July 9, 2019
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Regional Director for Africa; Tony Elumelu, Founder, Tony Elumelu Foundation; at the signing of the TEF-UNDP Sahel Youth Entrepreneurship Programme partnership at the AU Summit in Niamey, Niger
With aim to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda by 2063,the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has partnered with the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Africa’s leading philanthropy committed to empowering entrepreneurs to train, mentor and financially support 100,000 young entrepreneurs in Africa over 10 years.
The TEF-UNDP Sahel Youth Entrepreneurship Programme, which is expected to mobilize support for businesses, aims to generate millions of new jobs and contribute at least $10 billion in new annual revenues across Africa.
The partnership was announced on 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU), where TEF Founder, Tony Elumelu and UNDP Regional Director for Africa, Ahunna Eziakonwa joined African Presidents at the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Business Forum, where the agreement was signed.
However, the partnership will target young Africans in under-served communities, starting with the Sahel, given the region’s opportunity as the youngest population in the world with 194 million people under 25 years of age (64.5% of the total population). The TEF-UNDP Sahel Youth Entrepreneurship Programme will be implemented through TEF’s flagship Entrepreneurship Programme, which has already benefited 7,520 local entrepreneurs across 54 African countries in just five years of existence.
Similarly, the programme builds on UNDP’s YouthConnekt initiative. The aim is to increase job creation through dynamic entrepreneurship and create sustainable economic growth that anchors the development of communities and states.
Speaking on the partnership, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Africa stated that they see Sahel as a land of many opportunities and investing in the youth is a pre-condition to stabilizing the region, adding that the youth should be at the heart of any development agenda.
She said they need to invest in their potential, talent, energy and enthusiasm and create the opportunity for them to fully realize their dreams and that that is why UNDP is co-creating development solutions by investing in entrepreneurship models to promote inclusive growth.
She said the partnership with the Sahelian youth entrepreneur is a catalyst for transformation and sustainable development and call on other private sector entities to join the Tony Elumelu Foundation to support young entrepreneurs.
The Chief Executive Officer of Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu said their partnership with UNDP is welcome and timely it will directly assist entrepreneurial success in a number of fragile areas and is a testament to the validated approach to philanthropy we have pioneered, adding that Africa needs partners that do not only believe in the potential of its private sector to champion economic development, but backs this with commitment.
She said with the agreement, UNDP has proven to be a true partner to Africa’s entrepreneurs and has demonstrated its commitment to work with them to scale up the impact of this initiative and eliminate poverty on the continent.
The TEF-UNDP programme is fully aligned with the 1 Million by 2021 Initiative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat.
Launched in April at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, the 1 Million by 2021 Initiative aims to concretely reach 1 million African youth from across the continent with opportunities and interventions in the key areas of Education, Entrepreneurship, Employment and Engagement (4Es) to accelerate Africa’s socio-economic development.
The Chairperson of the AUC His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat speaking at the launch of the 1 Million by 2021 initiative said the1 Million by 2021 initiative is an African call to action that aims to ensure that no young persons aged 15-35 is left behind.
He said the initiative adopts a Pan-African outlook and facilitates strategic partnerships to open up new opportunities for young people on the continent, noting that the AU has the expertise, convening power and continental reach at our disposal but that alone cannot guarantee success.
He said they need commitment from the public and private sector partners to achieve success and in the face of their overwhelming task, a collective effort is necessary to stand and succeed.
However, through the TEF-UNDP partnership, the selected applicants will each receive a maximum of $5,000 non-refundable seed capital, access to mentors, a 12-week business training and networking opportunities. They will join the previously announced 3,051 beneficiaries of the 2019 cohort of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme.
The applications will be run on TEFConnect, the largest digital networking platform for African entrepreneurs and forms will be available in any of the branches of the United Bank for Africa (UBA). Following the end of the application window, an initial longlist of 5,500 applicants will be selected to undergo the 12-week business training. After the training, the final shortlist of 2,000 applicants will be announced to join the previous 2019 TEF cohort.