Igbo apprenticeship system is world’s largest business incubator platform – Robert Neuwirth reveals

American journalist cum author, Robert Neuwirth talks about the Igbo apprenticeship system as he gave a TED talk on age-old sharing economies of Africa.

According to Robert Neuwirth, the Igbo apprenticeship system is the largest business incubator platform in the world because when an apprentice serves, his master is expected to set him up in business.

The journalist further added that apprenticeships that work like locally generated venture capital and systems for allocating scarce water, can propagate and scale these models that could help communities thrive from the bottom up.

Here is a video of his TED talk below;

In Igbo land, there’s a culture that frowns on children roaming the streets doing nothing, so if a child is unable to go to school, his relatives ensure that he learns a trade- usually it’s the type of trade that his family people have been involved in.

So boys and girls (usually those out of primary school or secondary school) would intern with the owner of the shop who runs either a spare parts, second hand clothing, supermarkets business etc for a specific period of time (10 years or so) to learn the trade. It is an unpaid apprenticeship- but meals, clothing and t-fare are provided for. When the years are over and the boy is as good as his master, the master sets him up with some cash -and goods- to start his own shop.

Sometimes, in order to prevent the apprentice graduate from squandering all that capital at once, the master tells him that at the end of one year, a certain percentage should be returned. The apprentice graduate also get his own boys who learn at his feet and on and on it goes.



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