By Martha Agama
125 Ugandans were among the 1470 entrepreneurs from 54 African countries who received the 2018 seed grant from the Tony Elemelu Entrepreneurship Foundation. A batch of both male and female business talent with innovative ideas ranging from technology, agribusiness, transport and waste management, were selected, trained rigorously and awarded $5,000 (approximately Ugx18.8m) grant seed capital each through the United Bank of Africa (UBA).
5,000 African entrepreneurs, private and public sector leaders and the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem convened in Lagos on Thursday, October 25, 2018 for the annual Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Forum. This large entrepreneurship gathering brought together young business talent, created dynamic networks and transmitted the message to policymakers that a vibrant and responsible private sector can deliver the economic transformation needed to eradicate poverty in Africa.
Addressing the gathering, the founder of the Tony Elemelu Foundation stressed the need to empower the youth so that they can steer the continent towards greater success. “Our Foundation and its unique approach of training, mentoring and funding has proven that entrepreneurship is the key to unlocking economic transformation of our continent. I believe so strongly that success can be democratized and if we can match ambition to opportunities, this extraordinary generation can achieve anything,” said Tony Elumelu.
Now in its fourth year, the Forum marked the graduation of the 2018 cohort of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, following a rigorous nine-month period of training, mentorship and funding, which brought the total number of beneficiaries of the Programme to 4,470, with over 300,000 applications received since its inception. The Entrepreneurship is meant to a 10 year project, training and mentoring 1000 entrepreneurs each year. Other humanitarian organisations such as ICRC, UNDP, GIZ have also joined to partner with the Tony Elemelu Foundation and sponsor additional entrepreneurs from conflict states.
Vincent Nsereko of Ziimart limited, an online platform that links farmers with investors was one of the innovative business ideas that featured in this year’s cohort. Ziimart ensures that farmers are capacitated to produce on larger scale by providing the necessary capital for farm inputs through investors. “Before we list any investment option on the platform, we have to pilot the investment and this is where the Tony Elemelu Fund will enable us pilot more more investments and improve the website to be more responsive.” Said Nsereko
His Excellency, President Nana Akudo-Addo of Ghana called on public sector representatives to encourage, support and replicate the work of the Tony Elumelu Foundation in their respective regions. Speaking on the importance of putting the right policies in place, President Nana Akufo-Addo said: “Nothing is changed or developed on its own. People must get up, speak, have discussions and change the dialogue”.
One of the highlights was the unveiling of TEFConnect, an open source digital platform that will provide tools and content to bring together the complete entrepreneurship ecosystem across Africa and beyond, including entrepreneurs, investors and the broader business community. A digital connection with three vital elements for success – capital, market and business tools.
Tony Elumelu reiterated his commitment to championing Africa’s economic development by supporting and training a new generation of entrepreneurs, whose successes can transform the continent, delivering opportunity, job creation and social impact. ‘Africa’s future is in African hands’ he stated.
“With TEFConnect, we have created a tool, that provides a digital platform to host ideas, champion success and demonstrate Africans ability to use the most advanced technologies to take charge of their economic destinies.” Tony Elemelu concluded.