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5 Business Lessons to Learn from Showmax’s Freemen

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In Nigeria, entrepreneurship and business enterprises play a pivotal role in the economy, with businesses spread across all corners of the country. However, when seeking advice on business matters, one group stands out – the Igbo people, renowned for their enduring affinity with commerce, notably through the Igbo apprenticeship system.

This system has nurtured numerous millionaires and notable figures in Nigeria’s business landscape. And Showmax’s compelling documentary, Freemen, delves into their journey, showcasing their rise, stories, and the rich culture of the longstanding “Igba Boi” tradition.

From the chairman of Coscharis Group, Dr Cosmas Maduka, to the chairman of Innoson Group of Companies, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, the Founder/Group Executive Chairman, Chicason Group, Sir Alex Chika Okafor and the renowned entrepreneur Obi Cubana, the documentary imparts invaluable lessons from their experiences and successes.

Here are 5 business lessons we’ve learned from Freemen.

1. You Can’t Do It Alone

In the world of business, collaboration is key. Just like in Igbo apprenticeship where a master mentors their apprentice, building a network of support and guidance can significantly enhance chances of success.

Speaking in the first episode of the documentary, the Executive Producer of Freemen, Nigerian rapper, and actor, Tobechukwu ‘Illbliss’ Ejiofor, emphasised the importance of togetherness in building a successful business empire.

He revealed: “When I came into Lagos, I realised that my journey wasn’t going to be complete if I didn’t create an opportunity for others from my own hustle. When you get in, you bring in your brother; it’s a philosophy that we built and ran with. I just know that I need to be able to get in and pull other people in, showing them exactly what it is that needs to be done”.

Obi Cubana captures it all in the same episode: “Never leave a brother behind”, he concluded.

2. Master One Thing; Not All

According to Freemen, rather than spreading yourself too thin by trying to do everything, concentrate on mastering one aspect of your business.

Dr Cosmas Maduka’s story in episode two of the documentary is a prime example. Having begun his apprenticeship as early as the age of seven, even though he absorbed the knowledge of supply management, inventory control, accountancy, and administration which the Igbo apprenticeship system availed him, he focused on “internal combustion engine” under the tutelage of his uncle who had a catalogue for motorcycles. This led him to discover not just the contents but all the working parts of motorcycles and automobiles.

Unsurprisingly, Dr Cosmas’ breakthrough came from selling motorcycle crash bars, a product in scarce supply, at a substantial markup.

For Chief Innocent Chukwuma, one of Nigeria’s most successful car manufacturers, he had to spend seven months studying and mastering motorcycle parts before proceeding to work with his brother under whose auspices he became an apprentice. Before long, he was able to build a motorcycle by himself. In fact, he once brought the price of a motorcycle down from ₦150,000 to ₦60,000 due to his homemade brand.

In the near future, Chief Innocent Chukwuma aims to produce homemade cars that are cheaper than imported cars, in order to make automobiles more affordable.

3. Keep Developing

Continuous learning and improvement are essential for staying ahead in business. Just as apprentices in Igbo culture undergo rigorous training and skill development, entrepreneurs must continually invest in their own growth and development.

Engr Okezie Onyemelukwe, owner of Soundhouse Digital Multimedia, an independently owned and operated full-service event management company based in Enugu, is a testament to how developing one’s skill and talent can be the biggest pathway to success. In the third episode of Freemen, Engr Okezie revealed how he started from his local church, joining the team in charge of sound production. Before long, he joined his uncle’s music outfit which started with only a keyboard and a microphone. However, he honed his skill for years, ensuring that people rely on him before they can get their music production jobs done.

Today, some of the most competent sound engineers and live event professionals in southeast Nigeria have gone through Okezie’s tutelage as apprentices.

“When people see me driving the cars I drive, they want to be like me,” he said. “But they don’t see all the efforts and discipline that went into getting here. When you want to copy and paste someone’s life, make sure you copy from their past, not only their present”, Okezie said on the importance of discipline and development in running a successful business.

4. Find a Niche, Where There’s a Gap

Identifying an unmet need or underserved market niche is a recipe for success. Similar to how Igbo apprenticeships often specialise in specific trades or crafts, Freemen reveals that entrepreneurs must seek out opportunities where they can fill a gap in the market.

Reflecting on his journey, Dr Cosmas Maduka recalled how he identified a niche market opportunity within Boulos Enterprises. He seized the chance to sell motorcycle crash bars, a product in scarce supply, at a substantial markup. This strategic move propelled his success and layed the foundation for the highly influential business mogul he is today.  By offering unique solutions or products tailored to a specific audience, you can carve out a profitable niche for your business.

5. Be Ready to Serve

At the core of a successful business lies a commitment to serving others. In Igbo apprenticeship, both masters and apprentices understand the importance of service in their relationship.

