French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday met over 2,000 African entrepreneurs at the invitation of Nigerian philanthropist and businessman, Tony Elumelu.
The entrepreneurs who are the alumni of Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme met the two leading political and business leaders in Lagos, Nigeria to discuss the future of Africa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.
The Foundation is Elumelu’s flagship project that seeks to empower thousands of young entrepreneurs from the continent through providing mentorship, training, and seed capital.
Macron, a former investment banker, said that it is time Africa to take up its own responsibilities than leaving them to the outsiders, a role that he believes business leaders will have to spearhead.
“Africa is the one to take responsibility of Africa. Africa should speak for Africa. Africa shouldn't be lectured on what to do. This is a new narrative that Africans should have,” he said.
The president pushed for quick priority measures to tackle immigration where many young people are consistently dying crossing seas to seek greener pastures in the Western world.
“Issues of immigration are an example of the result of having a big number of Africans who are disempowered. If we don't collectively address this and bring together business leaders to find ways through which Africa can thrive, we are not ever going to thrive,” he said.
Macron emphasised that it is through innovation and disruptions that Africa will arguably be able to lead the way, highlighting that the two are catalysts to fast economic transformation.
“Innovation means change. If we don't embrace it, we risk missing on important change,” he told the entrepreneurs, adding that if Africa doesn’t grow, France and the rest of the world will hardly achieve its growth targets.
The French president also argued that the private sector is the answer to some of Africa's biggest problems.
This speaks directly to Tony Elumelu’s push for what he termed as 'Africapitalism', a philosophy to advocate for the continent's private sector to take lead in transforming Africa's economies.
President Macron is the youngest president to ever lead France. His rise to the top political position, he said, was the fact that too many people discouraged him and doubted his ability to be a president.
“But there is no one way for success. Take a risk and never stop at the first failure. No one succeeds without taking a risk,” Macron noted.
President Macron's presence in Nigeria and his meeting with Elumelu, marked an important validation to the latter's rise as a notable African philanthropist.
In 2015, the mogul committed USD100 million, which according to him, could generate nearly USD10 billion revenues to Africa's economies in the next 10 years.
According to the foundation, about 4,250 African brightest entrepreneurs, including Rwandans, have been empowered through the Foundation, indicating the level at which Elumelu is edging closer to his dream to institutionalize luck and democratize access to finance.
But Elumelu's long-term target is to change the current narrative that many people have towards Africa and Africa's entrepreneurship landscape.
“We want France to know that the 21st century Africa is not the Africa we used to know years ago,” Elumelu told the French President on the same flour amidst loud cheers from the enthusiastic entrepreneurs.
Tony Elumelu said the collaboration between the French President and our Foundation is a result of Macron’s recognition that African entrepreneurs are the key to Africa’s economic transformation and his desire to connect with and elevate the voices of future leaders.