How One Nigerian Mogul May Lead Africa Through Its Largest Entrepreneurial Boom Yet

On December 1st 2015, Nigerian billionaire investor and philanthropist, Mr. Tony Elumelu, through the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program (TEEP) pledged to fund African entrepreneurs through a donation of US$100 million dollars. Over the next 10 years, 10,000 African men and women entrepreneurs will receive seed capital to launch their entrepreneurial ideas into reality. Participants in the multi-year program will receive 12 weeks of business skills training and participate in an entrepreneurship boot camp. This project will have far reaching short and long term implications for the economic growth and individual prosperity of Africa. It is important to note that Africa?s wealthy can generate jobs, investments, and economic growth for the continent. Those who have made it are important to the generation of future wealth on the continent through ?giving back.?

The Impact on entrepreneurship in Africa: The major impact of this project will be the transformation of entrepreneurial business plans into viable startups. Africa is brimming with numerous entrepreneurs who have great ideas, and are willing to get into the entrepreneurial space, but have very limited or next to no funding. TEEP may help to eliminate some of the arduous tasks necessary for capital procurement, and methodologically move these startups into their path to eventual profitability. ?Whether you?re in Lagos, Accra, Johannesburg, Nairobi or Dakar, Africa is buzzing with entrepreneurs who need a platform that enables them to take their business or idea to the next level. The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program has been designed to provide that mechanism,? said Parminder Vir, Director of Entrepreneurship at The Tony Elumelu Foundation said during a press release.

The impact on women in Africa: It is a known fact that women on the continent are the primary drivers of work activity in the labor market, engaging in a range of endeavors that support economic growth. ?Women in the private sector represent a powerful source of economic growth and opportunity,? said Marcelo Giugale, the World Bank?s director for poverty reduction and economic management for Africa. However, one limitation that disproportionately affects women, is the ability to bring viable products and services to scale. TEEP has the potential, by virtue of its scope and magnitude to afford women the capital and guidance they will need to get their business projects off the ground. Although many foundations have highlighted the need for funding among potential African businesswomen, this concrete action will help solve a lot of the problems they face. Self-sufficiency is a powerful tool for women?s empowerment, and the ability to float their own businesses will be a major advancement in this direction.

The impact on philanthropy in Africa: Undoubtedly, this gesture by Elumelu will help to kick off a new era of major philanthropy driven economic growth. While all philanthropy is a net positive for the continent, this drive will specifically target the most promising business plans and the most talented individuals, ensuring a substantial return on investment for the continent. Innovations in strategic philanthropy, beyond the provision of ?aid? provide an evidence base for the rapid growth of philanthropic institutions, as societies continue to realize the immense power that lies in being financially self-sustaining. While TEEP is the first initiative of its kind to be launched by an African philanthropic organization and is the largest African sourced philanthropic gift, targeting the entrepreneurial space, it is the belief that this will set the precedent for many more initiatives to come.

The impact on Africa?s overall economy: Keeping in mind that the program?s overall goal is the creation of 10,000 entrepreneurs who will generate US$10 billion in annual revenues and create 1,000,000 new jobs, this new influx of wealth will help increase the net number of individuals with disposable income across the continent. The potential for widespread African growth is evident, as this funding opportunity is open to all 54 African countries. The TEEP initiative also goes a long way in meeting strategic global objectives, particularly in building economic wealth among the continent?s generation of youth. TEEP partner, Dr. Vera Songwe, Country Director for the World Bank Group further validated this point — ?World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has an agenda focused on innovation and entrepreneurship as a key prerequisite to achieving global competitiveness and building long-term wealth, especially for the youth. We must strive for entrepreneurial innovation in Africa and my participation in this program further promotes the World Bank Group?s push for entrepreneur-led global development,?.

The impact on individual wealth, employment and poverty in Africa: One of the most directly stated goals of the project is to create 10,000 entrepreneurial jobs which will ultimately lead to the employment of an additional 1,000,000 individuals ? this is huge. The impact of this initiative on job creation is immediately clear; with these projected figures of employment, poverty levels should be beneficially affected. Furthermore, giving the gift of entrepreneurship effectively provides Africans with the ability to generate their own individual wealth. Once adequate capital has been provided and businesses are profitable, entrepreneurs no longer rely on external sources of wealth or funding. The ability to generate individual wealth is powerful in enabling macro and micro economic growth.

Elumelu is pursuing a vision which will allow Africans to direct their own wealth and economic growth. The projected benefits are major to the entire continent, and to all parties involved. It would seem that Elumelu is the man for the job, after all, he is renowned for his abilities to find profitable investment opportunities and to acquire and turn around otherwise poorly performing opportunities. Going by his expertise and track record, this entrepreneurship drive is on course to reshape the landscape of African entrepreneurship and the African economy.

Interested in participating?

All citizens and legal residents of any one of the 54 African countries are encouraged to apply. The online application portal for the 2015 round of entries will open on January 1, 2015 and run through March. Prospective entrepreneurs should visit #TEEP for more information.

Image: TEF

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