This year, more than 1,000 people gathered to celebrate selected 1,000 African entrepreneurs from the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, as well as to motivate, train and root for them.
Among those who came to cheer the new cohort were 500 business leaders in addition to TEEP alumni, state governors, former presidents, CEOs, chairmen, policy makers as well as journalists from across Africa and the world.
Specific speakers included Dr Awele Elumelu, Chairperson, Avon Medical Services Limited; Mr Segun Awolowo, CEO, Nigerian Expoet Promotion Council (NEPC), Clement Ugorji, Public Affairs and Communications Director for Coca-Cola; Audu Maikori, founder of Chocolate City Group; Obianne Ezike, founder and Managing Director, Wakanow.com; Mark Essien, founder and CEO, Hotels.ng; Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, a serial entrepreneur; former president Olusegun Obasanjo; former prime minister of Benin Republic, Lionel Zinsou and Clare Akanzi, Chief Operating Officer, Rwanda Development Board, among several others.
The forum, second in its seasons, celebrates the 2016 cohort of Elumelu Entrepreneurs – selected from over 45,000 applicants in 54 African countries – and their completion of the Programme’s innovative 12-week online training. On completing the programme Elumelu Entrepreneurs became members of the largest entrepreneurial alumni network in Africa.
The forum also allows entrepreneurs to share and gain knowledge, build cross border partnerships, and connect with investors and policymakers. The first day featured plenary panels, master-classes, TED-style talks and sector specific networking opportunities, while the second day was a policy-led gathering, focused on improving the enabling environment.
At the forum, which climaxed with a concert late in the night on Saturday, was an opportunity to hear from several speakers, panellists as well as the convener of the $100 million, 10-year development programme.
Charging the entrepreneurs, Folorunsho Alakija, a member of the high-level discussion, told the entrepreneurs that the road ahead was a difficult one which requires them to take several risks and fight. “The hallmark of any entrepreneur is the ability to take risks. You need to fight yourself, friends, competition and government in order to succeed.” But the world’s richest black woman said told the entrepreneurs that with help from higher power, friends and family, they will succeed. All the need is to be strategically focused.
Former President Obasanjo in response to what he thought African entrepreneurs need to succeed, said it was important to dialogue with the entrepreneurs to discover their needs and then meet them. He said it was counterproductive to offer top-bottom solutions to the entrepreneurs, as those have over the years failed.
Obasanjo also called for accelration of infrasture development, saying this will help create enabling business environment for the entrepreneurs.
“What you say you are doing is commendable, please let us see the results. We have to ensure that doing business in Nigeria is easy. We have to make them (investors) come to Nigeria. We need to be able to register a company at a one-stop shop,” he added.
Former Prime Minister, Benin Republic, Lionel Zinsou, advocated for more collaborations from other billionaires in Africa to help accelerate the continent’s development. “We need advocacy for entrepreneurship. What Tony Elumelu is doing is the exception. It’s not the norm,” he said, commending Elumelu, while also asking for expanded collaborations.
Tony Elumelu, the founder of the six-year old Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), whose brainchild is the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), canvassed for the “structured giving” in developing the continent. According to him, Africans have the ultimate solutions to the African problems and they are the only ones who can develop the continent.
In the build up to the biggest gathering of entrepreneurs, policy makers, business executives and the media, Elumelu, speaking in Paris, France, called for structured philanthropy, enabling beneficiaries to become self-dependent.
“It is important that Africans 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,” he said at the event.
He echoed same at the forum on Saturday, saying “we need to give from the perspective of empowering the recipients, instead of making them depending on us.”
Speaking on the forum, Elumelu said: “The TEF Forum is the centrepiece of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, and through it, we are giving from the perspective of empowering the recipient, instead of making them dependent on us. As a result, our 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.”
As forum concludes, the selected 1,000 entrepreneurs are now eligible to receive up to $10,000 seed capital to implement their business plans.
“We are proud to have established a unique platform for African entrepreneurs to forge relationships and business partnerships. In doing so, we are creating an ecosystem that fosters innovation and collaboration, on a scale few believed possible,” Parmindar Vir OBE said.