The Founder and Chairman of Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Mr. Tony Elumelu, says the foundation has funded 10, 898 entrepreneurs across Africa, who have gone on to create further 400, 000 direct and indirect jobs across the continent.
Elumelu, Chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Group and HEIRS Holding, who made the disclosure on Monday when joined other world leaders to launch an initiative tagged, ‘Generation Unlimited (GEN-U) Sahel: A Leap For Sahel Youth,’ aimed at connecting Sahel’s young people to opportunities, noted that giving economic power to young Africans remained the only solution to the continent’s developmental challenges.
Elumelu explained that 65 per cent of people living in the Sahel region are less than 25 years of age and remain adversely affected by the pandemic, among other challenges, which has forced more than two million people to flee their homes with millions losing their major sources of livelihoods as resources are scarce and opportunities are limited leading to more tensions and conflicts in the region.
He said, “Empowering and investing in our people, especially our young ones in the Sahel to give them economic hope and opportunities is the only solution. This is what we believe in at the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) and we are happy that global partners also buy into this vision. As I have always said, poverty anywhere is a threat to all of us.”
Elumelu said TEF has provided over $5000 non-refundable seed capital per beneficiary, business training and mentoring for young entrepreneurs to scale their enterprises.
“We have funded 10, 898 entrepreneurs across Africa, these young Africans entrepreneurs have gone on to create further 400, 000 direct and indirect jobs across the continent,” he said.
“In 2019, we partnered with the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) to identify , train, mentor and fund 2100 young entrepreneurs in the Sahel region and these includes Northern Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad, Cameroun and Mauritania.
“Again in 2020 in the heat of the pandemic we partnered with UNDP to train 1860 young Malians which face a triple threats of conflicts , insecurity and poverty as well as loss of means of livelihood from climate change, through our interventions we are well able to create small businesses and generate economic pool in the youth; channeling their creativity and skills to transform the Sahel region.”
In his own remarks at the launch which held virtually, the Prime Minister of Belgium, Alexander De Croo, said the young people from the Sahel would bring improvement and change needed in the region if given the opportunity.
He explained that among the many challenges facing young people two were more important and pledged to work with Nigeria in the field of digital space.
“First strengthening education systems from basic education to vocational training to supporting young people finding employment and addressing the lack of governance and political representation from young people,” he said.
Referred to as “Gen-U,” the Generation Unlimited initiative is aimed at maximising opportunities in the Sahel, towards equipping 100 million young people with the skills needed to thrive by 2030.
The Sahel region includes Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.
The initiative, which involves a huge partnership between the government, multilateral organisations, civil societies and private sectors from all over the world, was launched on Monday.
The UN official, Mrs Amina Mohammed, who officially launched the initiative, said “the GenU Sahel is an especially important and urgent initiative as millions of people living in the Sahel face insecurity and serious challenges to sustainable development complicated by the devastating pandemic”.
She noted that “the Sahel is young with over 64 per cent of people under 25 and more than half are women and girls”.
“The United Nations stands with young people, the ongoing conversation between the United Nations and Young people of the Sahel launched under our integrated strategy for the Sahel are helping us to understand your priorities and hopes, so that we can integrate them into our support for the region.
“Young people’s few points and approaches are essential to making the Sahel peaceful, resilient and prosperous today and tomorrow. The security council resolution creating the UN integrated strategy for the development of the Sahel is focused on Women and Young people but it remains challenging to make tangible progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” she said.
Also speaking, Mr Moussa Faki said the African Union and UNICEF had made a commitment to intensify the initiative beyond this year, adding that the partnership is important in order to “federate synergy around the issues surrounding the young people”.
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth emphasised on the need for inclusion for the success of the program, not only in the Sahel but around the world.
The launch also featured a panel session with young leaders and other speakers, which include Emanuela Claudia Del Re, EU Special Representative for the Sahel; Sanda Ojiambo, CEO & Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact; Cynthia Samuel-Olanjuwon, Assistant Director General & Regional Director Africa; and Argentina Matavel Piccin, Regional Director UNFPA West & Central.
Gen U was first launched at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, in September 2018, as a global multi-sector partnership to meet the urgent need for expanded education, training and employment opportunities for young people, aged 10 to 24, on an unprecedented scale.
Generation Unlimited has generated interest from government and leaders from industry and other key sectors committed to cohere efforts around young people for large-scale impact.
The GenU Sahel will focus on the provision of relevant skills, opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship, and social impact for people in the Sahel region