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Ameyaw Says

The Tony Elumelu Foundation, a great model for African entrepreneurship worthy of emulation



The Tony Elumelu Foundation Travel Fellowship for African Journalists with other travel fellows Oluseye (Radio Nigeria, Ekiti State) and Thembo (Zambia)[/caption] So when I received a mail from a friend from UBA, about registering for a The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Travel Fellowship for African Journalists, I immediately registered without knowing too much about it because the deadline for registering was very close. I was aware of the Foundation but not aware of the travel fellowship. But for some reasons, I assumed it would be network of African journalists, travelling across the continent to tell our success stories to the world. Silly me! Anyway, after registering and being accepted, I started to receive more communications about the fellowship and the intended TEF Entrepreneurship Forum from UBA Ghana, as well as the Foundation in Nigeria. I started contemplating whether to send UBA an invoice for agreeing to travel to Lagos for some few days to cover an event, which I saw as ‘promotion or advertising for the bank’. Yes, some $2,000 wouldn’t have been bad at all …wink. So, I finally arrived in Lagos for the event on Thursday, and by the time I left Lagos on Sunday, I had quite a different perception about The Tony Elumelu Foundation and the Entrepreneurship Forum. Yes, it is not a marketing tool for UBA; and even if it were, it does serve a greater purpose. [caption width="936" id="attachment_113962" align="aligncenter"]The Tony Elumelu Foundation  cohorts The Tony Elumelu Foundation cohorts[/caption] The Tony Elumelu Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2010 by Tony O. Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings, United Bank for Africa (UBA), and Transcorp. The Foundation is based on Mr Elumelu’s belief that, with the right support, entrepreneurs can be empowered to contribute meaningfully to Africa’s prosperity and social development. [caption width="1000" id="attachment_113958" align="aligncenter"]Prize winners from The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entreprenuership Programme class pf 2016 Special Prize winners from The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entreprenuership Programme class pf 2016[/caption] The Foundation also aims to promote excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa, an achievement that requires partnering with businesses and governments across the continent, as was seen at the 2017 TEF Entrepreneurship Forum. In attendance were business magnate, Aliko Dangote, Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osibanjo, and other government officials from across Africa. [caption width="1000" id="attachment_113959" align="aligncenter"]Members of the Keynote panel on 'Empowering Africa Entrepreneurs/Road to 2014 Members of the Keynote panel on ‘Empowering Africa Entrepreneurs/Road to 2014[/caption] For me, the most amazing part of The Tony Elumelu Foundation is its Entrepreneurship Programme. It is a decade-long $100 million initiative, designed to give training, mentorship and seed capital to 10,000 entrepreneurs with start-up businesses or ideas they want to execute across Africa. This year, applications were received from over 93,000 entrepreneurs across 54 African countries. The successful 1,000 entrepreneurs were taken through a 12-week intensive programme culminating into the benefits of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme’s 7 Pillars – a toolkit of support including business training, mentoring, and access to networks and funding. [caption width="1000" id="attachment_113960" align="aligncenter"]Tony. O. Elumelu with Prof Yemi Osibanjo and Aliko Dangote Tony. O. Elumelu with Prof Yemi Osibanjo and Aliko Dangote[/caption] 24 entrepreneurs made it from Ghana this year. My interactions with the Ghanaian entrepreneurs, as well as some alumni of the programme brought to bear the importance of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. From agriculture to ICT, manufacturing, retail, media and other professional services, the youth of Africa are finding innovative business solutions that need the right support for growth; growth that can lead us to compete globally. Watch my interview with some TEF entrepreneurs from Ghana and Nigeria below I spoke to Asomaniwaa Owusu-Ansah, who has a community-based oncology pharmacy setup that provides oral chemotherapy to cancer patients in rural communities. She has been in need of capital to help scale up her set up. Akua Obenewaa Donkor’s confectionery business in spite of earnest gains since it was set up, needed capital for machinery so she can now make her own chocolate from cocoa beans or cocoa mass, without relying on another company or supplier. Lord Akwasi Kyei also spoke of how he has been able to acquire business skills to apply to his online retail shop for African inspired fashion, through the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. He also intends to use his seed money or funding for product development. Nigerian Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme alumnus, Ojoro Kitchen revealed how the Foundation helped transform an idea to provide processed chopped ginger, garlic and chilli for convenient cooking, in 2015 to a fledging business today. Happy Coffee Nigeria was also able to turn her idea of making Nigerians drink coffee the right way, into a business that works with local coffee farmers to ensure that Nigerians have access to homegrown coffee to a point that they can export to the world, all with seed capital from The Elumelu Entrepreneurship Foundation in 2015. These are the stories that give me hope that entrepreneurship in alive in Ghana and across Africa. And with support from the likes of The Elumelu Entrepreneurship Foundation, coupled with right policies by governments, the right environment would be created for many young Africans to excel with their businesses. I was also happy that the Forum witnessed multiple partnerships between the Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as well as the French bilateral development bank, Agence Française De Développement (AFD). [caption width="1000" id="attachment_113961" align="aligncenter"]The Tony Elumelu Foundation and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sign MOU The Tony Elumelu Foundation and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sign MOU[/caption] The Agence Française De Development explained that its partnership with the Foundation would basically be in the direction of advocacy with partner banks across Africa to create facilities that would make it cheaper and smoother for entrepreneurs to get loans and other support. I hope that UBA would be more than willing to also bring down its rates to make it easy for TEF entrepreneurs as well as non-TEF entrepreneurs in that regard. I am very happy that some Ghanaian entrepreneurs in the past heard of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme through publications on, and after having experienced the impact at firsthand; I hope more Ghanaians will sign up when application is opened for 2018!]]>