The Tony Elumelu Foundation has announced a massive partnership with the African Development Bank, ECOWAS, Coca-Cola and the Nigerian Ministry of Information. The decision emerged at the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurs that held on October the 30th, 2016 in Lagos, Nigeria. It was a forum where the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) hosted approximately 1,000 men and women from 54 African countries, for the 2nd TEF Entrepreneurship session.
President Koroma of Sierra Leone, former Nigerian head of state, General Obasanjo, Governor Ikpeazu, Minister Lai Mohammed and Mrs Folorunsho Alakija were among the movers and the shakers who Joined the over 1,000 African Entrepreneurs at the 2016 Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum. Africa’s leading business guru and philanthropist, Tony Elumelu who honored the forum with his presence said “We give to empower and break the cycle of dependency as entrepreneurship is the only path to independence and sustainability.”
The Forum celebrated the 2016 cohort of Elumelu Entrepreneurs, selected from over 45,000 applicants. It was the annual highlight of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme and also witnessed the presence of leading policy makers and business leaders from across Africa, who gave their support to the foundation and its promise to identify, train, mentor and seed a 1,000 entrepreneurs in a decade-long $100 million commitment. Each entrepreneur is eligible to receive up to $10,000 to implement their business plan.
Applauding Tony Elumelu’s promise to not only empower entrepreneurs, but also to tackle the fundamental economic challenges confronting the African continent, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone appealed to other prominent African businessmen to emulate Elumelu. The Sierra Leone leader stated that “Even when we had Ebola in Sierra Leone, Tony was there. His is an example which other successful Africans must follow.”
President Koroma hailed the Elumelu initiative as “a genuinely innovative approach to philanthropy in Africa – an African offering African solution”. “What is unique about this programme is that it not only provides a platform for entrepreneurs to build connections, but they are also being taught how to build their businesses in a sustainable way. Other philanthropists will be inspired to support and promote this philosophy” the President concluded.
In his keynote address, Tony Elumelu observed that “Our ambition is that you become ambassadors for entrepreneurship in Africa – you are a generation of wealth creators, who share our commitment to the economic and social transformation of Africa. Let me tell you about Momarr Mass Taal, the CEO of Tropingo Foods, who has turned his first $5,000 seed capital received from the Foundation last year, into a $1.2 million revenue business. I want many more of these! However, as excited as I am about the 2,000 entrepreneurs that we have selected, this gathering is in some ways bittersweet, as I reflect on the 63,000 ideas we were unable to select – our commitment is to all entrepreneurs in Africa.”
Mr Elumelu challenged all stakeholders from the public and private sectors, civil society, multilateral organizations and all individuals with interest in Africa’s economic development to join hands with the Foundation to support the wider African entrepreneurial community. Said Tony Elumelu “We need to support our entrepreneurs because extreme poverty and economic opportunity rarely coexist in the same place.” He also announced partnerships with regional institutions such as the African Development Bank, ECOWAS, Coca Cola, the International Trade Centre, and the Nigerian Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism and Côte d’Ivoire Ministry of Entrepreneurship.
The two-day forum buzzed with energy as entrepreneurs shared and gained knowledge, built cross-border partnerships and connected with investors and policymakers, fulfilling the goal of fostering innovation and collaboration between entrepreneurs from across Africa.
On Day One, attendees benefited from master classes on traditional and alternative means of financing, sales and marketing, as well as sector specific workshops and an in-depth session on Africapitalism – Elumelu’s economic philosophy that identifies the leading role of Africa’s private sector, including its entrepreneurs, in Africa’s transformation.
Awele Elumelu, CEO Avon Medical, Trustee of the Foundation and wife of Founder, welcomed the entrepreneurs to Lagos and commended their drive and effort in finding solutions to some of the continent’s most pervasive challenges. For his part, the CEO of the Foundation, Parminder Vir, invited entrepreneurs in the audience to continue to build the future and to challenge the flawed perceptions of Africa.
Day Two featured a high-level panel dedicated to identifying policies to strengthen the enabling environment for entrepreneurs, moderated by BBC anchor, Lerato Mbele, with panelists including His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria, former Prime Minister of Benin Republic, Lionel Zinsou, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Honourable Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture of Nigeria and Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, Vice Chair of Famfa Oil.
Opening the high-level Panel, Mrs. Alakija congratulated the entrepreneurs, praised TEF’s focus on entrepreneurship and shared her own personal story of perseverance to demonstrate the entrepreneurs need for resilience and doggedness. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo hailed Elumelu’s perseverance and focus on giving back. “By every means, God has made His face shine upon you. You are not the only one, but unlike you, some others do not have the idea of empowering the next generation of Africans in the manner and scale that you are doing.” He further emphasized patience to the young entrepreneurs. In his words, “For strength in life you need a bit of adversity.” He also called on the Nigerian government to implement policies that encourage investors and entrepreneurs to do business in Nigeria.
Former Prime Minister of Benin, Lionel Zinsou, commended the Tony Elumelu Foundation. The former politician noted that “What Tony Elumelu is doing is the exception, not the norm.” Other speakers at the event included Clare Akamanzi, Representative of President Kagame of Rwanda, Kennedy Uzoka, Group CEO of the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), Minster of Solid Minerals, Hon. Kayode Fayemi, Segun Awolowo, CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Clem Ugorji, Public Affairs & Communications Director, Coca-Cola West Africa, Emeke Iweriebor, Regional CEO of UBA Africa (Francophone), Matthew Pearson, Head of Africa Equity Sales at ICBC Standard Bank, Sam Nwanze, Chief Investment Officer at Heirs Holdings.
By Cham Victor Bama on special assignment in Lagos, Nigeria