Tony Elumelu TEF2018

Tony Elumelu Foundation: Democratising Luck

Last week the Tony Elumelu Foundation held it’s 2018 TEF Entrepreneurs Forum. The event brought together entrepreneurs and alumni of it’s entrepreneurship programme as well hundreds of other people from across the continent and beyond. The forum was also attended by President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana.

Speaking during the event, the founder Tony O. Elumelu spoke of how his foundation is democratising and institutionalising luck by enabling young Africans across the continent to setup businesses. In turn, these entrepreneurs are creating wealth and employing fellow Africans. He noted however that the environment has to be made right for the programme to have any meaningful impact.

“We know that the transformation of Africa cannot occur without the support of political leaders.” Elumelu said. “These young Africans cannot succeed if the operating environment is not right.”

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who connected to the forum via a video link from Nairobi, added weight to the call. “It is time for proper careful policy making from us in leadership. The future is not the property of those of us in leadership, young people are driving a new class of entrepreneurs across our continent.”

An article published recently, African migrant’s journey to Europe through the Sahara and Mediterranean, details how the lack of an enabling environment is causing desperation that drives young men and women to risk all for better prospects. But as the article clearly shows, the journey to ‘prosperity’ is fraught with many dangers – extortion, torture and even death.

Tony Elumelu added, “Poverty is a threat to us everywhere and the more prosperity we have around us, the better for all of us.”

Training, Mentorship and Seed Capital

The Tony Elumelu Foundation runs a 9 month online training and mentorship programme for up to 1,000 Africans every year. At the end of the training, the foundation provides $5,000 seed capital for entrepreneurs to prove their concept. This can be followed up with further investments or loans dependent on the feasibility of the business.

Writing earlier on startups and seed capital I argued that many local firms in Malawi have not taken up the initiative to support indigenous entrepreneurs through programmes like the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme. With access to bank loans for startups being all but impossible and a lack of business support institutions, many aspiring entrepreneurs struggle to survive, let alone compete, on the local market. Those who can put together capital often time lack essential business skills and mentoring.

It is imperative for local companies to see business startup support as an important social responsibility. Taking initiatives to support young graduates with mentoring would help so many young entrepreneurs who dive blindly into the entrepreneurial space. Even with access to finance, many businesses die because of a lack of guidance.

Creating Wealth

Speaking earlier during her opening address, the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Parminder Vir, expressed her pleasure with the stride the fondation has made over the past four years.

“We are here to celebrate the 2018 entrepreneurs. We are graduating 1418 entrepreneurs this year. So far, we have 4470 entrepreneurs.” she said. “Our entrepreneurs have generated 52 million dollars in revenue between 18 months to 2 years. Before the programme they were generating 18 million dollars. Our entrepreneurs are now generating 12,000 jobs today between 18 months to 2 years. Before the PROGRAMME, they were generating 4,000 jobs.”

TEF Entrepreneurship Forum 2018

Vir was also delighted with the improving gender balance. “At the beginning of the programme, 24% of our entrepreneurs were female. Today, that percentage has increased to 41%.”

All images used courtesy of Tony Elumelu Foundation