Entrepreneurship: Harnessing the Igbo Resource

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Nigeria is now officially 50 years old. The labours of our heroes past are truly not in vain. Yet we are confronted daily with problems that seem sometimes to be insurmountable. In my opinion one reason why we are not doing so well is that we do not harness our human resources effectively. We have to creatively use what we have to get what we want.

To grow our economy, we have to innovate, build businesses and grow industries. To create jobs, we have to move from depending on government and get to enabling an entrepreneurial generation who can grasp and utilize the opportunities that have been created by exponentially disruptive technologies.

Here then enters the entrepreneur. Who exactly is this person, the entrepreneur? She is the unreasonable man… not my words but Bernard Shaw’s:

Reasonable men adapt to the world. Unreasonable men adapt the world to themselves. That’s why all progress depends on unreasonable men.” George Bernard Shaw.

Some say such a person is to some extent slightly hypo-manic (thus the “unreasonableness”) but to succeed, the entrepreneur must have the following:

A cultural environment that supports risk taking. This means an environment that rewards success and does not overtly punish failure in business (economic failure not treated as a crime for example). In addition, the individual should be exposed to role models whom they can look up to and emulate.They should also be exposed to problems and opportunities where they can provide solutions to the problems. In addition it never hurts to get good and targeted training.

This is where the value proposition kicks in. The Igbos of Nigeria are recognised to be highly entrepreneurial and they have perfected training systems and role models where mostly young men are trained in business and then assisted to startup their own enterprises. This resource and knowledge is highly specialised but unfortunately has not been well documented. An opportunity exists here in documenting the process, studying it and optimising them so that they could be easily replicated and scalable in other areas apart from commercial training.

There is a wealth of knowledge and opportunity here where entrepreneurial Nigerians can be coached formally by Igbo businessmen (currently the protegés are mainly kin and kith of established traders) to develop their skills. The program can be incentivised by government with training grants and certification could be a basis for access to seed capital to start up businesses. This form of business incubation could fast track innovation and spread a business revolution in our country.

Disclosure: As a student of Singularity University, though some of my ideas are influenced by lectures and contributions from my colleauges, the expressed ideas here are totally formed by my personal convictions.

Photo Credit : http://www.noulakaz.net/weblog/2008/09/19/mind-of-an-entrepreneur/

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