By OBINNA EZUGWU
The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), the leading philanthropy empowering African entrepreneurs, has received commendation from Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, among others, for continuing to drive African economies by providing funding yearly to thousands of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through its entrepreneurship programme.
Buhari’s commendation, contained in a statement by his media aide, Femi Adesina on Friday, follows the latest provision of funding to about 5000 entrepreneurs from 54 African countries, who are beneficiaries in its 2021 entrepreneurship programme, in a ceremony held in Lagos yesterday.
The President also lauded the founder of the foundation, Mr. Tony O. Elumelu, for his vision in mentoring and funding African entrepreneurs, describing his vision as “a truly lasting legacy.”
In the statement titled, “President Buhari Congratulates Tony Elumelu Foundation on Selection of 5000 Young Africans for 2021 Entrepreneurship Programme,’ Buhari said, “I would like to specifically congratulate the Tony Elumelu Foundation on this extraordinary humanitarian act of funding 4,949 entrepreneurs.
“I am particularly pleased that, this year alone, the Tony Elumelu Foundation will fund 1,522 Nigerian entrepreneurs from all the 36 States and Federal Capital Territory of the Federation. This unifying act by a private sector leader is commendable and worthy of emulation by others.”
The president noted that his administration viewed entrepreneurship and youth empowerment as important components, adding that, “We believe that they are the key to the future and recognize that by empowering our youth, we will build businesses that in turn sustain our economy.”
TEF had on Friday, selected 4,949 entrepreneurs – each of whom gets $5,000 (about N2.5m) – from all 54 African countries for its 2021 Entrepreneurship Programme.
The beneficiaries were selected from a pool of over 400,000 applications, based on their innovation, performance, and growth potential to create jobs and eradicate poverty on the continent.
Consisting of both new start-ups and existing small businesses, the 2021 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs have undergone world-class business training, mentorship and coaching and will have a life-time access to the Tony Elumelu Foundation alumni network.
Speaking during at the event, Mr. Elumelu, the foundation’s Founder and founder, encouraged the beneficiaries to work hard and stay disciplined, noting that the future of the continent is in their hands.
“To you young African entrepreneurs – work hard, dream dreams, and be very disciplined. You must continue to think of impact. The entrepreneurship journey is not linear – there are ups and downs, but by staying focused and resilient, ultimately success will come your way,” he said.
“The future of our continent is in your hands. What you do as entrepreneurs will go a long way in lifting Africa out of poverty. I am happy that our female entrepreneurs are doing very well, with 68% representation this year.”
Elumelu added: “To our African leaders – these young, intelligent, energetic hardworking, resilient Africans are ready to go. We need to keep creating the right enabling environment to enable our young ones to succeed. We must realise that their success is success for all of us on the continent. We must prioritise them because nations and continents that prioritise their people, succeed. To my fellow business leaders, let us realise that in the 21st century and beyond, it is about impact, legacy and about how we work together to power people out of poverty. It is such a great feeling to see 5000 young Africans also commence their own entrepreneurial journeys today.”
In his own remarks at the event, Director-General, International Cooperation and Development, European Commission, Mr. Koen Doens commenced Mr. Elumelu for the effort, expressing happiness that the European Union is able to play a part.
“I remember very well, a few years ago in Brussels when I first met Tony Elumelu at one of the events his Foundation was organising,” he said. “Both of us were struck by how there was such a clear match between his vision on how he could support African entrepreneurship and the European Union’s own vision on how we wanted to support African entrepreneurship.
“Ever since, our partnership has embodied this same spirit that ultimately African growth cannot neglect the huge potential, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit that harbours so many Africans, especially young people and women. I am extremely glad our partnership is moving into this active stage, and I am very glad that over 2400 women will benefit from the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s training programme, and will get seed capital to support their ideas. I am extremely happy that at the European Union, we are able to be part of this great endeavour and to support it.”
Also speaking at the event, Assistant Administrator, UNDP/Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa stated: “Our partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation on youth entrepreneurship is informed by our belief that Africa will only succeed when young Africans are given the opportunity to excel. This is what has inspired us to invest more than $20 million in emerging African entrepreneurs since we entered into our partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation. Our joint ambition is to empower 100,000 young African entrepreneurs over the next ten years across Africa, recognising that entrepreneurship is the only way dreams can be realised.”
Speaking, Secretary General, OACPS, H.E. Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti stated: “On behalf of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), I would like to heartily commend the Tony Elumelu Foundation for this extraordinary achievement. We are proud to have partnered with the Tony Elumelu Foundation and our longstanding partner, the European Union to unlock the potential of 2420 young African women through this TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, providing mentorship and funding, to grow and sustain these small businesses.”
Speaking on the panel with Mr. Elumelu, 2015 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur, Hauwa Liman, Founder of Afrik Abaya, shared: “I am always proud to say that I am from the inaugural cohort of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme. My business is located in Kaduna, Nigeria. I benefitted from this Programme in 2015, and it opened up lots of doors and opportunities. It is not just about the seed capital, but what really fascinates me about the Programme is the knowledge. I call it a mini-MBA programme, because from the ideation stage it teaches you how to really articulate your business, and it gave me my first business plan. The network, visibility and opportunities are endless. My entrepreneurship experience cannot be complete without the Tony Elumelu Foundation. I will start exporting soon courtesy of the Foundation. We now employ ten permanent staff and an additional eight staff on a commission basis.”
Tony Elumelu Foundation CEO, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, concluded the event stating: “Today, we have trained ten times more young African entrepreneurs than we have trained from 2015 to 2019 combined. Today in 2021, we will be paying out a record US$24,750,000 directly to the hands of African entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries. This is impact.”
Since its inception, the Tony Elumelu Foundation has now funded a total of 15,847 entrepreneurs who have created more than 400,000 direct and indirect jobs and counting. Through TEFConnect, the Foundation’s proprietary digital platform, it has provided capacity-building support, advisory and market linkages, to over 1.5 million Africans.
Applications for the 2022 Tony Elumelu Foundation opens on January 1, 2022, on www.tefconnect.com.