For Anene Cyril Okeke, CEO of Lastborn Investment Ltd, a business owner who currently has over 14 apprentices working under him and over 20 who have graduated through him, he too had to go through his period of service.

“At a point, I regretted being an apprentice at my brother’s because he was hard on me. I would be the one to go on errands, I would be the one to fetch water, I would be the one to cook”, he said.

“It is now that I know that all of those were trainings that I should have gone through. If not, all the things I know now, I wouldn’t know”.

For Dr Cosmas Maduka, he had to serve and go through the Igbo Apprenticeship System at an early age, leading him to eventually take on the management of automobile branches in Jos, Sokoto, Nnewi, and Lagos.

During his years of service, Dr Maduka was under the guidance of his uncle, who was a motorcycle spare parts trader. However, they lived in humble conditions: “My uncle himself had just started a business and lived in his own uncle’s house in a one-bedroom with his wife. In that bedroom, they used curtains to divide the sitting room from the bedroom. A man that is sleeping in a passage went to get an apprentice so you can know where my bedroom would be,” he said.

That humble beginning of service, which is enclosed in the “Igba Boi” system, not only propelled his success but also enabled him to amass his first million dollars by the age of 24. By 25, his wealth had doubled to more than 2 million dollars.

Freemen is a captivating exploration of the Igbo Apprenticeship System, known locally as “Igba Boi”. Binge all seven episodes of Freemen now on www.showmax.com.


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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University. Dear Reader, Your support matters. But we believe that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. That is why, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and finance and how they affect lives. Our incisive and analytical view of how technology news affects the daily life help individuals and organizations make up their minds. Quality journalism costs money. Today, we're asking that you support us to do more. Kindly support our effort to deliver technology and finance journalism to everyone in the world. Donate as little as N1,000. Bank transfers can be made to: UBA Plc 1017156876 Communication Week Media Ltd

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Nigeria Makes Giant Strides in Economic Growth and Continental Leadership with the Launch of Guided Trade Initiative Under AfCFTA 

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Nigeria has embarked on a historic endeavor with the launch of the Guided Trade Initiative under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), signaling a pivotal moment in boosting intra-African trade and fostering economic diversification. Spearheaded by President Bola Tinubu, this initiative is anticipated to unlock an estimated $50 billion in economic opportunities for Nigerian businesses.

President Tinubu underscored AfCFTA’s transformative potential, positioning it not merely as a trade pact but as a catalyst for industrialization, equitable growth, and continental prosperity. Nigeria is steadfast in creating an enabling business environment that fosters innovation and enhances the competitiveness of local enterprises across diverse sectors.

The launch event, supported by international partners such as the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation (BMZ), celebrated Nigeria’s leadership role in AfCFTA’s implementation. The Country Director for GIZ Nigeria and ECOWAS, represented by GIZ ECOWAS Cluster Coordinator, Svenja Ossman, highlighted Germany’s commitment through the ECOWAS AfCFTA project, aimed at bolstering the implementation framework across West Africa.

“We are pleased to witness Nigeria’s official commencement of trade under the preferential regime established by AfCFTA,” stated the GIZ country director. “Germany acknowledges Nigeria’s proactive stance in advancing regional economic integration and pledges support in aligning national efforts with ECOWAS-coordinated AfCFTA strategies.”

The GIZ ECOWAS AfCFTA support project has been pivotal in providing technical assistance to Nigeria through the AfCFTA National Action Committee, now called, the Nigeria AfCFTA Coordination Office (NACO). This support includes the development of a comprehensive Action Plan aimed at optimizing trade facilitation and maximizing opportunities for Nigerian businesses, including women and youth entrepreneurs.

“We commend Nigeria’s dedication in preparing the AfCFTA implementation Action Plan,” continued the GIZ country director. “In collaboration with relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), we anticipate finalizing this plan to ensure robust financial and institutional support for its successful rollout.”

Emphasizing the importance of collaboration, Mr. Olusegun Awolowo, National Coordinator of NACO, highlighted the transformative impact of AfCFTA on Nigeria’s economic landscape. The conversion of the National Action Committee on AfCFTA into NACO underscores Nigeria’s commitment to effective AfCFTA implementation, including finalizing tariff concessions to enhance competitiveness within the continental market.

Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, reiterated Nigeria’s dedication to leveraging AfCFTA for industrial growth and job creation. Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, emphasized the strategic importance of the Guided Trade Initiative in propelling Nigeria’s economic growth and fostering regional integration.

President Tinubu concluded the event by affirming Nigeria’s commitment to assuming a leadership role in continental and global trade through AfCFTA. Beyond immediate economic gains, AfCFTA promises a transformative future for all Africans, grounded in collaboration, innovation, and the collective strength of the continent.


