ELUMELU: GARLAND TO AFRICA’S LEADING INVESTOR AND PHILANTHROPIST @ 60
As world leaders, African entrepreneurs extol Elumelu’s virtues
When great men celebrate, even the stars bow in solemn hallow. As Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu, CON, MFR, the stylish chairman of Heirs Holdings, United Bank for Africa (UBA Plc) and Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc stepped into the sixth floor on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, the periscope focused on a man who has spent agreater part of his life to render selfless service to humanity.
The Nigerian economist and philanthropist has quietly built a reputation for himself in the business world. His many years of hard work has paid off and he has become the symbol of excellence in his line of business earning the title, ‘the king of entrepreneurs in Nigeria.”
One thing that is synonymous with Tony is that he is full of grace that anything he touches or ventures into soars no matter its deplorable state.
Tony’s businesses which spread through banking, oil and gas, real estate, hospitality have continued to create jobs and redistribute wealth in such a powerful way that the keen observer cannot help but marvel.
Arising from his modest beginnings, Tony has ascended the pinnacle of an entrepreneur in Nigeria.
No doubt, he is an inspiration and a role model to many; his act of generosity continues to aim for the sky. He loves giving back to his society without blinking an eyelid.
Tony’s undying passion for Africa’s economic development, is second to none.
He has continued to uplift entrepreneurs in his drive for Africa’s economic development through his foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF). It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to describe Tony as Africa’s most prominent philanthropist.
Tony is the most prominent champion of entrepreneurship in Africa. In 2010, he created The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), the leading philanthropy empowering a new generation of African entrepreneurs, catalysing economic growth, driving poverty eradication and driving job creation across all 54 African countries.
Since inception, the Foundation’s flagship programme has identified and catalysed nearly 16,000 entrepreneurs and created a digital ecosystem of over one million Africans, as part of a ten year US$100m commitment to fund, mentor and train young Africans.
Tony sits on a number of public and social sector boards, including the World Economic Forum Community of Chairmen and the Global Leadership Council of UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited.
In 2020, in recognition of his business leadership and economic empowerment of young African entrepreneurs, he was named in the Time100 Most Influential People in the World, and recognised with Belgium’s oldest and highest royal order. In 2022, TIME again recognised Tony with its inaugural TIME100 Impact list, honouring him alongside six global leaders who have gone over and beyond to move their industries – and the world – forward.
World leaders, African entrepreneurs extol Elumelu’s virtues
To mark the billionaire’s 60th birthday, world leaders, business owners, family, friends, and business associates among others, on Wednesday convened at a symposium in Lagos to celebrate the business tycoon.
The symposium with the theme, ‘60 for 60’ with hashtag #TOEAt60, had over 60 young entrepreneurs who have benefited from the Tony Elumelu Foundation(TEF), in attendance to honour the accomplishments of the entrepreneur extraordinaire.
Among those who wished him well include Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister; Bill and Hillary Clinton, former president and Secretary of State in US; Muhammadu Buhari, president of Nigeria, Emmanuel Macron, president of France; Paul Kagame of Rwanda; Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Aliko Dangote, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala etc.
In his congratulatory message, Emmanuel Macron, the President of France said: “It is a great pleasure for me to write to you on this very special occasion, as it allows me to once again acknowledge the outstanding efforts put in place by your Foundation and yourself to support a vision of African entrepreneurship that we both share, and to strengthen the continent’s position in the global economy.”
“In particular, your empowerment of the youth across the African continent, by enabling them to fulfill their ambitions in business and academia, bears a pivotal role for Africa’s future. he said. “I can therefore only commend the Tony Elumelu Foundation for the numerous initiatives and unquestionable positive impact it has as a leading philanthropic organisation.”
Also, Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Nigeria celebrated the UBA Group chairman’s achievements, lighting the way for many to grow through inspiration, mentorship and training, with focus on raising generation of entrepreneurs.
Bill Clinton, former US president and his wife, Hillary Clinton, wrote: “From your successful career in business to your amazing work with your foundation, you have accomplished so very much throughout your first remarkable six decades. It’s been very inspiring for us to see your passion for philanthropy up close, and to watch you as you empower a rising generation of entrepreneurs across Africa.
“So on this milestone, we want to say thanks: thank you for your friendship, for your good work, for your unwavering belief in a better tomorrow. Hillary and I are glad to join your family, friends, and admirers from around the world in wishing you a very happy 60th birthday.”
Tony Blair, former UK prime minister said: “I have had the great privilege of working with tony in the past. through our foundations and in particular the Blair-Elumelu Fellowship Programme. I have always come away from spending time with him inspired, energised and grateful for his wisdom and insights.
“Our thinking aligns in many ways. We have a shared optimism for the future. We believe in the transformative power of tech and innovation and the importance of entrepreneurialism as a means to solving many of the world’s problems, from healthcare to education to climate.
