Tony Elumelu, Chairman, UBA



There is a saying that with “great power, comes great responsibility.” Being the chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), one of the biggest banks in Africa, Mr. Tony Onyemaechi Elumeleu believes he has to give back to the society that has given him so much. As a result, he set up the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) for the empowerment of African entrepreneurs.

The banking tycoon has a philosophy called Africapitalism. This is an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through investments that generate both economic prosperity and social wealth.

In 2017, while receiving the philanthropist of the year award by Per second Magazine, he said, “We need to start giving in a manner that creates sustenance, self-reliance and will help to eradicate poverty.”

The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) was founded in 2010. Through this foundation, he has been able to empower thousands of African youths which in turn is helping Africa stabilize economically.

“We will continue to support our growing numbers of programmes, alumni, whose inspirational success stories serve as encouragement to upcoming entrepreneurs and demonstrate the effectiveness of our interventions. As we deepen our reach in Africa, we will continue to enrich these alumni networks, facilitating meaningful conversations and mentor relationships to further assist tomorrow’s business leaders and build an impactful pan-African entrepreneurial ecosystem,” he said

In 2015, TEF consolidated its various programmes and initiatives and made investing in Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders a priority. The future of the foundation centres on the provision of structured, robust, and multifaceted support to entrepreneurs around Africa through the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme.

The vision for the foundation is to unlock the obstacles that Africa’s entrepreneurs face as they grow their start-ups into small to medium enterprises (SMEs), their SMEs into national growth companies, and their national growth companies into African multinationals.

This year, over 216,000 applications were received, an increase from last year’s 151,000. Nearly 90,000 were submitted by female entrepreneurs, an increase of 45% illustrating the foundation’s strategy to achieve greater gender balance. The selected entrepreneurs will each receive non-refundable $5,000 seed capital, access to mentors, and a 12-week business training programme directly focused on the needs of African entrepreneurs.

From July 26 – 27 2019, they will gather at the TEF Entrepreneurship Forum, the largest annual gathering of young African entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurship ecosystem on the continent.

According to the former CEO of the Foundation, Parminder Vir Obe, TEF has been able to influence 4,470 entrepreneurs in just four years. “In just four years, we have directly influenced 4,470 entrepreneurs, and we are beginning to see the results: they are creating jobs, generating revenues and making a social impact through their businesses.

“This year, we began to track the progress of 3,010 entrepreneurs who graduated between 2015 and 2017. Our study of just 1,472 entrepreneurs, who responded to the survey shows they have generated over$52m after completion, compared to the over $18m before they were selected for the programme.”

BusinessHallmark learnt that in terms of jobs, the same 1,472 entrepreneurs have created 11,971 jobs, compared to 4,034 jobs before they were selected for the TEF entrepreneurship programme. Furthermore,”our study shows that upon completing the TEF entrepreneurship programme, 62 per cent of these businesses are now fully operational, while 29 per cent have now become partly operational. This also explains the phenomenal growth in jobs (15 per cent of the entrepreneurs now employ at least 10 people) and revenue (13 per cent of the entrepreneurs now generate above $50,000 annually) recorded after the entrepreneurship programme”.

In terms of the impact of seven pillars of the TEF entrepreneurship programme, both the 12-week enterprise tool kit and the mentorship received at least a 70 per cent high impact rating, while 61 per cent of them indicated that TEF provided them with the first seed capital for their business.


How to apply for the programme

BusinessHallmark learnt that application is open to all Africans and that being a Nigerian doesn’t give an added advantage. Selection is based on merit. All applications must be submitted online through the application portal. You must complete the form by answering a series of mandatory questions and uploading additional documents and identification materials. After submission, you will receive a confirmation email of receipt within one working day.

You must already have a business. If there are two or more people running one business, only one person from the business or the partnership is able to join the programme. No application can be submitted manually. It is strictly online. There is an independent Selection Committee appointed by the Foundation based on the specified selection criteria.

Application, it was learnt, is judged on a few criteria: Feasibility of the business idea; knowledge and understanding of the market; customer and competitors for their idea/business; understanding of the basic financial requirements of running a business, costs and revenues.

Leadership potential and skill is also considered before selection.

You have to complete a self-declaration form, with proof of a valid ID. Personal bank statement from the past six months must be provided with a statement of current personal debts. A reference from an employer, bank and/or academic institutions is required. You will also have to provide bank account details. It has to be UBA. No other bank is allowed.

There are many success stories. One of them is that of Ms Nneile Nkholis from South Africa. The 2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur says her biggest challenge to date has been funding and finding the right investors to believe in the business and help them launch on a larger scale.

Nnelie eventually received from the Tony Elumelu Foundation at a time when her team was busy with large scale production of one of their production. This funding she says helped cover production costs.

The Foundation’s impact on her business however has not only been through funding as she says the opportunity for learning and mentorship has also been of huge impact on her business helping her transition from just being an engineer with little or no prior formal training on business management to being a business leader and effectively manage a company successfully.

Nnelie and her team understand the concept of giving back and have set aside $3000.00 to fund an organisation in South Africa which its primary objective is in the development of STEM and entrepreneurship, particularly to help the girl child.

She says, “This is part of our social driven programme to identify non-profit organizations that add value in developing future Tech innovators. We have currently called for applications from all the organizations that fit the criteria, and we will select which we can fund.”

Efforts to reach the Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications of TEF, Ms Ifesinachi Okpagu proved abortive at the time of filing this report, as she did not respond to questions put across to her via email.

Elumelu was born on 22 of March 1963. He is a Nigerian trained economist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa and Transcorp. Elumelu holds the Nigerian national honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR). He was recognised as one of “Africa’s 20 Most Powerful People in 2012” by Forbes magazine.

According to Elumelu, “Our long-term investment in empowering African entrepreneurs is emblematic of my philosophy of Africapitalism, which positions Africa’s private sector, and most importantly, entrepreneurs, as the catalyst for the social and economic development of the continent.

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