At the recently concluded 5th edition of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Forum, five African Presidents and thousands of young African entrepreneurs converged at the most influential gathering in the African entrepreneurship ecosystem. Job creation and youth empowerment were the key themes tackled at the Forum.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation, which has been at the forefront of advocating for entrepreneurship as the catalyst for the economic transformation of Africa, convened the 2-day Forum on the 26th and 27th of July at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of government. The event convened over 5,000 participants from 54 African countries, including representatives of the 7,521 beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme.
More than 60 global speakers from the public and private sectors across 3 continents participated in interactive masterclasses, plenary sessions and debates geared towards generating ideas and defining concrete steps Africa must take to empower its youth and accelerate the continent’s development. Guests interacted directly with young budding entrepreneurs from across the 20 African UBA-present countries who exhibited their innovative products and solutions at the UBA Marketplace, powered by Africa’s global bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA).
Moderated by American journalist and host of CNN’s show, Fareed Zakaria GPS, the Presidential Debates, which formed the highlight of the two-day event, focused on charting the way forward towards the eradication of poverty in Africa through job creation. The public sector leaders on the panel include H.E. Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda; H.E. Macky Sall, President, Republic of Senegal; H.E. Félix Tshisekedi, President, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); H.E. (Prof.) Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria; and Hon (Dr.) Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister, Republic of Uganda, representing the President of Uganda, H.E. Yoweri Museveni.
Hon. Rugunda in his panel discussion commended the program saying ‘we have tended to look at our colonial masters in terms of business, education and languages, therefore I salute this program which I believe will change the mindset this mind set of Africans. It promotes Pan –Africanism and will help consolidate unity in Africa and take advantage of the free trade areas that has been established by our leaders,’
The Prime Minister held a meeting with seven young Uganda entrepreneurs who attended the forum and a UBA Uganda team, led by the CEO/ MD Johnson Agoreyo. He commended them for the great ideas they had formulated and pledged government’s continued support to such innovative ideas, saying they will be the ones to liberate Africa from Poverty.
Ugandan entrepreneurs have been the highest beneficiaries of the program after Nigeria. This year, 260 entrepreneurs from Uganda were selected to receive the seed capital of USD 5000. Since the program began 329 applicants have received funding from the foundation.
At the Forum, Tony O. Elumelu, (CON), Founder of the Tony Elumelu reiterated the urgency in creating jobs on the continent to catalyze Africa’s development.
He said: “Extremism is a product of poverty and joblessness. Poverty anywhere is a threat to everyone everywhere,” he said. “If our leaders understand the reason and rationale for our youths to succeed, they will do everything they can to support them.”
Elumelu also reiterated the role of technology as a key enabler in accelerating development, citing TEFConnect, the digital networking platform for African entrepreneurs launched by the Tony Elumelu Foundation in 2018. With over 500,000 registered users, the hub provides a platform for entrepreneurs to network and forge business partnerships regardless of their location.
Giving the keynote speech, Vice President of Nigeria, H.E. (Prof.) Yemi Osinbajo commented on the impact of the Tony Elumelu Foundation: “By birthing this particular intervention, Tony Elumelu has compelled us to focus on what really matters, our youth and their dreams. The message to Africa’s emerging business giants is a clear one: How and what can you contribute, like Tony Elumelu, to empowering the next generation, helping them to realize their own dreams?”
The forum ended with a tour of the UBA Marketplace, where entrepreneurs across the continent exhibited their products, as a pitching competition saw the winner walk away with a $5,000 grant from the United Bank for Africa (UBA). Uganda was represented by Peter Lubega Elimu, an artist and fashion designer, who exhibited art pieces and clothing he had designed.