Tony Elumelu Foundation: Promise Fulfilled As Another Set Of 1,104 Entrepreneurs Gets Ready To Access $5,000 Grant

    Tony Elumelu, founder, with wife and co-founder, Dr Awele the Tony Elumelu Foundation event on Friday...
    Tony Elumelu, founder, with wife and co-founder, Dr Awele the Tony Elumelu Foundation event on Friday...

    ‘Happy birthday to you sir, may you live long to celebrate the success of the seed you are planting in us…’

    That was Innocentia Mamaila, Founder of INO-Biodiesel from South Africa acknowledging and praying for the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr Tony Elumelu last Friday on the occasion of the announcement of the 10th cohort comprising of 1,104 young Africans that have been selected as beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF)’s flagship Entrepreneurship Programme.

    Just as Innocentia Mamaila benefitted in 2022, each of these young Africans will get a non-refundable $5,000 grant as well as mentorship and training in the course of the year to boost their businesses.

    20,000 young men and women from across 54 African countries have, however, benefitted from the $100 Million from the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) in the last 10 years.

    According to the Founder and Chairman of TEF, Mr Tony Elumelu, the 1,104 beneficiaries who are described as the 10th cohort, were selected from the over 150,000 applications received from all 54 countries in Africa, after a rigorous and transparent process carried out by Ernst & Young.

    The Foundation is, however, considering a coalition of African entrepreneurs that will touch more lives, prioritise young Africans, as well as expand the number of entrepreneurs that are impacted by the foundation.

    Tony Elumelu, who doubles as the Chairman of United Bank For Africa (UBA), Group, in his keynote address at the announcement of the 10th cohort in Lagos on Friday, March 22, noted that, over the past 10 years since the programme was launched, it has empowered African entrepreneurs, eradicated poverty and catalysed job creation across all 54 African countries.

    Tony Elumelu
    Tony Elumelu

    While stating that the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme had been launched by his family’s desire to democratise luck, Elumelu said: “We believe in spreading luck, we believe in democratizing luck, we believe in spreading prosperity, and we think that the easiest way to spread prosperity in Africa is by identifying our young ones, encouraging them and helping them to start their own businesses. This is why we have done this.

    “When we started over 10 years ago, we sought to democratise luck and improve lives and we are happy with the results we are seeing today.

    “Till date, over 20,000 young men and women from across Africa have received over $100 million in support of their program. We are happy to see our young ones progressing. We are happy that what we started alone as Tony Elumelu foundation will have been able to identify and partner with other global institutions.

    “So, today is a day of impact, a day of gratitude, and most importantly, a day of reflection for me because God has been kind in so many ways. My family and I do what we do, not from the abundance of wealth, but just a realisation that poverty anywhere is a threat to us everywhere, and that we cannot live alone in prosperity. So, I’m happy that today, we continue to spread that prosperity- not just in Nigeria, not just in our family, but in all 54 African countries. I am indeed happy that in our lifetime, we are able to impact the next generation.”

    Speaking on the achievements of the past years, he stated that, “we track how the beneficiaries are succeeding and how they are impacting humanity, society, and their communities. They have generated over $1.2 billion in revenue in their businesses. All have not succeeded, but we did tell ourselves from the onset that it is not about 100 per cent success.

    “Even if 40, 50 per cent of our beneficiaries succeed, let us through them help to eradicate poverty, but more importantly, show others, because we are trying to crowd in others into this space of entrepreneurship, we’re trying to encourage other successful Africans and global institutions and citizens that in the 21st century, there is a better way to give, a better way to develop Africa than just aid.

    “If you ask for the impact, we have created jobs, we have helped businesses and most importantly, we have shown the light that Africans, our young ones need support, they need mentors, they need financial capitals to help them start their businesses, and collectively all of us can help develop Africa in a manner that is truly sustainable in the 21st Century.

    “This is just phase one, we are just getting started because unless and until we eradicate poverty in Africa by Africans leading and showing the way, we cannot stop. We have over 1.2 billion people in Africa and poverty level in our continent is very high. Our young ones, over 60%, we need to create jobs for them, we need them to be empowered to be able to create their own jobs also and that is why we do what we are doing at Tony Elumelu Foundation. We are just getting started, we aspire to magnify our scale and impact. We want to do more and we are thinking of forming a coalition for African Entrepreneurs that will touch more lives.

