Showmax documentary Freemen explores the Igbo Apprenticeship System

6 February 2024

Showmax documentary Freemen explores the Igbo Apprenticeship System

African streaming service Showmax is set to launch a Nigerian Original documentary series, Freemen, a captivating exploration of the Igbo Apprenticeship System, known locally as Igba Boi. This groundbreaking seven-part documentary is now streaming, coinciding with the relaunch of the new Showmax app. 

The Igbo Apprenticeship System has been a cornerstone of the eastern region of Nigeria for generations. The practice involves young individuals placed under the tutelage of experienced traders, artisans, or professionals to learn a trade or skill for a period of time, after which they gain “freedom”, typically including a cash settlement or seed money that will allow them to begin their own trade. In recent times, the business model has gained worldwide traction, and in 2021, Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe’s work on the Igbo Apprenticeship System (IAS) was published in the Harvard Business Review.

Watch the trailer for Freemen

In the Freemen trailer, we see businessman Dr Anene Okeke approaching the parents of a young man he intends to take under his tutelage, asking for their consent to take him to the city to learn a trade.

The documentary features prominent Igbo businessmen such as Dr Cosmas Maduka aka Coscharis, Obinna Iyiegbu, popularly known as Obi Cubana, Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Okey Japan, Bartholomew Duru Nwanguma alongside his son Peter Nwanguma, and other notable entrepreneurs. These successful businessmen share their personal stories and reflections on how the Igbo Apprenticeship System shaped their careers and paved the way for their entrepreneurial success.

In anticipation of the show’s launch, Dr Busola Tejumola, Executive Head of Content and West Africa Channels at MultiChoice, said, “Freemen is more than just a documentary on the Igbo Apprenticeship System, it is a spotlight on our rich narrative and culture. We are excited at Showmax to be able to tell the vibrant story of a system that has transcended cultural boundaries into other regions of the country and beyond.”

Daro Umaigba, the director and co-producer of Freemen, also expressed his excitement about the documentary, stating, ‘‘With Freemen, we open a window into the world of the Igbo Apprenticeship System, offering viewers an intimate look at how great business minds are nurtured and developed. This documentary is not just a showcase of the rich Igbo cultural heritage but also a valuable resource for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs seeking mentorship insights.’’

The documentary is structured in four distinctive parts, providing an in-depth exploration of the Igbo Apprenticeship System. These segments include the Pick-Up and Negotiations Period, Trial Period, Solidification of Agreement and Work Period, and Settlement Period, each offering a unique perspective on the apprenticeship journey.

Beyond its focus on the Igbo community, Freemen reveals how the apprenticeship system has evolved, adapting to different trades and industries such as manufacturing, retail, and services. The system has transcended cultural boundaries, influencing similar apprenticeship systems in other regions of Nigeria and across Africa, including in Ghana, Senegal and Ethiopia.

Freemen is co-produced by multiple-award-winning rapper Tobechukwu Ejiofor, aka ILLBLiSS (King of Boys), who also produces the soundtrack for the show.

As Showmax continues to redefine African storytelling, Freemen promises to provide viewers with a distinctive narrative and a deeper understanding of the Igbo Apprenticeship System. The documentary promises audiences an engaging and enlightening experience, offering a fresh perspective on the roots of successful businesses and the mentorship traditions that continue to shape them.

Freemen is now available to stream exclusively on Showmax, with new episodes dropping every Wednesday.