Rwandans urged to compete for Tony Elumelu entrepreneurship funding

The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) this week started receiving applications for business ideas that can transform Africa, and Rwandan entrepreneurs have been urged to be part of this year’s programme.
A local entrepreneur makes shoes. (File)
A local entrepreneur makes shoes. (File)

The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) this week started receiving applications for business ideas that can transform Africa, and Rwandan entrepreneurs have been urged to be part of this year’s programme.

The programme is a 10-year, US$100 million commitment to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 African entrepreneurs by 2024, established by Nigerian philanthropist and investor Tony Elumelu. Participants get a 12-weeks intensive online training about creating and managing a business.

TEF, arguably Africa’s largest philanthropy that support entrepreneurship, is now in its fourth year, and previous beneficiaries from Rwanda have said that it is important for more Rwandans to apply and stand a chance to win seed capital and benefit from associated training.

Frank Mugarura, who is a 2016 fellow, said that the programme is beneficial in a sense that being part of it helps one realise that Africa is full of people who can change the current narrative about the continent.

“After the 12 weeks trainning, you get to view Africa in a completely different image. The programme helps you understand that Africans have potential but lack support and motivation. This is why I think more local entrepreneurs need to apply,” Mugarura of Gravity Rwanda, a branding and marketing creative agency that links SMEs to their target markets, told The New Times.

Mugarura who is also a leader of TEF Rwanda Hub revealed that this year the hub is planning to organise campaigns that will see them reach more Rwandans to explain to them why they should be part of the programme.

“We are planning to organise awareness campaigns with Rwanda Development Board to facilitate both rural and urban entrepreneurs to apply. But our focus will be on rural entrepreneurs who hardly get access to these opportunities. We are targeting to have at least 100 participants from Rwanda,” he said.

For the previous editions, Rwanda has had a few participants compared to other countries. Last year, only 23 startups were selected, while 20 entrepreneurs and 15 entrepreneurs were selected in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

Beyond the US$5,000 (about Rwf4.2 million) non-returnable seed capital, Yvette Ishimwe of Clean Water Delivery startup, said there are a number of skills that early entrepreneurs would need to build their business.

“Tony Elumelu gave us unique skills that every early entrepreneur would need to build thier business idea. This is what is exceptional from many other initiatives. Of course the money is not small as it helps you expand the idea or the business,” she said.

Another entrepreneur, Andrew Mugabe, who was part of last year’s programme, disclosed that the money was already disbursed and that he is currently working to finalise his concept.

“But what is important is that we have created so many partnerships that can help our business grow beyond borders,” he noted.

So far, TEF has provided about US$15 million to 3,000 African entrepreneurs for the past three years.

Elumelu said in a statement that the idea is to gather Africa’s best and brightest entrepreneurs to learn and grow their businesses, adding that the programme has “unleashed a movement of African entrepreneurs, a force so strong, so inspiring, that I am confident they will collectively transform Africa.”

This year 1,000 entrepreneurs will be selected based on the viability of their idea, including market opportunity, financial understanding, scalability, and leadership and entrepreneurial skills demonstrated in the application.

Parminder Vir OBE, the foundation’s chief executive who was in Rwanda in December, encouraged more women to apply, saying that it is high time that African women realise their business dreams.

To apply, one has to complete the online application at;  The deadline is midnight on March 1, 2018.