Tony Elumelu: Founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation

Mr. Tony O. Elumelu is the founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) that started operations in 2010. Elumelu is an accomplished entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist whose passion for driving Africa’s economic development runs very deep.

“As an entrepreneur myself, I understand what it feels like to yearn for a lifeline, to hope for a big break, to look forward to enjoying some luck”, he said. To him and his foundation, the private sector holds the key to unlocking Africa’s economic potentials.

Elumelu preaches like a gospel a philosophy of Africapitalism defined by the use of long-term investments to empower African entrepreneurs. The mission is to position Africa’s private sector and its driving entrepreneurs as the catalyst for the social and economic development of the continent.

The strategy for the African development mission received a sharpened edge in 2015 when TEF consolidated its various programmes and initiatives and made investing in Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders its priority. It is convinced that the future of Africa will be shaped by the provision of structured, robust and multifaceted support to its entrepreneurs. That is precisely why the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme has been created.

TEF has a great vision of Africa giving birth continually to multinational corporations but a small step for realizing it. Africa’s entrepreneurs have to begin with their start-ups, grow them into small- and medium-scale enterprises, step up to the status of national growth companies and from there to become African multinationals.

Lubricating the process of this growth and transformation, riding it of obstacles is the job that the foundation has given to itself. TEF speaks of growing numbers of programme alumni with inspirational success stories affirming the effectiveness of its interventions and encouraging upcoming entrepreneurs. Its plan is to enrich its alumni networks, facilitate mentor relationships to prepare tomorrow’s business leaders and build an impactful pan-African entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme is a philanthropic design to provide a new drive to entrepreneurship development across the African continent. With the programme, TEF has positioned entrepreneurship at the center of all its activities in its consideration that it is the primary vehicle to achieving economic empowerment.  

The programme has a target to fish out 1,000 African startups and entrepreneurs every year for 10 years. It is looking for people who have ideas and the potential to address social and economic challenges in Africa.

Its purpose is to grow the capacity of the entrepreneurs through training, mentoring, access to relevant information and a strong alumni network. The foundation provides a seed capital of $10,000 to each startup to catalyze the businesses and position them for growth and profitability.

The Entrepreneurship Programme is a further deepening of an earlier programme that tracked Nigeria’s fast growing private companies. The Nigeria Fast Growth 50, was launched in 2012 in collaboration with the AllWorld Network to project the fast-growth, unlisted private companies in Nigeria.

By TEF’s criteria, the Nigeria50 members represent companies that have demonstrated the potential for entrepreneurship. The companies clearly stood out in terms of average annual growth rate of as high as 100% and creation of more than 6,000 jobs in three years.

The programme brought these companies to the limelight as Nigeria50 members were published nationally and globally, giving them corporate visibility as emerging stars. This gave the companies global recognition with invitation to the AllWorld Summit at Harvard University. It also linked them up to a network of growth entrepreneurs as well as exposure to wider sources of investment capital and markets for their products.

Another programme initiative of TEF is The Elumelu Professionals Programme, which began as the African Market Internship Programme. It was an initiative that reflects the foundation’s commitment to the development and celebration of African business leadership.

It was an MBA internship programme designed to improve the competitiveness of small and growing African enterprises while introducing some of the world’s brightest new business management talents to the growth opportunity that African markets present.

The programme placed students from Africa’s top business schools and students from top-tier business schools in Europe and the United States into highly structured 10-week internship programmes in African companies. During their assignments, the interns built actionable knowledge and helped to facilitate high-level decision-making to contribute to the host firms’ success.

The programme matched the unique skills of each intern with the particular needs of each participating host business to tackle the most pressing business issues identified by the management teams. This ranged from formulating business strategies, marketing new products to developing African growth strategies and more.

The programme was unique in bringing both African and international business students together, building bridges and opening horizons for all involved. This programme, which was active from 2011 to 2014, served the Foundation’s core mission of equipping the next generation of African private sector champions for success.

The foundation has also promoted the Elumelu Nigeria Empowerment Fund, which was established to transform communities ravaged by natural disasters, hazards and conflicts into thriving and economically sustainable habitats.

The fund was created is support of the presidential fundraising exercise for the support of victims of natural disasters in 2014. The fund was directed to communities in the Niger Delta and Plateau States to empower people and businesses in affected communities and create opportunities for bigger economic capacities in the long term. The fund was discontinued in 2015 in order to fully implement the core Entrepreneurship Programme of the foundation.

There was also Tony & Awele Elumelu Prize Programme, which started in 2012 aimed at inspiring and rewarding academic excellence in tertiary institutions across Africa. Up to 130 students from 16 Nigerian universities and three West African Universities won the prize awards over the three-year period of the programme. It was another initiative by TEF to inspire a new generation of students who view entrepreneurship as a viable path and a means of creating economic and social wealth.