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TAFTA’s TALP-X Paves Way for Young Creatives

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Terra Academy for the Arts (TAFTA), Nigeria’s leading creative education academy, last Sunday showcased its transformative impact on young talents across the country.

Founded with a mission to educate and upskill young Nigerians in various creative industries, including animation, art business & entrepreneurship, scriptwriting, sound design, and stage lighting, TAFTA has become a beacon of empowerment.

Since its inception in 2022, TAFTA has empowered over 24,440 young Nigerians across Lagos, Kano, and Ogun states with invaluable theatre arts and entrepreneurship skills. Notably, TAFTA has successfully integrated 9,165 youths into the workforce, with 5,156 young women securing employment or gigs in their respective fields.

Under its flagship initiative, the TAFTA Action Learning Project (TALP-X), TAFTA, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and Utica Capital, hosted an unforgettable evening at Terra Arena in Victoria Island, Lagos.

Featuring five spectacular stage plays, the event not only entertained but also highlighted the depth of talent nurtured through TAFTA’s programs, creating an experience that truly made the attendees say, ‘We Outside.'”

The evening kicked off with a soul-stirring performance by Wisdom Joe, whose renditions of classics such as “Coat of Many Colors” and “Mr. Jailer” set the stage alight.

This was followed by powerful spoken word pieces by Adeoye Adelakun, who gave a poignant eulogy of Yorubaland, creating an electric atmosphere from the start.

The stage then came alive with the captivating storytelling of the first play, titled “Nocturnal.”

The audience was transported into a riveting tale of a dysfunctional couple who, despite their differences, successfully resist outside intervention and pressures.

Following the thunderous applause, the students of the academy presented a thought-provoking contemporary drama, “Hues,” exploring women’s empowerment through collaboration. As the night progressed, the energy in the room only intensified.

The audience roared with laughter during “Kolo,” a thought-provoking social commentary on sanity. This hilarious play offered a satirical look at two madmen who, realizing that madness is more affordable, ultimately choosing to embrace insanity.

The heartfelt performance “Maami,” a touching comedic portrayal of familial bonds during a wedding fundraiser, added layers of depth and emotion. The night culminated in “Hello,” a gripping dialogue between God and Lucifer inspired by Adele’s classic song, leaving the audience mesmerized and inspired.

The highlight of the night was the overwhelming support and enthusiasm of the attendees, who filled the venue with cheers and applause throughout the performances. Their energy elevated the atmosphere to new heights.

If you missed this unforgettable event, do not worry. There is more to come!!! TALP (TAFTA Action Learning Project) X is a stage play event held every quarter.

Follow @Tafta_academy on social media to stay in the loop about upcoming performances. This is your chance to be part of a transformative cultural experience that celebrates creativity and empowers the next generation of Nigerian artists and entrepreneurs.

Also, if you are a Nigerian youth with a passion for the arts, a new cohort is starting August 8th, 2024. Visit the TAFTA website to stay updated on the call for entry and other news. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from the best and brightest in the industry and to develop your talents to their fullest potential.


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NIGCOMSAT, BON Partner to Enhance Broadcasting Services

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NIGCOMSAT Limited, Nigeria’s satellite communication infrastructure provider, says it has begun a collaborative partnership with the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) to provide uplink services.

NIGCOMSAT, BON Partner to Enhance Broadcasting Services

This was disclosed in a statement issued by Aisha Bantam, spokesperson, NIGCOMSAT Limited,  on Wednesday. The company said this strategic alliance aims to improve the quality and reach of broadcasting services for BON members across the country for a period of three months.

According to Bantam, the development which aligns with the mandate of the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy under the supervision of the Minister, Dr. Bosun Tijani, will see NIGCOMSAT leverage its state-of-the-art satellite technology to empower BON and its member organisations.

“This partnership will enable BON to seamlessly access NIGCOMSAT’s reliable and high-performance uplink services, ensuring their broadcast signals are delivered with unparalleled quality and consistency to viewers nationwide,” Bantam said.

Mrs. Jane Egerton-Idehen, managing director/chief executive officer, NIGCOMSAT Ltd, said the company is committed to driving digital transformation and enhancing connectivity across Nigeria.

She said: “By collaborating with the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, considering the strong influence it has in the media space and its contributions to the development of the society, we have the opportunity to elevate the country’s broadcasting landscape and bring the benefits of satellite technology to millions of Nigerians who rely on these vital services”, she added.

“The collaboration will commence immediately with NIGCOMSAT’s technical team working closely with BON to integrate their systems and ensure a seamless transition. This partnership underscores NIGCOMSAT’s dedication to supporting the growth and development of Nigeria’s media and communications sectors, ultimately empowering citizens with access to reliable and informative content,” the stated noted.

 


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