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As Tony Elumelu Foundation awards 2016 entrepreneurs…

President Koroma applauds initiative

November 3, 2016 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma from Lagos

President Ernest Bai Koroma has applauded the initiative of the Tony Elumelu Foundation for bringing together political and economic leaders to work towards a wide range of sustainable economic development in Arica.

He was speaking on Saturday, 29th October, while delivering the keynote address at the Tony Elumelu Foundation 2016 Forum at Lagos Law School, Victoria Island, Nigeria.

He said leaders were confronted with a lot of difficulties and challenges when in office and that as president one bears the greatest responsibility to satisfy the demands of all and sundry.

He added that even with the best of efforts, people out there would always say it was not enough, thus commending Tony Elumelu, founder of the Foundation, for creating great opportunities for Africans and African young people.

President noted that Africa is the richest mineral continent in the world, holding more than half of the world’s gold, diamonds, iron ore, and copper, coupled with a large discovery of new oil and gas.

“But now the new African thinking is not only about extractive alone but the emphasis is now on promoting the local industry and create job opportunities for Africans and help to boost the sustainable economic development of Africa. This new thinking requires innovation to be processing the raw minerals. This is a call to entrepreneurship and a call to increase Africa sustainable development. That is what the Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurship Programme is driving towards,” he told a large audience at the event.

He urged the 1,000 young entrepreneurs selected by the Foundation that it was time for them to take lead in African investments, adding that he was happy that four Sierra Leoneans emerged as beneficiaries among over 65,000 young Africans entrepreneurs that applied.

He said the move by young people across the continent to be awardees of the entrepreneurship progreamme showed that if provided with resources and the enabling environment, they would be willing and ready to reach their destinies.

He said his government had taken great steps in supporting youth empowerment through entrepreneurship, including establishing the Ministry of Youth Affairs, with a mandate to addressing challenges faced by young people in Sierra Leone.

He further told the gathering that he also appointed a youth to man the ministry, plus the appointment of several youth into cabinet positions.

He concluded that it was the sacred duty of political and economic leaders to continue working together and eliminating road blocks to development in Africa, thus encouraging the young entrepreneurs to be steadfast.

Addressing journalists from across Africa, Mr. Tony Elumelu said everybody was of the view that young people are the future leaders, but none was taking them seriously, adding that his Foundation knew that indeed young people are leaders of tomorrow.

“What we are trying to do is to see how we can help to transform Africa. Prosperity is not as abundant as we expect it in our continent, which is why we are beginning to play our own role as our own way of reducing the poverty and unemployment rate,” he said.

He continued that the best way to change things in the 21st century was to economically empower young people, stating that his Foundation accepts participants from across Africa – Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone.

He challenged all stakeholders from the public and private sectors, civil society, multilateral organisations and all individuals investing in Africa’s economic development to join hands with the Foundation to support the wider African entrepreneurial community.

He underlined the need to support African entrepreneurs because extreme poverty and economic opportunity rarely co-exist in the same place.

He called on the media to raise more awareness about the Foundation, disclosing that among the selected entrepreneurs are 360 female participants, representing 36 percent of awardees.

He said in the 21st century, the way to intervention and giving back to others should not only be in the form of charity, but in a manner that would help achieve economic empowerment.

Meanwhile, while addressing the selected 1,000 entrepreneurs at the main auditorium of the Lagos Law School, Mr. Elumelu said they were gathered in the hall to fulfill the vision of transforming 10,000 Africans within a ten year period.

He called on political leaders to create a safer enabling environment for the entrepreneurs in order that they could eliminate poverty in Africa, adding that he has taken the massage across the world that young Africans can do it, but need help.

He said the Nigerian Government has assured that they would create an enabling environment for the Foundation, disclosing that he had concluded talks with the African Development Bank to be sponsoring other set of 1,000 entrepreneurs.

He declared that he was happy with President Ernest Bai Koroma’s administration for supporting entrepreneurship and creating a safer environment.

Also speaking, Chief Executive Officer of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Parminder Vir, said in 2015 TEEP empowered 1,000 African entrepreneurs and selected over 20,000 applicants.

She said they provided beneficiaries with start-up investment, active mentoring, business training, entrepreneurship boot camps and regional networking across Africa.

She said the forum celebrating the 2016 cohort of Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs selected over 45,000 applicants.

She revealed that the Foundation would identify, train, mentor and nurture 1,000 entrepreneurs as part of its decade-long US$100 million commitment.

She said with the commitment of US$100 million, the Foundation was the single largest entrepreneurship programme to be funded by an African entrepreneur, and that through the Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme, their founder has established a ground-breaking way of promoting African unity and development.

She said the multi-year programme of training, funding, and mentoring was designed to empower entrepreneurs to succeed as the next generation of African Business Titans.

She said the Foundation was formed in 2010 with the aim of empowering young people across Africa through entrepreneurship, and that in 2015, they had their first batch of entrepreneurs that they trained and mentored, investing a total of US$4,860,000, including US$1,405,000 in agriculture, US$410,000 in education and training, and US$365,000 in manufacturing.

She said the vision of the Foundation was to establish a pre-eminent pan-African entrepreneurship programme and create 10,000 startups across Africa within the next 10 years, and generate significant employment and wealth on the continent.

She disclosed that in 2016, over 45,000 people from across Africa applied for the programme, but they were able to select only 1,000, while the remainders were encouraged to re-apply for the 2017 awards.

She said their mission was to create 10,000 entrepreneurs across Africa, using over US$100 million, adding that the programme was announced on 1st January, 2016 while they accepted applications on or before midnight on 1st March, 2016.

She said most of the applications were done online and that they received over 65 thousand from all over Africa.

Other speakers at the glamorous event included the wife of Tony Elumelu – Mrs. Awele Elumelu, – CEO of Avon Medical and Trustee of the Foundation, Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, Former Prime Minister of Benin Republic, Lionel Zinsou, Nigerian Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and Vice Chair of Famfa Oil, Folorunsho Alakija.