other logistics and storage systems. I will ensure that as the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and a leader in the 10th National Assembly, we expend all the legislative and oversight powers in our capacity to ensure that all of these enabling developments for the growth and sustainability of our businesses are carried out.
Our collective responsibility
While we strive for success and growth, we must also address the threats faced by Igbo businesses across Nigeria. I want to emphasize here that our constitutional rights protect us. Section 41 sub-section 1 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees every citizen of Nigeria the freedom to move, reside, and trade anywhere within the country. This constitutional backing supports our business endeavors, as long as we contribute positively to our host communities and maintain peaceful and friendly relationships.
In this spirit, let us remember the longstanding harmonious relationship between the Yoruba and the Igbo, especially in Lagos and other parts of the Southwest. We have come a long way together, both economically and politically. We can draw inspiration from past collaborations, such as Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu’s role as the founding president of The Nigerian Stock Exchange in Lagos, and the partnership between Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Herbert Badmus Macaulay during the glory days of the then National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC).
My charge to my fellow Igbo brothers and sisters
The existential threat to Igbo entrepreneurship and businesses now is the insecurity and sit-at-home problem in the Southeast. The mutation of this problem is largely unfathomable. It is becoming a cankerworm that is eating deep into our collective fortune as a people. We have to rise up to nip the problem in the bud.
The first wave of the migration of Igbo businesses post-civil war was in the late 1980s and the 1990s, when, due to incessant kidnappings, thievery and a rise in occultism, Igbo businesses domiciled in Igbo land moved en masse to other parts of Nigeria and the west & central African region to thrive.
We are currently witnessing the second wave of such migration of the Igbo businesses, this time around, due to the insecurity and the sit-at-home problem in our beloved region. Ummunnem, this is not us. We are not known for these.
If I do not tell you these truths as your son, then it will be difficult for anyone in governance from Ala-Igbo to tell you. I am pained by what our dear land has become. We have to be honest and sincere with ourselves.
In conclusion, I make a heartfelt plea to each and every one of you. We cannot afford to retreat from our business endeavors. The stay-at-home order on Mondays has resulted in staggering losses of N4 trillion in the last two years in the Southeast alone according to statistical data by analysts at BusinessDay. This is also affecting the businesses of our brothers across Nigeria especially in the supply-chain. We must find lasting solutions to the security challenges in Igbo land, addressing them collectively with innovative strategies.
My brothers and my sisters. We must think and think again!
I also implore the organization behind this conference to initiate a study on long-term succession plans for our businesses. We must ensure that our small, medium, and large-scale enterprises have sustainability at their core elements, standing the test of time like their Chinese, Lebanese, and American counterparts.
May God bless the Ndigbo, every individual present here today, and may He continue to bless and guide our great nation, Nigeria. I am confident that we can overcome the challenges we face. We are a resilient people, and we have a long history of success. Thank you all!…Continue Reading>>>
Igbo Kwenu! Kwenu!! Kwezuenu!!!
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