, Volume 31, Issue 1-3, pp 233-252
Date: 22 Aug 2007

IMU AHIA: Traditional Igbo Business School and Global Commerce Culture

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Abstract

There is an Igbo saying that the world is a marketplace (uwa bu ahia). This simple worldview can be explained literally to mean that the Igbo think so because trading is a prominent occupation among the Igbo (it could also mean that a marketplace is the epicenter of community social and business interaction). That might be why the Igbo weekdays are named after their markets – Eke, Orie, Afo, Nkwo. Children born on any of these market days often assume the default name as in Okeke or Mgbeke, Okorie or Mgborie, Okafo or Mgbafo, Okonkwo or Mgbonkwo for male or female children, respectively, born on the corresponding market days. We are yet to come across another culture for which the market holds such a fascinating centrality in their worldview even while they see themselves as ruggedly egalitarian. The meaning of the thesis statement that the world is a marketplace is deeper than the literal interpretation. The deeper meaning is the suggestion that all the problems we encounter in this world are open to negotiation, haggling and bargaining. Some people come into the market place with greater resources than others and therefore are able to buy more goods and services just as some people are born or raised with greater resources, increasing their bargaining power in the global marketplace. When the Igbo say that the world is a market, they usually complete the sentence by observing that when one buys to one’s content, one goes home. The home referred to here is the land of the ancestors to which the Igbo believe the spirits of the dead return to bargain for a better life in their next incarnation. If one’s creator dealt one a raw deal in this life, one can still bargain with his/her personal God (or Chi) and haggle for a better break in the next life. In other words, the Igbo intend the paradox that the world is a market as a description of the global world and not simply just the Igbo world. This paper will focus on how the Igbo organize the training of children in commercial and consumerist activities given their mercantilist worldview. Are there lessons that other cultures could learn from the Igbo and are there lessons that the Igbo could learn from the social structure of modernist business schools?

With fieldwork by Mrs Ekperechi Anwana Business Executive and MBA student in Finance, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Nigeria. Phone: 234-80-368-67280.