Nigeria’s Top 10 Champions of Youth Empowerment – Fola Adeola

Mr. Fola Adeola, founder and pioneer managing director/CEO, Guaranty Trust Bank, is also the founder of Fate Foundation. He stands out as Nigeria’s foremost business incubator and accelerator. He established Fate Foundation in 2000, a non-governmental organisation that sets out to encourage entrepreneurship, using a mix of training, mentoring, loan support and consulting to support young Nigerians.

The foundation is on a mission to foster wealth creation by promoting business and entrepreneurial development among Nigerians. Positioned as a catalyst for entrepreneurship, it harnesses the strong entrepreneurial culture of Nigerians by providing the business incubation, growth and accelerator support required by aspiring entrepreneurs to explore fully their innovative potentials.

The foundation runs on a sustainability model that is driven by funding and technical support from local and international partners and is enabled by a strong volunteerism strategy. It is Adeola’s innovative vehicle designed to enable emerging Nigerian entrepreneurs to startgrow and scale their businesses, thereby stimulating job creation, economic development and social impact.

At it take off in 2000 FATE Foundation launched Nigeria’s largest and longest-running pre-incubator programme the Aspiring Entrepreneurs Programme for young entrepreneurs and startups. This was quickly followed by Emerging Entrepreneurs Programme for growing businesses in 2001. In the same year, the foundation’s consulting unit – FATE Consulting came on stream to provide business support and advisory services for entrepreneurs.

In 2002, the Port Harcourt branch of the foundation was opened to focus on enterprise creation in the Niger Delta. A milestone of 1,000 new businesses was attained in 2006 and an impact assessment Study of FATE Alumni in 2010 showed a high success rate of 65 percent stable in business with an average of four jobs created.

The foundation commenced entrepreneurship ecosystem Research and Policy Advocacy in 2015 and held its inaugural Annual Policy Dialogue Series on Entrepreneurship. Another major milestone was reached in 2016 when the number of businesses and youth supported hit 5,000 and 100,000 respectively.

In 2017, the foundation joined Youth Business International and published the first Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Mapping Study. In the same year, it received its first grant from the African Capital Alliance Foundation to launch the ScaleUp Lab Accelerator Programme for high growth potential agribusinesses.

Major impacts were made by the foundation in 2018 when it launched Sky’s the Limit virtual mentoring and advisory platform, received technical support from ACCA Nigeria for financial literacy and support by Facebook and Citi Foundation to expand the AEP to non-Lagos cities.

Also in the same year, FATE Foundation partnered Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition as well as Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network. The target was to accelerate high growth potential businesses in the nutrition and food safety space with its Nutrition Accelerator Programmes designed for this group of businesses.

The foundation implemented the Orange Corners Lagos in 2019 with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Nigeria and the Orange Corners Project. It marked its 20th anniversary in 2020, launched its 20-year impact report and published the Nigerian Entrepreneurs Handbook Series of 7 books. It also set up $1 million FATE Philanthropy Coalition for COVID-19 Support Fund and launched the Journeys in Entrepreneurship Podcast and Video Series in the same year. 

In 2021, the foundation attained new milestones in its intervention withits celebration of its 100th AEP class, Reaching 190,000 individuals in 27 states. It also launched the online Entrepreneurship certificate course and three FATE divisions: FATE School, FATE Institute and FATE Giving. Other accomplishments in the year include the launching of Inaugural Annual State of Entrepreneurship in Nigeria Report and the launching of Eur1.4 million Orange Corners Innovation Fund.

FATE School demonstrates the foundation’s passion to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of quality education. The school provides the knowledge, tools, resources, platforms and linkages for aspiring and emerging Nigerian entrepreneurs to start, grow and scale sustainable businesses. 

The school was created to help the youth overcome the challenges of unemployment and underemployment, difficult business environment among others and offer solutions through enterprise training and resources, targeted growth and sector support as well as enabling the ecosystem.

The FATE Institute is the research and policy arm of the foundation, which was created as a response to the challenge of lack of data around entrepreneurship in Nigeria. The institute adopted a new approach to research to drive strategic decision-making by policymakers and other stakeholders.

Its approach is to provide definitive answers to important questions that entrepreneurs ask and bridge the information gap by providing insights and data around the entrepreneurship ecosystem. It also enables effective policy recommendation meant to aid the policy information and design system and provides insights into the operations of The FATE School of Entrepreneurship.

The institute has made remarkable contributions to the growth of the foundation through increased practical learning and understanding of Nigeria’s entrepreneurship landscape. It has positioned the foundation to provide effective answers to all the questions that entrepreneurs frequently ask.

The Institute’s objective is to lead innovative thinking and create platforms to enable idea exchange and problem-solving strategies to foster sustainable entrepreneurship in Nigeria. The foundation therefore shares its research findings with operators and stakeholders in the entrepreneurship ecosystems. Over the years, the foundation has published reports, policy white papers, briefs, opinion pieces and insights in its goal of communicating innovative solutions discovered around pressing entrepreneurship issues.