The pictures in this post are from my wife’s poultry, which she started recently when I went to Calabar. The space was used for a fish pond when I was doing fish farming. Because of our frequent travels, then, we could not effectively cater for it. My wife, my son, and I returned from work and went to feed and care for the birds. They were so beautiful to behold and, boy, they grow really fast.
What struck my mind, however, was that my wife trained as a nurse/midwife, my son is an engineer, another is a medical doctor, but here we are rearing chickens. All over Nigeria, there are retirees who are into one form of business or the other outside their professional training. Many are into farming of different aspects; lawyers are going into fashion and designing; nurses are into sweater production; even Dr. Apoki is into running schools. Sometimes, I drive my SUV to convey school pupils and students to and from school. I do a lot of book publishing in my office and our printing press. My wife runs a canteen in the school. My daughter, who is an educationist and a psychologist, bakes cakes that she brings to the canteen.
When we were younger we all wanted to read professional courses or what would give us good jobs. The job mentality destroyed the concept of family businesses at its incubation stage in the Southern part of Nigeria, in particular. The introduction of tax made trade by barter ineffective with time. I experienced trade by barter as a child. My mother would bring tapioca, garri, cassava starch, and some ropes for making fish traps from Ofuoma to Ughelli market. The Ijaws will bring fish, crayfish, sugarcane, and other products to exchange with us. I also saw people buy coconut rice from my mother with palm kennels.
With tax drives, adult males had to go to townships to work; the dynamics of wealth changed. In the Northern part of Nigeria and Africa, down to the middle East, the Trans-Saharan trade had created longtime family businesses for centuries. You will notice that the currency exchange business is controlled by those of northern extractions, same with animal husbandry.
The problem, today, is that western education, without an industrial base and diversified economy, is a breeding ground for poverty if the political class are thieves. Salaries can hardly meet the family needs of two working parents. There are delays in payment of salaries and pensions.
I think that education should now go with the knowledge of what a family does for a living, alongside western education. If children know and master their family businesses and improve on them from generation to generation, like in other developed nations, the issues of poverty and unemployment will be greatly reduced. I know a family that had a bakery, petrol station, farm, sawmill, and several other businesses then. If these businesses had been nurtured and improved upon, they would have been employing hundreds of workers by now. There were several trading stores in the city where I grew up. I was just wondering what happened to them? Nearly all of them have closed down. However, such stores have grown in other nations like Pick n Pay of South Africa, Backdash Ice cream Parlour in Damascus.
A new generation of Nigerians are opening businesses now; the emphasis should be on business education for the children of these businessmen. They should be taught to build upon the platforms provided by their parents. In the 100 Club program aired on CNN, I noticed that most of them—businesses that have lasted for 100 years or more—started as small-scale businesses in families, but each generation improved on it. Most of the businesses are food and drinks related; they did not require very complex technology.
There are those who have been producing shoes for decades, others have been producing soap like in Nablus for 400 years. The Rothschild family have been trading in gold for 200 years.
Another evil that has bedeviled us in Africa is the struggle to share family wealth when the patriarch or matriarch dies. The resultant effect is that the business is destroyed in the hands of those who know next to nothing about the business.
If we can produce basic goods and services at the level of family businesses, and hand them over from generation to generation, there will be a great multiplier effect in Africa. Ironically, most of the businesses I saw in East Africa are owned by Asians and those from the middle East.
The irony is that after all the vain pursuit of western white collar jobs, we end up establishing schools, farms, hotels, gas stations, oil mills, etc. Why not teach our children on how to take over these businesses and grow them instead of carrying brown envelopes from interview to interview?
We have great seeds in our hands, and we have prepared the soil; let the next generation join us in planting a great future.
In the next post on Lessons From My Wife’s Poultry, we’ll look at the need for dynamism and attitude of change in creating and adding more value to our lives and responsibilities.
God Bless You.
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