• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Elumelu: The Banker who made Time Magazine list of 100 Most Influential People

Elumelu to speak at IoD Nigeria annual directors’ conference

For many years now, Africa has relied on its public sectors for wealth creation and economic prosperity. As a result of that misplaced trust, the hold poverty has on the continent has become stronger with the rising population, crises, corrupt government practices and mismanagement of human and natural resources.

In Sub-saharan Africa, a lot of people are born with access to very little resources to survive on their own in the harsh economic climate. With no wealthy background and connections, they struggle through life believing that there are no ways out from constant hardship and suffering. That mentality has held many captive and will continue to do so without a change.

Tony Elumelu’s success story is a beacon of hope to those who feel incapable of ridding themselves of the shackles of poverty. It is an inspirational account of how a man who started with nothing became one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people list for 2020.

The list released Tuesday is a compilation of 100 people from different walks of life who are making an impact on business, art, sport, music and more across the world.

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Final names were selected by Time editors, with recommendations from the magazine’s international staff and Time 100 alumni.

Even as the pandemic inflicts a devastating toll on the global economy, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Group Chairman Tony Elumelu insists that now is the time to invest in countries in Africa.

“Africa is a land of opportunity. Challenges exist in Africa, but we also have a huge return on investment,” Elumelu said during a TIME 100 Talks discussion with contributor Kim Dozier. “There’s no better time to make that bet than the time we live in.”

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the globe, killing hundreds of thousands of people and wreaking economic disruption, the idea of making a big investment may seem brazen. Countries in Africa face particularly gruelling obstacles as COVID-19 cases across the continent continue to surge, locusts’ swarms in east Africa threaten food security and the African Development Bank warns of a looming recession due to the pandemic.

But while some may see investing now as a gamble, Elumelu, a Nigerian multimillionaire, knows how rewarding taking a bold risk can be. In 1997, Elumelu led a small group of investors to take over a small, financially distressed commercial bank. Just a few years later, the bank became a top-five financial servicer in Nigeria and would eventually merge with UBA, according to Forbes.

After establishing the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Elumelu then used his earnings to make a bold pledge to commit $100 million to 10,000 African entrepreneurs in 10 years in 2014, starting a Pan-african entrepreneur mentorship and training program.

Now, in spite of COVID-19, the 57-year-old is pitching investors to put their bets on Africa’s economy.

“Today there’s more market stability than ever before and there’s a willingness and realization by African leaders that capital will come to where it’s welcome. So, they’re trying to make an enabling environment in their markets and in their countries to attract foreign investments,” Elumelu told Time Magazine.

Elumelu encouraged using the time at home to think outside the box—a message he’s telling the nearly 9,000 African entrepreneurs in his TEF Entrepreneurship Programme. “Necessity is the mother of invention—we need to innovate. We need to keep thinking,” Elumelu said.

Elumelu also noted that the pandemic has incidentally elevated some economic opportunities on the continent: quarantining and social distancing has catalyzed booming business online.

“In the banking business, there’s a whole transformation of banking heightened by COVID-19. Now you have less than 15% of our over 20 million bank customers across Africa transacting in the bank,” Elumelu explained. “Most of them are transacting online, which is about 85% of 20 million customers—that’s significant.”

While the odds may not appear to be in favor of African countries—and many countries hard-hit by the coronavirus—elumelu insists that giving people hope can make all the difference in emerging from the economic dredge of the pandemic.

“The difference is having economic hope, the difference is always thinking positive and knowing that tomorrow will be better than today,” Elumelu said. “Don’t let your economic aspirations die with COVID.”

Tony Elumelu graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, and went on to get a Master’s degree in Economics at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. Later on in life, he furthered his education with a degree in Advanced Management at Harvard Business School, USA.

He founded Heirs Holdings, a pan-african investment company with interests in energy, agribusiness, finance, hospitality, healthcare, and real estate. A natural economist, Elumelu has always believed that long-term investments in these particular sectors of the economy spreads wealth within a community and ensures a stable and prosperous economy.

Tony Elumelu’s success would not be complete without mentioning his enormous impact in Nigeria and Africa. His foundation, The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), was established in 2010 and is totally committed to breathing life into Africa’s economy by providing business training and monetary aid to entrepreneurs. His vision centres on the belief in Africapitalism—africa’s economic progress through the empowerment of its private sectors.

TEF operations have not only aided in the establishment of businesses but has also indirectly and directly created hundreds of job opportunities in Africa. The organization plans to spend 100 million dollars over the next decade to ensure that unique, impactful business ideas become actual businesses and that the continent takes a laudable step forward in the global economy.

This foundation is an embodiment of Tony Elumelu’s vision and passion for Africa’s growth. His dedication to this cause has successfully and positively affected the African community.

Toni Elumelu’s achievements and impact have earned him numerous awards and recognition in Nigeria and Africa. He was granted the title of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2003.

He was then voted in as African business leader of the year by the African Investor magazine back in 2006 and then in 2008 was named the African Banker of the year by the African Banker magazine. Another great honour was accrued when former president Umaru Musa Yar’adua asked him to serve on the presidential committee on Global Finances in 2009.

Elumelu’s impact on the private sector and economy earned him the National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in 2012. Other recognitions in 2012 include; recognition as one of Africa’s 20 Most Powerful People by Forbes magazine, featuring in New African magazine list of the ‘100 Most Influential Africans in Business’, and two honorary degrees from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Benue State University, Nigeria.

In 2013, he was awarded the Leadership Award in Business and Philosophy by the Africa-america awards and presented the African Icon Award at the 2013 African Business Awards.

The renowned Esi-africa dubbed Tony Elumelu as one of ‘Esi-africa Most Influential Figures in African Power’ in 2015 and then in 2016, he was conferred a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 5th edition of the annual economic forum of the National Council of Employers, General Confederation of Enterprises of Cote d’ivoire, and he’s also garnered much more awards and recognitions.

Tony Elumelu, through discipline, hard work and persistence built a career and empire that stretches throughout Africa and its different economic sectors. Today, he is a global businessman worth about $1.4 billion and a mentor/ model to aspiring entrepreneurs.

He is a clear example of how the past does not determine the future and that entrepreneurial success can be achieved with courage, persistence, hard work and discipline.