“Above all we both believe in the importance of clear priorities, clear strategy and clear mechanisms for delivery; to put it simply the importance of getting things done. We are also both true believers in Africa.”
Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda said: “The Foundation’s biggest contribution is empowering young women and men to lead, reminding them that Africa’s future rests in their hands,” according to
“Tony, I commend you for your vision, and for putting the private sector front and centre as the key player in Africa’s journey towards prosperity,” he said.
Nana Akufo-Addo, the president of Ghana noted: “Happy Birthday Tony, and may the next 60 years of your life be even greater and brighter,” “For me, there is no greater symbol of entrepreneurship in the 21s century in Africa than this iconic Nigerian entrepreneur, Tony Elumelu, easily the equal of the celebrated entrepreneurs of our generation, Gates, Page, Bezos, Zuckerberg, Dangote, Strive Masiyiwa, Jim Ovia and the others.”
Also, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, president-elect, Nigeria in his message of felicitation said: “Tony’s business acumen is a gift to Nigeria that continues giving. I have no doubt that his foundation continues to be one of the factors that contributes to the development of youth potential and businesses across our great nation, Nigeria. He has set a good example, among other men of honour, for how to empower others through one’s good fortune in life.”
“It is, therefore with the utmost sincerity and joy that I felicitate with my good friend and brother, Tony Elumelu as he celebrates his 60th birthday, wishing him many years to come and hoping we will, in the nearest future, discuss over a drink, more ways he can contribute to the growth and development of Nigeria and her business terrain,” Tinubu said.
Some Benefactors of TEF Share Testimonies
At the symposium, some benefactors of the TEF from different African countries including Nigeria. Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Ghana, Ivory Coast, gave testimonies of how they have benefitted from the program and how his investment in young people across Africa has uplifted a lot of them.
One of the TEF Alumni, Temitayo Johnson Laleye, CEO of TJL Signature, a fashion accessory brand that creates bizzare fashion accessories for adventurous students said: “Through my business, 2000 young people have been up skilled; thanks to the Tony Elumelu Foundation training, my business has expanded to Ghana and USA, I was also the youngest winner of the 25 under 25 award.
“So clean is a home laundry service and I started this adventure in 2019, with a capital of 50,000 CFA. Then I had no machine and staff and I applied in 2019 and 2020 but was selected as a TEF Entreprneur in 2021.
“Thanks to the seed capital from theķ new space and could recruit more people. Because of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme training, sales have tripled due to our change in strategy,” another TEF Alumni from Benin Republic, Gbadamassi said at the symposium.
Also, another benefactor of the TEF, Monica Temido from Zambia said: “I am a 2019 beneficiary, my business is employing 21 people who are breadwinners. Through the Tony Elumelu Foundation we have gained investor confidence. May the sun keep shining on you.”
On his part, CEO of Medina farmers, Michael Puyi from Liberia, said: “I call you the lion of Africa. I call you a mentor. When we started in 2016, we were not attracting any loans from banks.
“We applied and went through the TEF training where we learnt managing human resources and we have sold 60 megaton of rice and have established a huge oil palm. and supply to small scale farmers and the government of Liberia. On behalf of medina farmers, we say thank you.
“10 years ago, I was considered risky, my former company thought me too ambitious. I started my poultry with 200 chicken and 2,000 eggs weekly, now we produce 12,000 eggs weekly with six staff, 20 men and women along the value chain employed as casuals. Africa is shining because of your efforts,” Yaa Aduba Asare, from Ghana stated.
Lynda Nunez, the CEO of Dial A Pad from Kenya said “before participating in TEF, the only thing we had was an idea to stop absenteeism of girl child in school due to pad poverty.
“We enrolled for TEF and won the $5k seer capital and from then till now, we have impacted 35,000 girls.
“Dial a pad Africa delivers sanitary pads and health education to Kenyan girls from poor social and economic backgrounds to make sure that periods do not get in the way of Girls right to Education. We leverage on Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and other technologies to run our mobile app and smart sanitary towel dispensers to usher in radical socio-economic empowerment of African women.
“TEF gave us the trainings and guidance during Covid. We also got funding of up to 40k dollars from networks built through the foundation.”
Ama Harris Tukus, TEF Alumni from Liberia provides education for underserved communities.
“With the funding from TEF, we were able to digitalise education in Liberia and trained over 5000 children, employed over 20 teachers, Tukus said.
“Today is your birthday, and out of curiosity, we have come to see the man who parts with his hard earned hundreds of millions to support us without asking for anything in return, not even our votes”.
Olubukola Gabriel Oyebode, founder of Kiano Naturals and a 2019 TEF alumni from Nigeria while said the foundation has transformed her business from an idea she had in mind to becoming an employer.
“We are into production of coconut oil, coconut flakes and all coconut products,” Oyebode said.“We were able to start from home, but through that grant, we now have a physical location, 5 staff, and distributors in other states. Thank you Elumelu for loving us and happy birthday.”