    “Over 150,000 people applied and we are taking only 1,000, we are not really spreading luck like that. The over 149,000 others have been disappointed. My heart bleeds when this happens, we wish we had more resources, but we have limited resources. So, we are thinking of launching a global coalition to help young Africans.

    “In Europe, after the second world war, a marshal plan was put in place to help develop the continent. In the 21st Century, we want to have our own marshal plan, but in this case, it’s a coalition for African Entrepreneurs to help touch more lives, to help democratise luck, help create other entrepreneurs on our continent,” he said.

    “We aspire to magnify our scale and impact, we want to do more. And we are thinking of forming a coalition of African entrepreneurs that will touch more lives. We are thinking of launching a coalition, a global coalition, to prioritize young Africans.

    “We believe in continuous improvement and we do so in everything, for workplace and the businesses we run, and the foundation and others. When we started, we didn’t have TEF Connect, which is the digital platform for African entrepreneurs, it connects African entrepreneurs, over a million of them, which is one of the things we have done,” he said.

    Elumelu added that he believes in validating what he does, making sure that no one gets selected because he is an Elumelu, adding that the transparency is getting better and better.

    He said; “we owe it to ourselves, it’s our resources and we just believe that if we are democratising luck, we need to do it in a manner that it can get to anybody irrespective of who you are, your background, or where you come from all across Africa.”

    On how the money is sourced, Elumelu said that the 100 million dollars is from his family, but that in addition to that they have partnership with European Union, DEG, Google, AfdB and others.

    This, he said, is why they talked about coalition, saying that they are experimenting the coalition that would soon be launched.

    “I want to stand here soon to announce 100,000 beneficiaries and not 1,000 beneficiaries. We have had years that we had more female beneficiaries. Two years back, we had 69 or 70% female, this year, is different, I just saw 65% men and 35% women, but it’s a transparent process. What you put in at the end you get, we don’t believe in manipulating. But the female African entrepreneurs are rising, they are doing well, they are succeeding and when you listen to testimonial, you will see that women are doing very well.

    “We have Africans everywhere, we need to make impact here, there is poverty in Africa. After the significant impact in Africa, we will look at the rest of the world.

    “In the business world, I have said access to electricity is significant in Africa, we advocate that there should be electricity everywhere so that those in the rural areas can have digital connectivity. But we have outreach programmes that help us to reach these people.

    “We have a programme in the Sahel Region of Africa with UNDP to touch lives of people who don’t have access to electricity. We try to do more, but we are a private sector, we have limited resources, we know all the things we can do if we have abundant resources.

    “That is why we want to launch a grand coalition for African Entrepreneurs so that who give we will let them know that we know interventions in Africa can truly transform lives and become sustainable.

    On whether he wants to be Nigerian President, he said; “all of us cannot be President, let us support those who are in office that Africans can be better. We believe that Africa can be great and we will support them as an entrepreneur. Policy advocacy is key, when we discuss with our leaders, we tell them they we should prioritise our young ones.”

    A beneficiary, Nimota Ogunyemi, who is into e-commerce business said that she has helped over 50 young people start online business.

    Ogunyemi revealed that she didn’t know how to go about her ideas until she joined Tony Elumelu Foundation in 2022, and that she has since helped over 50 young Nigerians to start online businesses.

    Also speaking, Ayodele Oginim from Benin Republic, said that as a beneficiary, she has helped people with disability to start and maintain their businesses.

    Apart from praying for Elumelu, Innocentia Mamalla also took time to speak about her business and the success she achieved through Tony Elumelu Foundation, which she got in 2022.

    Also speaking at the event, Co-Founder of TEF, Dr Awele Elumelu, said: “To today’s 10th cohorts, I want to say as you embark on the next phase of your journey, know that you’re a part of a network of entrepreneurs, a big network of entrepreneurs, and I want to say that you have all our support here- all of us here, we’re here to support you, to cheer you, to celebrate you, to pray for you, as the chairman has very nicely said. But to those who were not selected, let me also assure you that your journey is far from over.”

    Since its inception in 2015, the foundation has disbursed an impressive $100 million directly to young African entrepreneurs, leading to the creation of over 400,000 direct and indirect jobs and significant contributions to Africa’s economic growth.

    Moreover, beneficiaries have collectively generated revenue exceeding $2.5 billion during this period.

    Furthermore, the foundation’s digital entrepreneurship-support platform, Reconnect, has provided capacity-building support, advisory services, and market linkages to over 1.5 million Africans.

    Packaged by Olayinka Agboola with additional reports from

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