At the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurs held recently in Lagos, Nigeria, by the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Mr. Elumelu said he gives resources to empower and change the dependency syndrome of entrepreneurs in Africa.
“I salute all of you because our ambition is that you become ambassadors for entrepreneurship in Africa – you are a generation of wealth creators who share our commitment to the economic and social transformation of Africa,” he said.
Mr. Elumelu, who is among the richest individuals in Nigeria and the world, said entrepreneurship is the only path to independence and sustainability.
“We need to support our entrepreneurs because extreme poverty and economic opportunity rarely coexist in the same place,” he said.
Speaking at the 2nd TEF Entrepreneurship Forum over the weekend, Mr. Elumelu challenged stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as multilateral organizations, to invest in the economic development of Africa.
“We need to join hands with the Foundation to support the wider African entrepreneurial community,” he continued.
In remarks, Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma called on Elumelu to add tackling the fundamental economic challenges confronting the African continent, to empowering the young entrepreneurs.
President Koroma used the occasion to call on others to emulate Mr. Elumelu’s example. “Even when we had Ebola in Sierra Leone, Tony was there. His is an example which other successful Africans must follow,” he said.
Focusing on the uniqueness of TEF’s approach to entrepreneurship development, President Koroma hailed the program as “a genuine innovative approach to philanthropy in Africa – Africans offering African solutions.”
“What is unique about this program is that it not only provides a platform for entreprenuers to build connections, but also how to build their businesses in a sustainable way. Other philanthropists will be inspired to support and promote this philosophy,” President Koroma said.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo hailed Elumelu’s perseverance and focus on giving back. “By every means, God has made His face shine upon you. You are not the only one, but unlike you, some others do not have the idea of empowering the next generation of Africans in the manner and scale that you are doing.”
Obasanjo called on the young entrepreneurs to exercise patience on their quests, adding that “for strength in life you need a bit of adversity.”
The former Prime Minister of Benin, Lionel Zinsou, commended the Tony Elumelu Foundation, stating “What Tony Elumelu is doing is the exception, not the norm.”
In her opening remarks, the CEO of Avon Medical, Mrs. Awele Elumelu, who is also a trustee of the foundation and Tony Elumelu’s wife, welcomed the entrepreneurs to Lagos and commended their drive to find solutions to some of the continent’s most pervasive challenges.
For his part, the CEO of TEF, Ms. Parminder Vir, called on the entrepreneurs, who made up part of the audience, to continue to build the future and to challenge the flawed perceptions of Africa.