He would parody his Africapitalism economic philosophy, if possible on the highest mountains. Truth is the humanity in Tony Elumelu would not allow him look the other way while Africa’s 200 million youths fritter away their future
By Gbenga Ogundare
Imagine a vast empire fizzing with over a billion subjects, about a quarter of them being young energetic youths raring to take on the world. And sitting atop the throne is a billionaire Africapitalist Emperor who has nurtured well over one thousand heirs into millionaire entrepreneurs in six years already. Such is the enormous power Tony Elumelu wields across Africa as he seeks to transform the continent through his Tony Elumelu Enterpreneurship Programme (TEEP)
In 2016 alone,about 45,000 youths with innovative business ideas overwhelmed the TEEP with their proposals. But you will not need to wonder too far why Tony Elumelu is still longing to wean more millionaires out of these vibrant crowd, or why the economic development of Africa has become the force propelling his mission.
“It is my belief that Africans should take primary responsibility for our own development – because, to be blunt, no one is going to develop Africa but us,’ Tony explains.
“I also believe “charity” as conventionally defined is not the best solution for our continent. Instead, we need a “new philanthropy” that focuses on building the capacity of the private sector to create jobs and wealth – and that this leads to sustainable development.”
That, in a way, sums up the idea of Africapitalism, the economic philosophy Tony has been fuelling since 2010 to advocate entrepreneurship and good governance as a means of unleashing the potentials of Africa.
“I firmly believe that we should be strategic and catalytic in our philanthropy. It is not, and should not be, about simply providing funding, as this is only one of many possible tools for impact. I would encourage entrepreneurs to give their time and experience, and use their influence, to create impact.”
If you are still at a loss about Tony’s pontifications, then you had better read the experience of Titus, the young enterpreneur who catered to the 2016 Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum, the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurs. Before that feat, this Tony Elumelu entrepreneur has walked through hell and high-water. From being unemployed to being a janitor earning N10,000, and then to become the owner of a mobile kitchen. And now, he’s an employer of 36 staff, using the skills he acquired during his mentorship to open more doors of opportunities for his business.
“We wrote to the Foundation to let us cater to this year’s Forum. We were referred to another agency. “In order to get the ball rolling the agency requested for so many documents. Luckily for us, we had learnt a lot from the Mentor Learning Platform on the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme. “So, we had all our documents ready… We put in 100%effort as a way to appreciate the Foundation for how much they’ve invested in us. We also sought to prove a point as we were the youngest amongst those shortlisted,’ Titus narrates.
By design, that is how the Elumelu’s intervention has been propelling entrepreneurs like Titus all along. Talk about the TEEP’s Seven Pillars, which include developing business plans through the 12-week online training, mentorship, accessing a curated online resource library, the three- day boot camp, and the alumni network. The biggest is the disbursement of a seed capital of $10,000, in two phases, to each start-up. No fewer than 473 business owners from Nigeria alone have got the first tranche. And the capital is theirs for keeps. And so far, the programme has assessed over 900 business plans.
Elumelu is out on a decade-long effort his Foundation bankrolled with $10 million to nurture African start-ups so they can compete anywhere in the world. His zeal about Africa is infectious, especially in entrepreneurship. He set up TEF in 2010, under the Heirs Holdings, a conglomerate that comprises the UBA, one of Africa’s biggest banks he co-founded at 34. Other concerns in his empire are in oil and gas, power, real estate, hospitality, healthcare and agribusiness sectors in 19 African countries, London, Paris, and New York.
Elumelu’s mission is about “creating value and driving economic transformation across the African continent”. And he’s marshalling no fewer than 30,000 employees across 20 countries to accomplish it.
Apart from TEEP, the Foundation boasts other programmes, like the Tony Elumelu Leadership Programme, the Elumelu Nigeria Empowerment Fund, the Tony and Awele Elumelu Prize, and the Africapitalism Institute.
Elumelu has been reaching out to many like Titus since 2010, using those programmes. So it’s easy to understand why the TEEP’s web page is always awashed with an avalanche of thrilling testimonials from African youths who have been liberated through the magic of Tony’s Africapitalism blueprint.
Yet the narrative is far from being complete. Africa has got some 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, confirmed as the youngest population in the world. And if this young minds would not end up being a vandalized and wasted generation, the continent will require more messiahs, exactly in the mould of Tony Elumelu.