Sunday, 15 October 2017

Empowering African Entrepreneurs —The Tony Elumelu Example —by Kennedy Nsan


Kennedy Nsan|15 October 2017 

Many people would be thrilled, astonished, and moved with different emotions for several reasons while watching The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum 2017 earlier on Channels Television. This is because it is one-of-a-kind entrepreneurship empowerment programme in Africa held in Lagos, geared towards empowering young African entrepreneurs in the continent of Africa.

Let me first acknowledge and thank Mr Tony Elumelu for what he's doing with his foundation; The Tony Elumelu Foundation. His efforts and strides with the foundation are very highly commendable and his desire to empower young entrepreneurs in Africa must be encouraged and replicated by other millionaires in Nigeria in particular and Africa at large.

Several young entrepreneurs were selected to partake in the 2017 empowerment programme and Mr Elumelu made the point that over 97,000 others were unable to make it to the empowerment program; necessitating the need for other leading African entrepreneurs and millionaires to take a cue at what Elumelu is doing by putting up programs that will reduce generational poverty from our continent. 
Elumelu also made the point that it is not the money we keep in our bank accounts that determines our real value and wealth but how we're able to impact the lives of other people. Bob Marley had once said, to corroborate Elumelu's point that, "the greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and how much he's able to affect others positively". 

Mr Elumelu is not the only millionaire in Nigeria, he's not the richest African but by far the one impacting Africans the most with his wealth and ideas. They're numerous other multi-millionaires who aren't even empowering their immediate family members let alone their communities, local governments or states. This should change going forward if we must make meaningful progress in terms of developing the continent of Africa.

African governments cannot bear the burden of Africa's developmental challenges, these challenges are too enormous and overwhelming. It would take the collective efforts of both governments in the continent and wealthy individuals to tackle headlong the numerous problems that bedevil us as a people.

The reality is that, in a few years time, Tony Elumelu would've succeeded in multiplying himself in the lives of these Africans and his investments and in particular his bank, the United Bank for Africa PLC will reap bountifully from these noble investment in Africa's young people. Like his foundation rightly captures it in its website, 'we are focused on promoting the positive role of entrepreneurship in driving Africa's social and economic development. In doing so, we hope to accelerate the spread of economic prosperity and social progress throughout Africa, strengthening the African entrepreneurial ecosystem'.

The most moving moment for me while watching the empowerment on television was when he introduced and acknowledged his former boss, Chief Ebitimi Banigo, former Minister of Science and Technology, who according to him is the man who made all of what he's doing today possible. Mr Banigo used to be one of Nigeria's richest men and owner of All States Trust Bank, where Mr Tony Elumelu had his first job as his employee where he cut his teeth in the banking sector. Banigo's eyes were filled with tears when the cameras beam him closely. I cannot exactly say why he was teary, what I can relate is that he was filled and moved with emotions.

Elumelu left All States Trust Bank, went on to establish Standard Trust Bank (STB), which later acquired Intercontinental Trust Bank and then bought majority stakes in United Bank for Africa PLC (UBA) in 2005, thereby acquiring it during the famous era of mergers and acquisitions in the banking sector in Nigeria; and later transformed it from a single-country bank to a pan-African institution with close to ten million customers in over 20 African countries.

Elumelu retired from UBA in 2010 but not tired, and went on to establish Heirs Holdings, which invests in the financial services, energy, real estate and hospitality, agribusiness, and healthcare sectors. In the same year, he also established the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an Africa-based and African-funded philanthropic organisation dedicated to the promotion of excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship and to enhancing the competitiveness of the private sector across Africa.

As though that was not enough, in 2011, Heirs Holdings acquired a controlling interest in the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp), a publicly quoted conglomerate that has business interests in the agribusiness, energy, and hospitality sectors. Elumelu was subsequently appointed its chairman.

We could go on and on with Tony's very inspiring, captivating and motivating story as that's not the end of the man's achievements, but we'll like to leave it there for today in order not to bore you with too many details of his personal exploits. He didn't attend any top ivy league institutions, at least before having a head start in the banking sector. He first studied at the 'infamous' Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, Edo State, shortly before his banking career, and later studied Economics at the University of Lagos. He's an alumni of Harvard Business School Advanced Management program, which of course could not be said to be the reason for why he's made such an impact in this generation, for that was after he was already a successful banker.

Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu is a phenomenon, a role model, an inspiration to many Africans. An entrepreneur per excellence, a philanthropist and a philosopher and the brain behind Africapitalism. According to him, Africapitalism is an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector's commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through long-term investments that create both economic prosperity and social wealth. Elumelu sees Africans taking charge of the value-adding sectors and ensuring that those value-added processes happen in Africa, not through nationalisation or government policies, but because there is a generation of private sector entrepreneurs who have the vision, the tools and the opportunity to shape the destiny of the continent. He insists that Africapitalism is not capitalism with an African twist; it is a rallying cry for empowering the private sector to drive Africa's economic and social growth. 

Today, as always, I celebrate Anthony Onyemaechi Elumelu, economist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and philosopher, for leading the kind of change that Nigeria and the African continent needs. The change that will create numerous jobs through the obvious replica effect of his empowerment programme and do encourage many more Nigerian and African entrepreneurs to emulate and follow in the footsteps of the man Tony Elumelu.


Kennedy Nsan
OAU, Ile-Ife



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