Local innovators laud TEF entrepreneurship programme for supporting start-ups


Yvette Ishimwe (right), of Iriba Clean Water Delivery, and other two enterprising Rwandan youth attended last year's forum. (File)

The annual Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Forum will go a long way in helping enterprising Rwandans to improve their skills and contribute to job and wealth-creation in the country. 

David Irakoze, one of last year’s TEF beneficiaries, said the programme trains entrepreneurs the philosophy of creating jobs not just for themselves but also the entire community.

“The entire programme is designed in a way that participants get to understand the philosophy of creating jobs for communities. We learn how to generate revenues, manage customer portfolio, create equitable business and market entry techniques,” Irakoze, from the Class 2016, said.

The young entrepreneur is the brain behind Digiskool, a school management system app designed for primary and secondary level education institutions that provides comprehensive and enriched school management functions in real-time. The third edition of the TEF forum kicks off tomorrow in Lagos, Nigeria. The event that is, for the first time, open to non-TEF entrepreneurs, including small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), ends on October 14.

It will bring together 1,300 African entrepreneurs, business leaders and policy-makers from all the 54 African countries. Twenty-three Rwandan entrepreneurs will benefit from this year’s programme, up from 20 start-ups last year and 15 innovators in 2015.

Class of 2017 participants

Most of the Rwandan innovators in the TEF Class of 2017 are agricultural entrepreneurs, while ICT-related projects are second and others are from sectors like manufacturing, education, transport and environmental conservation.

Andrew Mugabe, one of this year’s beneficiaries, said that being part of the programme changed his perception toward entrepreneurship, particularly business development.

“The programme has a unique approach and by the time one completes the 12-week online training, they are well-equipped to venture into the entrepreneurship world and do business better,” said the agri-business and farming entrepreneur.

He said the programme teaches a range of things, from business development techniques to designing an idea from scratch, and designing business plans and financial proposals.

Dominique Uwase Alonga, an author and entrepreneur, is another Class of 2017 participant.

“I believe the TEF entrepreneurship programme is the most relevant African initiative because it supports efforts geared at making the continent self-reliant and entrepreneurial,” said Uwase, who runs ImagineWe Rwanda, a non-governmental organisation and publishing house.

Catalyst for Africa’s entrepreneurship devt

The foundation’s long-term investment in empowering African entrepreneurs is emblematic of Tony Elumelu’s philosophy of Africapitalism, which positions the continent’s private sector and entrepreneurs as the catalysts to drive socio-economic development of the continent.

The $100 million 10-year initiative targets to empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs over the period. He noted that the 3,000 entrepreneurs that have participated in the programme over the past three years have created “tens of thousands of jobs and generated considerable wealth.”

“We have unleashed the continent’s most potent development force since launching the programme and committing $100 million to empower entrepreneurs,” said TEF founder Tony Elumelu, one of Africa’s top billionaires in a statement.

Parminder Vir, the TEF chief executive, said in the statement that opening up the programme to the full pan-African entrepreneurship ecosystem would give SMEs a platform to “network, share knowledge, connect with investors and corporate supply chains, as well as influence policy-makers and business leaders” which will help boost intra-Africa trade.

The two-day event will feature plenary discussions, sector specific networking opportunities, as well as policy-led talks aimed at improving the enabling environment for African businesses, among others. Other participants include representatives of international finance corporations, Heads of States and government, aid organisations, and entrepreneurs.

How TEF entrepreneurship programme works

The 1,000 selected participants from across the continent undergo a 12-week online training which introduces the entrepreneurs to diverse issues to sharpen their entrepreneurship capacities.

The programme culminates in the TEF Entrepreneurship Forum that brings together participants in Lagos to discuss sector issues, share experiences and network.