Young African entrepreneurs numbering 3,050 who have businesses of less than three years old at the weekend received $5,000 grant each from the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) to help them boost their activities and create the much-needed wealth on the continent.
The awardees were chosen from 54 African countries, and 37 percent of them, representing 1,605 of the total are Nigerians chosen from each state of the federation, and through what both the authorities and beneficiaries called a very tedious and transparent process.
The 3,050 entrepreneurs were announced in Abuja as the 5th cohort of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme out of which 1,000 are directly funded by the Foundation and an additional 2,050 supported by the Foundation’s partners.
This year’s partners include the African Development Bank (AfDB) which sponsored additional 1,000 awardees; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which also sponsored 754; and the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) which took up 180. Benin Republic sponsored 50 of its citizens; and Botswana 20. For the time, Anambra state sponsored 15 of its citizens under the programme while the United State consulate sponsored 20 entrepreneurs across 10 Nigerian states.
Of the total number selected, 42% of them are women, indicating a rising interest among women entrepreneurs, authorities said.
Also, 216,025 applications were received, up from 151,000 applications the previous year.
Agriculture, fashion, commercial/retail are the highest sectors of representation.
The five key parameters used in assessing the applicators include feasibility, market opportunity, scalability, financial undertaking, leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
“Tihe Entrepreneurship Programme is half way through its 10 year mark of empowering African entrepreneurs and has achieved a significant milestone,” Tony Elumelu, the founder of TEF said in Abuja at the unveiling.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation is the leading African philanthropy committed to empowering African entrepreneurs which is guided by the philosophy, Africapitalism, which proposes that the private sector holds the key to unlocking the sustainable development of Africa.
Through its flagship Entrepreneurship Programme, a $100m commitment by the Elumelu family to empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs over a 10-year period, the Foundation empowers African entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurship ecosystem across 54 African countries.
The goal is to create at least 1million jobs and contribute over $10billion in revenue to the African economy.
Since its inception in 2015, the Programme has empowered 4,000 African entrepreneurs directly and an additional 470 entrepreneurs supported by the Foundation’s global partners, authorities say.
At the event which was also attended by the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, Elumelu stressed the importance of private sector in the development of Africa’s economy.
According to him, small and medium scale enterprises remain are the main drivers of the economic transformation and must be supported as much as possible.
“No one but us will develop our continent. The private sector has a key role to play in doing this. It is not the big businesses that make the difference, but the SMEs are known for creating jobs, alleviating poverty, helping to bridge inequality gaps and ensure that our women are more economically involved.”
“It is in this realisation that the TEF decided that entrepreneurship is the most catalytic way of making little contributions to humanity.”
He said that the selected finalists are 3,050 young African men and women from 54 African countries.
Aisha Buhari in her speech commended the TEF programme which she said would foster entrepreneurial development across Africa, providing much-needed funds, training and mentorship to commercial enterprises that promote social and economic change on the continent.
She also commended the increasing female participation in the programme over the years, saying “this is a proof that women have continued to prove their strength and competence in our societies in all spheres even in male dominated professions.”
“I am confident that these TEF entrepreneurs will grow to inspire deep confidence in both local and foreign markets and be a source of immense value not just to the Nigerian real sector, but to the African continent,” she stressed.
Onyinye Nwachukwu, Abuja