Hope Rising for African Entrepreneurs

The unveiling of finalists in the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme is expected to produce young African entrepreneurs that would transform the continent.

Globally, access to finance is key to inclusive economic growth. Regrettably, in sub-Saharan Africa, less than a quarter of adults have access to formal financial services. The lack of financial infrastructure that includes a place to save money securely, safe and efficient means of transferring money, and especially, access to credit mostly hinder a lot of people in the continent from making productive investments in their families and businesses.

In fact, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) recently expressed concern that lack of access to finance has remained a key constraint on the growth of small and medium enterprises in Africa and also an important limitation on employment, economic growth and shared prosperity.

Although the IFC acknowledged that African financial systems have improved in the past two decades, the multilateral institution noted that they still lag behind other developing economies and have not effectively played their role in encouraging innovations by young African entrepreneurs.

That is why the recent unveiling of the first set of finalists in the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) has been viewed by many experts and participants as a platform to produce young African entrepreneurs that would transform the continent, propel growth and confront poverty.

The TEEP is a multi-year programme of training, funding, and mentoring, designed to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs. The programme, introduced by the Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and Chairman of the United Bank for Africa Plc, Mr. Tony Elumelu, is the first initiative of its kind to be launched by an African philanthropic organisation and is the largest African sourced philanthropic gift, targeting the entrepreneurial space.

The TEEP aims to strengthen the continent’s fight against poverty and to promote inclusive economic growth.

The $100 million TEEP will provide mentorship, training, seed capital funding and more, to create and grow 10,000 African entrepreneurs over the next decade. These new African entrepreneurs would create one million new jobs and $10 billion in revenue to further bolster the thriving African economy.

The African entrepreneur is the future of Africa. Thriving small and medium-sized enterprises are creating additional jobs to the job market, according to a report by the TEF.

Entrepreneurship facilitates Africa’s financial growth because of the new employment opportunities and increased revenue earnings it offers Africa. Entrepreneurs can transform the continent and the expected rise in entrepreneurial businesses would rapidly increase African middle class – which is the fastest growing in world

The TEEP Finalists The top five countries in terms of the number of winners in the first 1,000 finalists in the TEEP are: Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Ghana. The winners, according to the board of the TEF emerged from 52 African countries and territories, as well as a multitude of value adding sectors ranging from agriculture, education, fashion and information and communication technology (ICT) All the five regions in Africa – North, East, South, Central, and West Africa were represented, as well as all major language blocs – Anglophone, Francophone, Lusophone, and Arabic Africa.

Elumelu noted that over 20,000 African entrepreneurs from 52 countries applied to the programme, “representing the creativity and potential on display across the continent.”

He also said “the selection of these 1,000 entrepreneurs bring us closer to our ultimate goal – to drive Africa’s economic and social transformation from within and to radically intensify job creation in Africa. Though I have never met or spoken to any of the winners, I am confident that due to the rigorous criteria and selection process, these entrepreneurs are Africa’s hope for the future. “I will continue to invest my experience, time, influence, and resources to see them succeed. I am embarking on this journey with these entrepreneurs hopeful and inspired.”

On his part, the Director of Entrepreneurship of TEF, Parminder Vir, who was visibly excited about the quantity and quality of the applicants, reiterated the foundation’s commitment to ensuring the growth of budding businesses in the continent.

She said: “The high quantity and quality of applicants we have received is testament to the brilliant ideas and incredible talent that exists in abundance across Africa.

“The TEEP will give structure and support to these African entrepreneurs to develop themselves and to grow their businesses. Through TEEP, the ripple effects of the long-term investments in a new generation of Africapitalists will be felt throughout the continent.”

Elumelu advised unsuccessful applicants, who were not selected, not to give up on their dreams. He urged them to continue developing themselves, and their business ideas, pointing out that perseverance is one of the key attributes of a successful entrepreneur.

In selecting the final winners, TEF appointed Accenture, a management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company, as an independent review consultant to thoroughly evaluate each application based on selection criteria approved by the TEEP selection committee.

The criteria included: feasibility of the business idea, market opportunity, financial understanding, and scalability, leadership potential and entrepreneurial skills.

Africapitalism Philosophy The TEEP is inspired by three guiding principles: the inclusive economic philosophy of Africapitalism, based on the belief that a vibrant African-led private sector is the key to unlocking Africa’s economic and social potential; commitment to drive African economic growth through the empowering of African entrepreneurship; and a mission to ‘institutionalise luck’ by creating an environment where African entrepreneurs can get critical elements of support in the early stages of their business life.

Elumelu, who is also the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, introduced the phrase ‘Africapitalism,’ an approach to business that creates wealth and in which philanthropy can be used to create value.

Africapitalism is also an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through investments that generate both economic prosperity and social wealth.

Elumelu argued that “Africa’s renaissance lies in the confluence of the right business and political action.”

The belief of the promoters of the concept is that from 2015, the African entrepreneur would emerge on to the global stage.

The promoters of the TEEP believe that African youths, if given the required support can compete with their peers in the global market.

This is also expected to lift the continent out of impoverishment. Elumelu recently stressed the need for initiatives to tackle unemployment in the continent, even as he expressed optimism about the future of the continent. He described small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) as the engine of growth in any economy because of their ability to create employment.

“I am a bit concerned about the challenges that stare us in the face and we must do something now or it will be very challenging. The major thing is unemployment. It is a major challenge in Africa,” he had explained.

He also noted that a survey had shown that the continent requires about 200 million jobs, saying that his foundation has the capacity to create about 53 million jobs in the next five years.

“So if we succeed in creating the enabling environment, SMEs would do well. If we succeed in providing access to electricity as we are doing, SMEs will do well. “If we succeed in bridging access to finance to SMEs, they will do well and as they do well, there would be a direct correlation with creating wealth for Africa. So to us, the future is good, but we need to do something about unemployment,” he added.