Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, TEF, and chairman of United Bank for Africa, UBA, Tony Elumelu has declared that the most sustainable investment anyone can make in Africa today is investment in its people.
At the 2017, TEF, African Journalism Fellowship, a segment of the 3rd annual TEF Entrepreneurship Forum held October 13 – 14 in Lagos, journalists from different parts of the continent had a field day interacting with one of Africa’s leading entrepreneurs.
Of particular interest to the journalists who participated in the fellowship was Elumelu’s Africapitalism philosophy and his vision for Africans to develop the continent through entrepreneurship.
He has a burning desire for developing Africa; and strong passion for human capital development. His name resonates across the continent. Little wonder, his entry into the amphitheatre of UBA on that occasion was electrifying. Standing ovation and rousing welcome were in the air as he made his way to the podium. The cameramen scrambled to capture his image and the sound recorders pointed at him from different directions.
Very quickly, he identified some of the journalists he had come across in their home counties in the course of driving his Africapitalism ideology. In some cases, he identified them by naming their countries – Cameroon, Morocco Senegal, Burkina Faso, Uganda and several others.
He took time to explain the role of UBA in development across Africa. “We have presence in 19 African countries. But at times people think UBA is just a Nigerian bank. And at times people even say ‘it has a branch in Cameroon’. It’s not a branch; it’s a full fledged subsidiary. UBA is a pan African bank,” he told the journalists.
In Senegal for instance, UBA is working with the National Electricity Company in urban and rural areas for electricity development. And is doing similar projects in almost all the 19 African countries where it is present. In Cameroon, UBA is financing the construction of a stadium in Douala. Elumelu has also been there lately to talk about investment opportunities. In most of the African countries, when he arrives, leads entrepreneurs to meet with Presidents of their countries. The idea is to get governments to interact with then entrepreneurs and give priority to creating enabling environments for businesses to thrive.
“The world we live in today is no longer a world of development by aid; it is now a world of development by investments. So we need massive investments in Africa,” Elumelu admonished as he beckoned on the media to join hands in building a prosperous Africa.
The idea of bringing the journalists to the headquarters of UBA was for them to go back with better understanding of the workings of the pan African bank.
In three years, the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme has produced 3, 000 entrepreneurs, a thousand per year. These entrepreneurs have in turn, created tens of thousands of jobs and generated considerable wealth. Since Elumelu launched the programme and committed $100 million to empowering 10,000 African entrepreneurs in a decade, the Foundation “has unleashed Africa’s most potent development force, its entrepreneurs.” This is one thing Elumelu and indeed, many Africans are proud of.
Elumelu wants encouragement for the young entrepreneurs and messages of hope for the aspiring ones “so that collectively, we will begin to drive this new paradigm of a prosperous Africa brought to us by investment in our people.”