• Thursday, February 22, 2024
businessday logo


At TEF, Africa’s leaders, business champions seek empowerment for continent’s youths



Africa’s most prominent leaders in business, politics and development have converged on Abuja to chart a course for the continent’s youth under the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum – a global flagship event which has attracted world business leaders and renowned entrepreneurs to the Nigerian political capital.

The forum is the fifth edition. Since 2015 the foundation has committed $100 million to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 African entrepreneurs over 10 years.

At the event dinner Friday, Elumelu said his inspiration is to make an impact in helping change the Africa’s narrative in terms of poverty, and as well leave a legacy.

“Life is not just about the riches, but about humanity, touching lives and leaving a good legacy.

“That is what makes someone happy,” Elumelu said during a dialogue session with CNN Fareed Zakaria.

“When I see African youths and what they go through- having grown up in Nigeria and seeing the enthusiasm of the youths, I’m touched.

“And being able to play a role to see these young ones be happy is what makes me happy and that’s why we are doing this,” he stressed.

An entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist, who is passionate about entrepreneurship and Africa’s economic development, Tony Elemelu founded the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) in 2010 to unlock the obstacles that Africa’s entrepreneurs face as they grow their start-ups into small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and their SMEs into national growth companies, and their national growth companies into African multinationals.

Since 2015, the foundation has committed $100 million to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 African entrepreneurs over 10 years.

Elumelu said though TEF is doing quite a lot – collaborating with governments and development institutions, more really needs to be done to boost entrepreneurship on the continent and unlock jobs and wealth.

“We want to ensure that the narrative is good. We need to give young Africans the opportunities. Train them, create funds for them, mentor them but much more, the enabling environment must be right,” Elumelu responded to one of Zakaria’s questions.

“The truth is we need to do a lot more as a continent.

“Through TEF, we are showing in our little ways that there’s a way you can help to touch lives and ensure that people are independent.

“It is all of these that can create a new narrative for Africa that the world can see.”

Earlier, Kennedy Uzoka, CEO United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), said the bank was committed to bringing in more funding to the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME’s) sector in Africa.

He spoke at the opening of the UBA Market Place, which also held at the Transcorp Hilton hotel in Abuja.

The UBA Market Place is an entrepreneurial fair, with exhibitors from 20 African countries, taking place on the sidelines of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum.

Uzoka said the bank has created specific initiatives to make SMEs more viable and better established across Africa with a view to stimulating and deepening the economy of the continent.

“We bank a lot of customers across the geographies but we have discovered that there is a gap which an enterprise like UBA  should cover and that gap is how to bring the buyer and the seller, people who want to exchange goods, not significantly different from what Ali baba has done, but UBA is taking charge now by bringing the customers together.”

He said the UBA market place has brought together under one roof, more than 5,000 SMEs from across Africa. “We want to create a platform in Africa similar to Alibaba and ebay,” he said.

He also acknowledged that the market place will affect the bank’s balance sheet positively – though not in the immediate. “Everything you do in life has a life cycle, you first invest and wait for it to return and again UBA is not just only for business.

“We are trying also to give back to the economy where we we get money from and you know we have UBA foundation, through which we support education, enterprise and of course environment because we believe that we should give out.”

Also, the UBA Group Head, Retail Banking, Jude Anele said that 10 per cent of the bank’s total balance sheet has been earmarked to support SMEs in countries where the bank operates in Africa.

Meanwhile, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina is participating in a panel discussion at the TEF event, alongside Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Senegal’s Macky Sall, and Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The AfDB says the entrepreneurship programme aligns with the goals of the bank whose Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy aims to support African countries to create 25 million jobs and empower 50 million young people by 2025.

“We are increasingly working with initiatives that boost entrepreneurship on the continent. The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme is one of the key entrepreneurship initiatives on the continent, which the Bank seeks to collaborate with,” President Adesina said ahead of the event.

The Bank’s Board approved a facility to boost enterprise support organizations, such as incubators, accelerators, financial institutions, early stage investors and foundations to achieve this vision.

The Bank’s project has benefited many, including Esther Ayuba, from Nigeria’s Gombe State University. She received ICT training and is now able to code and design.  Gombe State is located in the northeastern part of the country, affected by spate of terrorist attacks in past times.

“When it comes to digital literacy, women are usually left behind. However, with a programme like this, I am a better person. I hope more women can benefit from this,” Ayuba said.