It was Ghanian pioneer President and African Nationalist,Kwame Nkrumah who talked about the political kingdom and the economic kingdom.His drive being that political independence is not same as economic independence.
Even the pan-African supremo,Zik of Africa,DR Nnamdi Azikiwe posited after Nigerians independence in 1960 posited that the nationalists had left a legacy of toil.Meaning that political sovereignty is not the whole story.
Perhaps it is these battles left “un-won”by the founders of the different states of Africa that people like United Bank for Africa(UBA),Tony Elumelu has continued in the economic turf with his Tony Elumelu Foundation(TEF).
According to Elumelu: “We give to empower and break the cycle of dependency. Entrepreneurship is the only path to independence and sustainability.”And his strategy to achieve this is anchored on the business philosophy he terms Africapitalism.
From visible realities, he seems to be succeeding with the array of new supporters he’s recruiting yearly.At the last count Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Koroma of Sierra Leone,Governor Ikpeazu of Abia State, Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed and Mrs Folorunsho Alakija etc actually Joined 1,000 African Entrepreneurs at 2016 Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum in Lagos Nigeria.
It was at that forum that the Foundation announced its partnerships with African Development Bank(ADB),Economic Organisation of West African States( ECOWAS) and soft drink power-house Coca-Cola.
The forum could be described as the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurs. TEF hosted over 1,000 women and men from 54 African countries at its 2nd Entrepreneurship Forum.
The forum celebrates the 2016 cohort of Elumelu Entrepreneurs, selected from over 45,000 applicants.And saw the presence of leading policy makers and business leaders from across Africa, giving their support to the Foundation and its promise to identify, train, mentor and seed 1,000 entrepreneurs in a decade-long $100 million commitment. Following the Forum, 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, His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone called on others to emulate Elumelu. “Even when we had Ebola in Sierra Leone, Tony was there. His is an example which other successful Africans must follow.”
“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 intuned.
Mr. Elumelu stated in his address 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.
“We all 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 received in the Programme’s short two years of existence 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 invested in Africa’s economic development to join hands with the Foundation to support the wider African entrepreneurial community.
He announced partnerships with regional institutions the African Development Bank, ECOWAS, and others including Coca Cola, the International Trade Centre, Nigerian Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism and Côte d’Ivoire Ministry of Entrepreneurship.
The two-day forum was a very exciting event and 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.
Attendees benefited from masterclasses 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.
In her remarks at the event, Mrs. Awele Elumelu, CEO Avon Medical, Trustee of the Foundation and wife of Founder, Mr. Elumelu, welcomed the entrepreneurs and commended their drive and effort in finding solutions to some of the continent’s most pervasive challenges. The CEO of the Foundation, Ms. Parminder Vir, invited entrepreneurs in the audience to continue to build the future and to challenge the flawed perceptions of Africa,maintaining the the needed changes are theirs to make.
Day two of the event was even more involving as the panell moderated by BBC anchor, Lerato Mbele, had some of the bigest names in Africa including His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, President Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria, Former Prime Minister of Benin RepublicLionel Zinsou, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Honourable Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture and Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, Vice Chair of Famfa Oil.
Mrs. Alakija in her contribution 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.
Said he”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. According to him “For strength in life you need a bit of adversity.”
He 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, stating “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.
Mr Elumelu has become the change he wants to see in Africa.Perhaps he will succeed where our fore-bearers failed by starting the fire that will finally make Africa economically free.