An insight into the Igbo apprenticeship system

The Igbo apprenticeship system is a unification of activities that rely on the mutual understanding of a master craftsperson and an apprentice. 

The Igbo apprenticeship system is a form of educational transfer practised by the Igbos, who are predominant in southeast Nigeria and date back over 400 years. Over the years, this system has birthed new business ventures. For a certain amount of time, the student “serves” the trade master in exchange for knowledge in the mastery of the trade. Within that period, the apprentice will have learned enough from his master to graduate and launch his establishment.

In this strategy, the parent of a prospective apprentice (often male) may haggle and negotiate with a prosperous business owner about the prospect of giving over their son or sons to the latter as an apprentice. This is done with the expectation that the youngster would remain in his employ long enough to learn the ropes of the business. It is a method known as “Igba-boi.”

The Igbo apprentice system aims to foster an entrepreneurial mindset, strengthen the local economy, increase human capital, and simplify access to capital for small businesses.

Steps in the Igbo Apprenticeship System.

1. Identifying Promising Individuals

The Igbo apprenticeship begins with finding where the would be apprentice’s talent is. At this point, a youngster’s parents or guardian have begun the process of figuring out what kind of ability their son has a natural proclivity towards.

They choose an entrepreneur who can educate the youngster on the business fundamentals in the area where the child excels. 

2. The Instructional Phase

The Igbo apprenticeship system consists of two stages – the learning stage and the practising stage. The Mentee spends ample time learning the skills under the guidance of the master. However, a trade master would ensure that he checks the Mentee in essential areas before continuing with instruction. 

The ability to learn, perseverance, persistence, and reliability all fall within this category. Business moguls must learn to trust others. Sincerity is a basic step in the training because, over time, the apprentice will be taught valuable trade secrets in the business. Thus, they have an interest in the security of their confidential information, especially after the apprenticeship.

Apprentices learn fundamental business practices from their masters. This category covers the methods of negotiating deals, fostering connections with clients, finding inexpensive products, and setting prices.

It’s also worth noting that an apprentice traditionally resides with his master during training. As a result, while staying at their trade master’s place, they’ll have the opportunity to get full-time learning the pecks of the trade.

3. Graduation and New Beginnings

Graduation and settling down is the last step in the Igbo apprenticeship system. An apprentice is entitled to a “settlement” from his former trade master if he completes his term of training cum employment.

Most settlements are made in cash; however, some may be made in other benefits than cash if both parties agree. The trade guru provides the Mentee with a cash settlement, which may be thought of as seed money for the entrepreneur’s first venture. It is customary for a trade master to assist a mentee in securing a storefront and stocking it with inventory as part of an in-kind settlement, allowing the Mentee to launch his business venture with little outlay of capital. The act of settlement and the strong supervision of business practices for the first three years of the apprentice graduation is perhaps what distances the Igbo apprentice system from others. 

Once you’ve established yourself, you should think outside the box regarding the products you carry, the suppliers you work with, and the connections you make with your customers to expand your company.

Benefits of the Igbo Apprenticeship System

1. It boosts economic systems based on traditional values.

Importing foreign economic concepts and applying them in Nigeria is a major contributor to the country’s economic woes. These economic models may function in other climates but are not suited to the local environment.

However, the Igbo apprenticeship system provides a regional approach to bolstering enterprise in the face of adversity. And, if harnessed, it takes into account the socioeconomic realities of the Igbos and the country as a whole.

2. A startup incubator: It is a kind of business accelerator

A startup incubator is a place where ambitious business people may get the support they need to turn their ideas into reality, whether via education, mentoring, or financial backing. An Igbo apprenticeship is an early-stage business incubator. The program has been so fruitful because it connects budding business owners with others who have decades of expertise in the field.

One of the most impressive features of the Igbo apprenticeship system is that the aspiring entrepreneur can get experience in real-world settings. The method teaches them how to run a business, where to find possibilities, how the local market works, and where to get high-quality products.

3. It is an excellent example of mentoring

If you want to improve your abilities more quickly, many successful business people will tell you to find a mentor. An additional benefit of having a mentor is that they assist you in improving your decision-making. In this way, mentors serve as guides for budding business owners.

In most cases, a mentor will have more life experience than you. That’s why they guide what steps to follow and how to avoid frequent errors.

The Igbo model of apprenticeship provides young professionals with access to experienced role models who can guide a wide range of professional and personal matters. Subjects of study may include such topics as price strategies, customer relationships, and methods of achieving favourable negotiating agreements.

4. It serves as a useful tool for securing initial capital for new companies

The limited availability of financial resources is a major obstacle for new businesses in Nigeria. Consequently, many individuals with an interest in entrepreneurship don’t pursue it. Once an apprentice completes their training with a master of their chosen profession, they are eligible for financial support under the Igbo apprenticeship system.

Earlier, we stated that the master craftsman might pay the apprentice in cash or kind (stocking of the shop). Most company owners use the money from the settlement to fund further innovation and expansion.

5. It has shown an over 95% success rate

This method is quite effective. As students of the trade, the Mentee, will learn from their Masters in the field, where they can see firsthand what the market wants. Over the years, failure rates in the businesses of mentees that passed through the system are rare.

By taking part in an apprenticeship program, the Mentee will have access to unprocessed market data. They may use this information to determine their company’s best brand positioning and business strategy.

6. It aids in combating poverty and joblessness

The Igbo apprenticeship system has helped launch several successful business people’s careers. Many contend that the Igbo apprenticeship system has produced more billionaires than any business school worldwide.

Whether that’s correct is a discussion for another day. The Igbo apprenticeship system has undoubtedly helped many people escape poverty. It has also helped many people in Nigeria escape the country’s chronic unemployment rate.


The Igbo system of apprenticeship is great for developing an entrepreneurial spirit. People have been urged to avoid looking at the government for their livelihood and instead pursue careers in business.

As a result, many individuals don’t have an entrepreneurial attitude since they need access to sufficient financial options. The Igbo apprenticeship system has helped instil an entrepreneurial spirit in a population that could otherwise be completely reliant on the state for its economic well-being.

Over the years only persons of Igbo heritage have been admitted into the apprenticeship system with people from other cultures and also Igbos calling the system discriminatory. Aside from other cultures, women are also not allowed into the system.

The training takes four years of theoretical practice and three years of practicals, totalling seven years. Depending on the apprentice’s skill in fast learning, the theoretical process can be reduced or skipped totally, but the years of practice are intact.

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Richard Okoroafor

Richard Okoroafor

Richard is a brilliant legal content writer who doubles as a finance lawyer. He brings his wealth of legal knowledge in corporate commercial transactions to bear, offering the best value that exceeds expectations.

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