In the past two editions of the renamed Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) bootcamps, 2000 young entrepreneurs expressed some unquantifiable joy of being empowered to reach for their dreams. “This is an opportunity for me to realise my dreams, so I am going into business and start to make my way” one of the female recipients of the 2016 said in documentary, with sparks of fire in her determined eyes. Another, a male, said: “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here, to be selected among the 1,000 recipients of the programme.” Elumelu’s entrepreneurship programme “challenges you to do what you didn’t think you can do” another recipient said.
In the last two years, 2,000 entrepreneurs have been hosted to bootcamps meeting, where they spent days listening to several motivational speakers who assured them that although their journeys were going to be tough and sometimes rough, they were equipped to make it. 1,000 more are expected to converge on Lagos in October this year for the third season of the programme. By October, number of African entrepreneurs who have benefited from the programme would total 3,000.
By October this year, 3,000 young entrepreneurs in Africa would have been mentored, trained and would have received $30 million to expand or start their business by one man, 31st on the Forbes Africa’s 50 Richest, Mr. Tony Elumelu, founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. This is consistent with Mr. Elumelu’s ambitious goal of raising and empowering 10,000 entrepreneurs over the course of 10 years, providing mentoring as well as $100 million in funding towards creating an “environment where entrepreneurship can flourish in a sustained manner.”
Thousands of female and male entrepreneurs on the continent have applied to the opportunity to go after their dreams, in the hopes that they too can impact others as they work towards a common goal: developing Africa by Africans. However, there is so much only a man can do. For instance, in his address at the 2016 TEF Entrepreneurship Forum, Mr. Elumelu called on friends of Africa to join him, as he worried about more than 90,000 (as at 2016) of the applicants that were left behind. It is instructive to note that in the first edition of the programme, more than 45,000 people submitted applications for considerations.
Why African billionaires need to collaborate towards Africa’s entrepreneurship development
This number is exactly why it makes perfect sense for other billionaires in Africa (I will suggest those on number 1 to 30 and 32 to 50) to join in in helping to empower and create sustainable environment for African entrepreneurs to prosper enough to create more jobs on the continent.
Africa is home to one of the biggest factor of economic growth – its young population, yet millions of them are without jobs, while at least a quarter of them according to statistics, are looking for opportunities to scale up their entrepreneurial endeavours. A case study is the number of young people who apply to the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme every year.
According to African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), 50 per cent of graduates in Africa are unemployed. Unemployment is one of the raging issues in Africa and studies have shown that one of the ways to eliminate poverty is job creation. Entrepreneurs play an integral part in this phenomenon known as poverty eradication.
As a new report, African Economic Outlook (AEO) 2017 shows, entrepreneurship plays a larger role in Africa’s industrialisation strategies. And as experience has shown, government alone can’t meet this need which is why there is a strategy known as Public Private Partnership. This point was again established by Bill Gates recently as he said: “states can no longer fund themselves their development, by giving back; we tap into the best part of ourselves. Everything significant we’ve done was through partnerships.”
Former CEO, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Wiebe Boer, in explaining why entrepreneurship is key to Africa’s development, said: as “Africa is increasingly taking its place on the global stage as a continent of growth and opportunity” there is the “need to build a cadre of home-grown business leaders able to access global markets and drive growth in a sustainable and inclusive manner. For this reason, African entrepreneurship is central to Africa’s future prosperity. The biggest business opportunities in the coming decade will be created by Africans who start businesses, generate jobs and wealth, and capture growth opportunities.”
How billionaires can pitch in
In preparation for the lunch of $100 million Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Fund in 2015, the promoter revealed in an open letter to African entrepreneurs via his Facebook Page, that 20,000 entrepreneurs were surveyed to determine key challenges they faced in pursuit of their entrepreneurial endeavours.
“The results are revealing,” Mr. Elumelu said, as 87% of respondents indicated that they had no access to seed capital and 80% indicated that they lacked business mentors. “90% desired additional training especially in business management and accounting to build capacity,” while “93% longed to be part of a network of entrepreneurs for support, encouragement and prospective partnerships.”
These data, as well as several other data are evidence to the fact that there is a big gap in development of entrepreneurship in Africa. And these challenges provide opportunities other billionaires and “friends of Africa” to “increasingly embrace ‘structured giving’ because it helps us, assist worthy individuals who are not parts of our families, or neighbourhoods, but who have great need and potential.” These “entrepreneurs will change the face of Africa, creating a wave of dynamic African businesses, bringing wealth to their communities and countries, and driving economic growth across the whole continent,” according to Mr. Elumelu.
Mr. Elumelu’s goal is to raise and empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs in 10 years. He has successfully raised 3,000 in three years. It isn’t so hard to imagine how far reaching this could potentially be if more billionaires on the continent pitch in. Together, they increase the number of African entrepreneurs on the continent at the end of the 10 year-mark?
“Africa is a land of opportunities. People in Africa are so warm, embracive, friendly and they want to progress. There is no country in the world that yields a high level of investment as is Africa,” Elumelu said.
There couldn’t have been a better reason to invest in Africa’s young entrepreneurs.