Nigeria’s Tony Elumelu is a man who wears many hats. Some of which include an angle investor, entrepreneurs, economist, and a demonstrated philanthropist. Elumelu is perhaps best known for being the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), a Pan-African initiative seeking to empower entrepreneurs, through the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program.
Tony Elumelu has committed $100 million of his own money to the program, which will be used in the training, mentoring, and funding some 10,000 African entrepreneurs over the course of a decade. A commitment of personal finances of such a magnitude only proves Elumelu’s personal drive to seeing entrepreneurship flourish in Africa.
For entrepreneurs to stand a chance to get a piece of this funding, they must go through a rigorous annual program, which includes a two-day business bootcamp in Nigeria that will see the attendance of 1,000 selected seasoned entrepreneurs. These seasoned entrepreneurs will come from across the 54 different countries that make up Africa. Entrepreneurs taking part in the program are referred to as the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs.
On January 1st, 2017, TEF launched its third round of the program and invited applications from entrepreneurs from across the African continent. The program is looking for the most innovative ideas, ideas that are good enough to make a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur.
Huffing Post’s Claudine Moore had a sit down with Mr. Elumelu and tried to figure out what were his motivations that drove him into creating the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Program. In addition to an account of how the program has affected entrepreneurship space in Africa.
Below is a snippet of Moore’s interview with Elumelu as featured on the Huffing Post:
What was the inspiration behind creating and launching the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Program?
At a certain point you have to think about legacy, no one cares about how much money you have in your bank account. Instead, we should care about impact and our ability to make long term investments. The TEF Entrepreneurship Program is my legacy that embodies my belief that 21st century philanthropy should be done in a way that does not perpetuate a culture of dependency.
Our ultimate ambition is to empower a generation of wealth creators and ambassadors for entrepreneurship in Africa who share our commitment to the economic and social transformation of Africa. I firmly believe that no one but us will transform Africa.
Tell us about the Bootcamp you hosted in Lagos when you gathered 1000 entrepreneurs from across Africa.
The Forum is the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurs and last year we had over 45,000 applicants for 1000 places. It’s the annual highlight of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program and attendee’s benefit from high-level panels, masterclasses and workshops. We also include an in-depth session on Africapitalism, my economic philosophy that identifies the leading role of Africa’s private sector, including its entrepreneurs, in Africa’s transformation.
How has the Foundations Entrepreneurship Program influenced approaches to entrepreneurship across the Continent?
Since we launched the TEF Entrepreneurship Program, the Foundation has entered partnerships with a variety of organizations including, the African Development Bank, ECOWAS, Coca Cola, the Côte d’Ivoire Ministry of Entrepreneurship and more. It is very exciting as these groups are working with us to improve the enabling environment across Africa for not only selected Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs, but for all African entrepreneurs everywhere on the continent. What is good for one entrepreneur is good for all.
Why is Africa such a hotbed of innovative entrepreneurs?
By 2025, 122 million youths will enter Africa’s workforce looking for jobs. To deal with the shortage of formal employment opportunities, Africa’s youth have developed strong entrepreneurial skills not just to provide a livelihood for themselves, but to solve problems that have long confronted the continent.
Despite the restricted availability of support systems, African entrepreneurs continue to strive to transform ideas to reality, and to convert their dreams to flourishing enterprises.
We select 1000 entrepreneurs a year and in our second year, the number of applications doubled in size – from 20,000 to 45,000; the number of countries represented also increased from 52 to 54, and the number of women who applied more than tripled. Entrepreneurship in Africa is alive and well.
To read the interview in full, head on to the Huffing Post site.