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‘Nwa Boi’ Practice – Some Unfinished Business

It was one of those weekends when ladies just want to be girls – pause from adulting – and take a break from the many responsibilities around us. The guys were away and the kids were having their fun in their own way. We tried to avoid conversations around work or family. Somehow we landed on the movie “Afamefuna,” – big ups to Kayode Kasumu by the way.

It was a good intersect between education and entertainment. Some of us in the room could relate, while others were intrigued by the entire plot. The underlying fact was that everyone in the room voiced their appreciation for the ‘Nwa Boi’ practice until someone in the room started pouring out some unexpected questions:

Can generational wealth be infused into it so its not just a poverty alleviation scheme?

Odogwu’s family were obviously at a decline as he grew older & retired, could that be avoided?

Couldn’t Ada be protected even if she wasn’t interested in the business?

What would have become of her if she didn’t marry another rising star?

Must every business/family suffer a hit after the visionary leaves?

We almost couldn’t stop the questions from coming in. Her angle felt very valid and personal. Taking nothing out of the “Nwa Boi” as a great wealth generation mechanism at its core, stakeholder capitalism is presently embodied in the apprenticeship system. The system places high priority on sustainable business practices, shared wealth and community advancement. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review used as the prologue in the movie:

“The Igbos in Africa have been practicing for centuries what is known today as stakeholder capitalism. The Igbo apprenticeship system (IAS) has been recognized as the largest business incubator in the world as thousands of ventures are developed and established yearly through it. For the Igbos and some Africans, it is a working system which has brought equality and peaceful coexistence in communities”.

However, can other structures be put in place to ensure it also serves as a tool for generational wealth within families, while still sustaining its ability to spread wealth across the community? It presently has a horizontal wealth circulation to it, but with a few more corporate engineering and creative operational structures, it can also have a vertical wealth preservation angle to it.

So there we were wondering if the Igbo community ever considered infusing some of the structures used in sustaining family businesses across multiple generations into the Nwa Boi practice. These structures go beyond general corporate governance, they tread on the technical lines that draw a distinction between control and ownership. Layering businesses on different levels, each with corporate structures and models required to accommodate multiple distinct but complementary verticals. They require the combination of different family and coporate governance systems, factoring succession across different stakeholders at different levels amongst many other systems and structures tailored to specific families, business, scenarios, etc

In a nut shell, the practice gives a good start for many who want to get out of poverty. It helps in community wealth, but can we make it a generational wealth system too? Referencing the “Afamefuna” movie for example, why were the uninterested daughters of Odogwu not carried along as stakeholders in a bigger structure, therefore keeping a portion of the father’s wealth in the family. Could Afamefuna have done a franchise and considered capturing a bigger market share instead of starting afresh? Could they have set up a multifamily office that would have catered to as many families that came out of Odogwu’s store?, therefore, making their freedom a quasi-independent structure still within the conglomerate?

Well… the day really goes fast when you’re alone with the girls. Before we could say ‘jack’, the kids came calling and we called it a day. But the words of Robin Sharma kept playing on:

“Starting strong is good, finishing strong is epic”

The present IAS lays a very solid foundation of entry into business both for the founder/businessman and the apprentice learning under him but does it really give the best ‘finishing’ for the apprentice & the businessman mentor?

Empowering African families for multigenerational wealth and legacies