The decision of Nigerian billionaire and Chairman of United Bank for Africa, Tony Elumelu to mentor 20-year-old Emmanuel Nduka who reached out to him has triggered a conversation on a second look at mentorship as an effective widespread approach in dealing with poverty in Africa.
This young man who is a third year Chemical Engineering student of Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) in Nigeria began to consistently shoot his shot for a mentorship opportunity on professional networking platform-Linkedin, focusing on Nigerian Billionaire, Tony Elumelu. He did this consistently for some time until the billionaire noticed him and accepted his request to mentor him on a platter of gold.
The news got a lot of people, especially young people excited that a 20-year-old, Emmanuel who is yet to even become a university graduate has secured himself a mentorship spot with one of Africa’s biggest moguls. The news sounds refreshing to the ears and from a circumspection look of things, we might be gearing up for the production of another billionaire who may also be on the verge of eliminating poverty from the soil of Africa.
It is important to note that this is not the first time the billionaire is venturing into mentorship. With his foundation called the Tony Elumelu Foundation, he has been raising young entrepreneurs from all walks of life in Africa to ensure job creation. With Africa being obviously poised for development in the 21st century, mentorship of the younger generation should be the next big thing.
The gesture shown by this billionaire, especially towards young Emmanuel has redirected us to ask the following question: What if mentorship by successful people and experts becomes widespread across Africa to reduce poverty?
Historically, mentorship has always been done in Africa when it comes to wealth creation. A typical example is the practice among the Igbo tribe of Nigeria. Over the years, they created a system of apprenticeship which is set to appear in Harvard Business review as Igbo Apprenticeship System (IAS). In this system, there is a chain of multiplication of wealth where a young man known as ‘Nwa boy’ becomes an apprentice to an already established businessman where he is trained and mentored in the tricks and tips of the trade. Initially, these mentees serve for a period of seven years; however the number of years has changed in recent times and is fast becoming an agreement between the apprentice family and the mentor.
Now, the nwa boy spends the agreed number of years as he joins in working and helping in the day-to-day activities of running the business. At completion, he is settled financially by his mentor and expected to set up his own business. He in turn, also gets other apprentices he mentors, and trains and the cycle goes on and on. Remarkably, this has produced many millionaires and billionaires in Igboland. The region has the lowest poverty rate in Nigeria of just about 5% despite the economic backlash they suffered after the civil war of 1967-1970.
Although there were a few shortcomings of some people landing in the wrong hands, the success of this system over the years is remarkable. If African experts and successful people,