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Entrepreneurship is the Key to Unlocking Economic Development in Africa, Says Tony Elumelu

October 29, 2018

By Hassan Gbassay Koroma from Lagos

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Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, who also doubles as chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA PLC), has stated that entrepreneurship is the key to unlocking economic development on the African continent.

Tony Elumelu was last Thursday, October 25th, speaking at the Palace Hotel and Casino Auditorium in Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria, during the 4th Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum.

The forum brought together over five thousand young entrepreneurs from across Africa.

The event was also witnessed by various dignitaries including the President Uhuru Kenyatta from Kenya, Nana Akufo-Addo from Ghana, States Governors in Nigeria, Diplomats, top businessmen and journalists from across African.

Tony Elumelu reiterated his commitment to championing Africa’s economic development by supporting and training a new generation of entrepreneurs, whose successes, he said, could transform the continent, delivering opportunity, job creation and social impact.

“Our Foundation and its unique approach of training, mentoring and funding have proven that entrepreneurship is the key to unlocking economic transformation of our continent. I believe so strongly that success can be democratised and if we can’t match ambition with opportunities, this extraordinary generation can achieve nothing,” said Tony Elumelu.

He said presence of the Ghanaian President was a confirmation that he realised the importance of youth and that he believed if young people succeed, Africa will succeed as a continent.

He said youth have the energy and skills but that they will only succeed with the necessary enabling environment and called on all African leaders to create that space for the youth of the African continent.

Also speaking, Ghanaian President, Nana Akudo-Addo, underlined the importance of galvanising the broad entrepreneurship eco-system, and called on public sector representatives to encourage, support and replicate the work of the Tony Elumelu Foundation in their respective regions.

 “Nothing is changed or developed on its own, people must get up, speak, have discussions and change the dialogue,” he said.

President Nana Akufo-Addo said it was a pity that Africans live on the richest continent on earth, yet they were considered the poorest.

“Looking at the history of other continent, it is clear that strong market economy provides the best framework for development, prosperity and others. Forty countries in Africa have a population of more than 50% youth below age 25,” he said.

He further that the work of Tony Elumelu Foundation-to encourage and build young people in the African continent as entrepreneurs, is the answer and future for Africa.

The Ghanaian president said the role of government is to run the countries well, allow the institutions to run well and run the economy of the state well, adding that it was the government’s  responsibility to craft a framework for micro economy to work well and encourage enterprises and entrepreneurship.

He said all developed countries in the world were driven by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), thus noting that promotion of SMEs was hugely needed in Africa.

“I am strongly opposed that African countries are begging for arms, aid and others from other continents. Africa don’t have to do such if all the resources of our continent put together and properly managed, we should be the continent giving to others,” he said.

In her welcoming statement earlier, Chief Executive Officer of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Parminder Vir, said in the past four years, the foundation has relentlessly championed entrepreneurship in Africa, setting the pace for economic growth and development of African private sector.

She said in 2010, the founder of TEF promised that in the next ten years, he was going to engage in years of creation of entrepreneurs in Africa with a dream to change the negative perspective of the African continent to create millions of jobs.

She said they have empowered 4,470, and that they have already begun to seeing positive result as those they have empowered were creating jobs, generating revenues and making a social impact through their businesses in the 54 African countries.

Since its inception, the Tony Elumelu Foundation has empowered African entrepreneurs across the continent, with a $5,000 non-refundable seed grant, a bespoke training programme designed specifically for the African environment and access to a dedicated group of mentors, significantly contributing to economic growth, job creation and revenue generation

Six Sierra Leoneans from different fields of entrepreneurship were selected to receive skills training, mentoring and access to seed capital funding to boost their business ideas in the country.

The selected Sierra Leoneans who benefited from the 2018 Tony Elumelu Foundation include Al-Imam Mustapha Sanusi, who is engaged in agri-business farming; Fadja Djiou Barry, commercial and retail; Martin Kallie, energy/power generation; Mary Kadie Lokoh, agri-business farming; Mohamed Barrie, fashion; and Sahr Emmanuel Joseph, waste management.