The third annual Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Forum concluded in Nigeria, on Sunday, with a call by different leaders and speakers on private sector players to embrace Africapitalism to drive Africa’s transformation.
Africapitalism is an economic concept that was first coined by Nigerian philanthropist, ex-banker and founder of TEF, Tony O. Elumelu to encourage Africa’s private sector players to take up the leading role in accelerating Africa’s development.
During the two-day forum, which convened more than 1,000 entrepreneurs from different African countries, business leaders in different spheres reiterated this call, arguing that the future of Africa’s development agenda will depend on its private sector.
Addressing the gathering, Lamin Manneh, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Service Centre for Africa Director, said there is a need to change Africa’s development paradigm through investment and entrepreneurship.
“Supporting the private sector is critical in realising the development targets, predominantly through entrepreneurship. We have to give more attention and support to emerging African entrepreneurs to address poverty, inequality and unemployment challenges facing the continent,” he said.
He added that investing in Africa’s emerging entrepreneurs will, not only help address inequality, but also stimulate innovative thinking among the youth and help in developing local solutions to local development challenges on the continent.
Manneh, who’s the former One UN representative in Rwanda, also said that investing in entrepreneurship will spur industrialisation and cause structural transformation in Africa and hence bring about shared prosperity across the continent.
Speaking at the forum, Sam Nwanze, the chief investment officer at Heirs Holdings, challenged private companies to take the lead in Africa’s development journey, saying that’s the only sure way to ensure sustainable development on the continent.
“We practice what we are talking about here at Heirs Holdings. We make investments that create both economic and development impact. This is how much private investments can work,” he noted.
Heirs Holdings is Tony Elumelu’s proprietary investment company with interests in financial services, power, oil and gas, real estate and hospitality, as well healthcare across Africa.
Elumelu, through the foundation, committed $100 million to empower young innovative African start-ups for the next 10 years.“We did this because at the core of the foundation’s mission is the belief that young entrepreneurs are that class of catalytic entrepreneurs which the continent needs to progress,” he said during the forum.
He said the goal is to build a continent, where all Africans can fulfil their potential and attain self-reliance instead of depending on hand-outs.
Supporting the next generation
The philanthropist said their commitment is aligned to the understanding of the immense role that young people would play in the private sector once they are empowered, which would contribute significantly to developing the continent.
“Africa’s development, which must be private sector-led and entrepreneurially driven, will have at its heart young African innovators and their transformative ideas. Only they will create the millions of jobs Africa needs,” he noted.
“We have committed to invest in the next generation of African entrepreneurs because we believe they are the right definition of Africapitalism. We are experiencing the transformative people of private capital in changing the lives of individuals and their communities,” he added.
The initiative is benefiting thousands of African entrepreneurs who most of the times struggle with lack of capital and enough skills to run businesses on the continent.
Rwandan beneficiaries speak out
Already, there is an increasing number of Rwandan emerging entrepreneurs who are benefiting from the programme. Frank Mugarura is one of the local beneficiaries that participated in the just concluded forum in Lagos.
Mugarura runs Gravity Rwanda, a branding and marketing creative agency that links SMEs to their target markets, a startup that he created barely two years ago after graduating from University of Rwanda’s then Kigali Institute of Science and Technology now College of Science and Technology.
Being part of the event that brings together entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers in one room, he said, presents the reality of what can be achieved and “tells a story of what Africa is capable of achieving”. Mugarura and his team have managed to raise up to $30,000 (about Rwf25.7 million) in less than two years.
“Through our services of design and small format printing of the branding and marketing materials I managed to raise Gravity’s net worth from $500 to $30,000. Today, we are moving towards large format printing, where we plan to invest an addition $30,000 to buy large format printing equipment that will help us to grow from a monthly net profit of $700 to $3000,” he said. He argued that Elumelu’s philosophy to empower entrepreneurs truly gives a new perception about the bigger role they have in helping their countries realise their development agendas.
Mugarura’s story is a story of other many Tony Elumelu entrepreneurs from Rwanda whose ideas are slowly becoming reality. Some 23 Rwandan startups that will benefit from the programme. The aim is to create 10,000 start-ups, one million jobs that will generate $10 billion in revenue growth across the continent.
The just concluded forum, which involved plenary panels and masterclasses, provided the Class of 2017 entrepreneurs a platform to network and connect with business leaders, policymakers and investors. The forum also witnessed multiple partnerships between United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Foundation, and Agence française de développement (AFD), the French bilateral development bank, and TEF.