By: Anthony Sedzro
Tony Elumelu, the Founder and Group Chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, has said that the task of developing Africa is in the hands of Africans alone.
According to him, Africans, especially the youth, must come up with home-grown, bottom-up solutions to solve the continent’s many problems and not rely on Western donors to develop the continent.
Tony Elumelu, who is also the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, a pan-African investment group, was speaking to hundreds of students, young entrepreneurs, youths and academics at the R.S. Amegashie Auditorium, University of Ghana Business School (UGBS), Legon on March 14.
Elumelu, who has developed an economic concept called “Africapitalism”, said the entrepreneurship journey is a bitter-sweet one, yet, becoming an entrepreneur helps to transform communities and nations. He recalled that at the beginning of his own entrepreneurial journey, there was no internet so the students were at more advantage today with the resources that the internet offers, and are, therefore, better positioned to optimally harness their energy, innovation and ideas to become successful entrepreneurs and leave legacies behind.
Tony Elumelu was visiting Ghana as his first stop on his tour of Africa to propagate the idea of Africapitalism.
The serial entrepreneur who at the young age of 34, became the Managing Director of one of Nigeria’s top banks (Standard Trust Bank), reiterated the usefulness of preparedness. He explained the qualities that make a successful entrepreneur. ‘The first is dedication, then vison, focus, ambition, and our ability to do things when we want to do them. We must always remain laser focused and aim to execute to perfection,’ Elumelu said.
These are some of the qualities that enabled Elumelu lead one of the biggest mergers in Nigeria’s history to date. Today, UBA is amongst the top 3 banks in the country and rapidly growing in Africa. According to Elumelu, ‘I saw us grow a bank from 5 branches to 1000 branches with presence in 19 African countries and in Paris, London and New York. The lesson here is start small, have a purpose, be disciplined, think long term’
He went on further to stress that entrepreneurship – not philanthropy – is key to achieving poverty reduction and empowering Africans to solve their challenges without dependence on aid from western countries.
In his words: “No one but us are going to develop Africa…The development of Africa is up to Africans. Donors and partners can help but, the work of developing our nations is ours.”
One of the key benefits of Africapitalism is reflected in the achievements of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme which is an example of how Africans can solve their own problems via entrepreneurship.
The goal of the yearly programme is to invest $100 million over the next 10 years to identify, train, mentor and seed 10,000 African businesses, with a view to creating one million new jobs and $10 billion in additional revenue for the continent by “democratising and institutionalising luck”. He concluded that “Only in Africa is our story even possible.”
Earlier during the working visit, on Monday, Tony Elumelu met with the President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo where they held fruitful discussions on matters of mutual benefit as well as deliberated on issues geared towards the growth and development of finance and entrepreneurship in Ghana.
“I am delighted to be on this historic visit to Ghana which has been a shining light of UBA’s business across Africa. It was a great opportunity to meet with and congratulate the newly elected president of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo and to extend our readiness to partner with his administration in the rapid development of Ghana and Africa at large,” the UBA Chairman proudly spoke of his meeting with Ghana’s President. He told his aspiring young audience at Legon, with a very sincere candour, what his meeting with them meant to him: “It has was also an honour to meet with young and vibrant Students and share my Vision of Africapitalism.”