• Friday, April 12, 2024
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Tony Elumelu: Two-time good on TIME 100 honours’ list

Tony Elumelu’s $30,000 storytellers fund to empower emerging African creative talent

Diligence pays and that is a fact of life. Twice in two years, Tony Elumelu, chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA) and founder of Heirs Holdings, his family investment company committed to improving lives and transforming Africa, has made the prestigious TIME 100 honours’ list.

First time was in 2020, when his name was announced as one of the ‘TIME 100′ most influential individuals in the world that year. The feat was celebrated by the army of young men and women whose lives have been given a meaning through the entrepreneurial initiatives of Elumelu.

At the time he was so recognised, a school principal, who spoke to BusinessDay on condition of anonymity, said: “I am not sure Tony Elumelu is the richest Nigerian. I am very sure that there are many other Nigerians as rich as he is, but why is it that we do not hear about their programmes targeted at lifting the poor?

“We hear and read stories about Nigerians who own choice properties in choice places across the globe; we see those who advertise their wealth on social media, yet none of them has that humanity and public spirit enough to help the poor.

“We have just insignificant number of the rich that have the poor at heart. Look at all the sectors of the Nigerian economy, everything is gloom. How many of them sponsor education of indigent children in their communities, Nigeria as a country, let alone African continent as Elumelu is doing? I continue to remember him in my prayers.”

The female educationist had also noted that if the array of wealthy people in Nigeria had seen the need to give to the poor in their midst, the poverty level in the country would have reduced drastically.

“Nigeria today holds an unenviable record as the poverty headquarters of the world; is it not an irony when we have many multi-billionaire businessmen and politicians in Nigeria? What most of these rich men do not know is that there is a divine connection or angle to giving.

“After all, the scripture says, ‘Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.’ I congratulate Tony Elumelu, and my prayer for him is that the good Lord will reward him with long life,” she said.

Perhaps, the good Lord has indeed answered her prayers by crowning Elumelu’s efforts with yet another award- the latest global recognition.

This time around, the super entrepreneur has been named among the awardees of the TIME 100 Impact Awards 2022.

He was honoured at the inaugural TIME100 Impact Awards for his selfless humanitarian activities and support for business up-scaling for Africans in Africa.

According to reports, the award recognises global leaders who have gone above and beyond to move their industries and the world forward. Apart from the UBA founder, six other global leaders were also honoured with the award. The awards were presented at the Museum of the Future in Dubai.

While receiving the award, Elumelu advocated for more entrepreneurs and investments across the world to fast-track the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGD). He illustrated his point by telling the story of his humble beginnings and how he was able to create the Tony Elumelu Foundation through hard work and focus, which, according to him, has supported over 15,000 young business owners around Africa with $5,000 each.

He said to the crowd at the event made up of celebrities, politicians and prominent business leaders: “The world is in need of people like us, more than ever before; we should pull resources together; we should commit now to help in any way possible in economically empowering others.”

The recognitions are clearly a testament of his philanthropic excellence and humanist approach to life.

Where others see impossibilities, he sees possibilities, and the “can do” attitude to life has enabled him conquer fear and poverty of thought and mind.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet and educator who died in 1882, must be referring to Elumelu, when he said: “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”

The above quote captures the exploit of Tony Elumelu, who today has become a global icon by dint of hard work, consistency and philanthropy.

Elumelu, an economist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, is also the founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), dedicated to raising young entrepreneurs across the African continent.

Aliko Dangote, president, Dangote Industries Limited, who congratulated him in 2020, said: “A mere handshake says a lot about Tony Elumelu.

“His gritty grip underlines his charming, tenacious personality: a man who hardly backs down from any challenge. The same engaging qualities have propelled him from a modest beginning in Nigeria to becoming chair of the United Bank of Africa, and one of the most innovative and ambitious business leaders of his generation.”

He described Elumelu as “a leading proponent of ‘Africapitalism,’ a belief that Africa’s private sector can and must play a leading role in the continent’s development through long-term investments, as well as entrepreneurship and regional connectivity.

“After deepening the financial market in Africa, he has found an equally important niche: giving a voice of hope to millions of youths across Africa. Tony has harnessed Africa’s youth bulge to catalyse development and protect the future, committing to investing $5,000 each in 1,000 young entrepreneurs per year across 54 countries in Africa.”

On the latest award, the American news magazine scripted that Tony Elumelu had a vision: that private enterprise—not foreign aid or government borrowing—should be the primary generator of economic development in Africa.

Read also: Tony Elumelu Foundation, Google announce fellowship for African entrepreneurs

“What became known as ‘Africapitalism’ has since ushered in a boom in entrepreneurship and regional connectivity across the continent. Elumelu knew it would work because he had seen it work.

“Born in the central Nigerian city of Jos, Elumelu, 58, studied economics in college before entering banking—first helping to turn around the distressed Standard Trust Bank before rising to lead the United Bank of Africa in its expansion across 20 African countries as well as France, the U.S., and the U.K. Nicknamed ‘Lion King’ and known for his signature red ties, Elumelu saw how empowering local businesses could unleash boundless potential.”

It also noted that, “Following his retirement in 2010, Elumelu launched a family-owned investment company called Heirs Holdings, and the philanthropic Tony Elumelu Foundation, which focuses on promoting business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa. To date, over 15,000 young entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries have each received $5,000 non-refundable seed capital out of an initial commitment of $100 million made in 2015.”

Elumelu has a track record of putting smiles on the faces of youths. Last year, through his instagram page @tonyoelumelu, he hailed Awele Vivien Elumelu, Trustee of the Tony Elumelu Foundation for silently supporting female entrepreneurs in Africa.

“This year alone, the Tony Elumelu Foundation disbursement is $24.75m to 5,000 African SMEs for #TEF2021 Programme,” he said.

Since inception, the Tony Elumelu Foundation has been deliberate in its support for female entrepreneurs. TEF Alumni have gone on to directly create an additional 35,000 jobs for women, reiterating its position to create an ecosystem where everyone, regardless of their gender benefits from equal opportunity to scale and thrive.

In June 2021, the foundation announced a $3million grant from Google.org to complement the 2021 TEF Entrepreneurship Programme. During this period, 500 additional rural-based aspiring women entrepreneurs received seed capital of $5,000.

These 500 aspiring African women entrepreneurs came from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and select Francophone countries. The objective is to increase economic inclusion, improve economies and further empower these rural-based women to lift them from poverty, strengthen their livelihoods and incomes, while creating more decent jobs in the African economy.