For centuries, the Southeastern region of Nigeria has practiced what is known today as stakeholder capitalism — a construct that businesses must elevate the interests of communities, workers, consumers, and the environment alongside those of shareholders. The Igbos, the predominant ethnic group in the region, are known for the Igbo apprenticeship system (IAS), a communal enterprising framework where successful businesses develop others, and over time provide capital and give away their customers to the new businesses. The implication is that few businesses grow to become very dominant, since they keep relinquishing market share, and in doing so, they accomplish one thing: a largely equal community where everyone has opportunities, no matter how small.
The IAS has been recognized as the largest business incubator in the world as thousands of ventures are developed and established yearly through it. Innocent Chukwuma, the founder of Innoson Motors, the largest indigenous automobile manufacturing company by sales in Africa, is a product of IAS. So is Ifeanyi Ubah, the owner of one of the largest private fuel depots in Africa, Capital Oil & Gas, which has the biggest private oil jetty in Nigeria, an 18-ARM loading gantry, ocean-going vessels, a storage facility of over 200 million liters, and hundreds of distribution tankers. Cosmas Maduka, who controls Coscharis Group, a conglomerate with diverse interest in manufacturing, automobiles, and petrochemicals, also passed through the system. Unlike Ubah and Chukwuma, who finished primary education but dropped out at the secondary level, Maduka did not finish primary school. Until recently, that was typical; education has instead been the apprenticeship model, where an individual learns the mechanics of markets and business secrets under a master.
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