The stage is getting bigger for the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum; and so are the multiplicity of roles it is inadvertently assuming, and rising expectations.
Having five African Presidents, over 60 global speakers from the public and private sectors across three continents together is a large private sector platform for empowerment and generation of ideas.
At the two-day forum, which held in Abuja recently were Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda; Macky Sall, President, Republic of Senegal; Félix Tshisekedi, President, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria; and Hon (Dr.) Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister, Republic of Uganda, who represented President Yoweri Museveni.
Also present to interrogate a related issue, “The Role of Healthcare in Economic Transformation,” were healthcare leaders in the private and public sectors. They included Dr. Awele Elumelu, Trustee, Tony Elumelu Foundation and Founder/CEO, Avon Medical Practice; Mrs. Aisha Buhari, First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria; Mme. Djena Kaba Condé, First Lady of Guinea; Mme. Keïta Aminata Maiga, First Lady, Mali; Gilles Carbonnier, Vice President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Oulimata Sarr, Regional Director, U.N. Women Central and West Africa; and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation.
An assembly of so many people of diverse backgrounds has huge potentials for tourism and marketing of the country, a platform to attack problems with tested perspectives and for forging stronger inter-African relations. But it also means many more people have eyes from around the world are watching the Foundation.
At the centre of it all was the need for concrete steps for Africa to empower its youth and accelerate the continent’s development, as well as attracting the support of international development institutions.
The logistics for such mega-events could be scary, but the seamless flow of activities at the forum underscores the importance The Tony Elumelu Foundation, which has been at the forefront of advocating for entrepreneurship as the catalyst for the economic transformation of Africa, attaches to this goal.
The challenge, as the stage gets bigger, is that many variables are thrown up to threaten focus and sustainability, even as expectations rise.
The Abuja event convened over 5,000 participants from 54 African countries, including representatives of the 7,521 beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme.
Founder of the Foundation, Mr. Tony Elumelu, reiterated the urgency in creating jobs on the continent to catalyse Africa’s development.
“Extremism is a product of poverty and joblessness. Poverty anywhere is a threat to everyone everywhere,” he said. “If our leaders understand the reason and rationale for our youths to succeed, they will do everything they can to support them.”
Emphasising the role of technology as a key enabler in accelerating development, he cited the TEFConnect, the digital networking platform for African entrepreneurs launched by the Foundation in 2018.
With over 500,000 registered users, the hub provides a platform for entrepreneurs to network and forge business partnerships regardless of their location.
The interest of the Federal Government in the aspirations of Forum was evident in the presence of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
In a keynote, he commended the Foundation for birthing an intervention that compels “us to focus on what matters, our youth and their dreams.”
“The message to Africa’s emerging business giants is a clear one: How and what can you contribute like Tony Elumelu to empowering the next generation, helping them to realise their dreams?”
Established in 2010, The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) is the leading philanthropic institution in Africa championing entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs across the continent.
The Foundation’s long-term investment in empowering African entrepreneurs was birthed by Elumelu’s philosophy of Africapitalism, which positions Africa’s private sector, and most importantly entrepreneurs, as the catalyst for the social and economic development of the continent.
Its flagship initiative, the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, is a 10-year, $100 million commitment to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 entrepreneurs capable of changing the face of business across Africa.
The milestones achieved so far include:
Training, mentoring and provision of funding to thousands of start-ups in several African countries.
Introduction of the TEF entrepreneurs to their political leaders at the highest levels of government to bring them and their challenges to the attention of policy makers who can effect changes that will improve the enabling environment.
Leveraging access to unique data to produce original reports to support advocacy agenda to improve the ecosystem for African entrepreneurs: Unleashing Africa’s Entrepreneurs; improving the enabling environment for start-ups; Africans investing in Africa.
Collaboration with University of Edinburgh to produce a report on Africapitalism, while a teaching case study is being developed by the Bertha Centre, University of Cape Town on the Foundation and its programme.
TEF is the founding member of SPARK, launched by President Obama in May 2015 at the White House to promote global entrepreneurship;
Presentation of TEF at global entrepreneurship fora;
Signing strategic partnerships, including an MOU with the Nigerian Ministry of Information and Culture to invigorate the Nigerian creative industry; ECOWAS; International Trade Centre; Africa Development Bank, Microsoft, to name but a few. Many more in the offing.
Building Africa’s largest online platform, the TEFConnect, a must-go-to destination for African entrepreneurs.
The Abuja Forum, with a substantial array of leaders and experts, provided several takeaways. At the Presidential Dialogue were Mr. Elumelu; Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation; Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, President, African Development Bank; Prof. Benedict Okey Oramah, President, African Export-Import Bank; Dr. Sidi Ould TAH, Director General, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa; Gilles Carbonnier Vice President, International Committee of the Red Cross; Koen Doens, Deputy Director-General for International Cooperation and Development, European Commission.
With increasing support for Africapitalism and rising expectation of growth, the stakes are higher now. But beyond protecting a strong can-do reputation is a bigger expectation of helping as many African youths, as possible, utilise their ideas, rather than getting them buried in the Sahara Desert or in the Mediterranean Sea.