For many, 2020 was the year of irreparable shock. Shock to systems, livelihoods, economies. In a time riddled with crisis, tension and uncertainty, people had to rely on the new fundamentals of survival.
Global leaders had to reconsider how to handle globalization. Experts and policy leaders addressed socio-economic risks, and the vulnerability of global society was revealed. Leaving millions of people around the world conflicted, confused, and isolated.
While 2020 was a defining year like none before it, our Founder and Africa’s most prominent philanthropist, Tony Elumelu, championed initiatives to cushion the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that threatened socio-economic activities in Africa and shared his vision for the continent post-health crisis.
Here are 10 things 2020 taught and reinforced for us:
- Mobilizing support for Africa will always be a priority: For our Founder, it was imperative to respond immediately to the COVID-19 Pandemic. He was among the first to catalyse pan-African Covid-19 recovery efforts, with a US$14 million donation through the United Bank for Africa Foundation, to governments across Africa in order to quickly galvanise its own recovery and ensure people, businesses, lives and livelihoods were protected.
- When it comes to empowering entrepreneurs, the show must go on: Through our digital platform, TEFConnect.com, a stronger network of African entrepreneurs was achieved in 2020. Our founder’s rationale to use Africa’s natural resources to power Africa, create African-based value chains and ensure Africa-based value creation led to the training and equipping of thousands of entrepreneurs throughout the lockdown. This is proof that when it comes to entrepreneurship, there is no stopping us.
- There is power in partnerships: Through strategic partnerships, we were able to extend our reach, leveraging all our robust digital platforms and processes in 2020. Imagine the impact of supporting more than 2,500 women entrepreneurs at a time, providing gender-sensitive entrepreneurship training, as well as seed capital for these African female businesses to navigate through the start-up and early growth phases. This was made possible by a €20 million partnership with the European Commission and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS). In addition, we partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and launched the TEF-UNDP Mali Entrepreneurship Programme to train, mentor, and fund 10,000 young Malian entrepreneurs, over a 3-year period.
- Always leverage technology: Not only has our Founder provided innovative, sustainable vehicles over the years to grow African businesses, but he also continues to show unwavering support for entrepreneurship, particularly through TEFConnect, – the largest digital community for African entrepreneurs. A Platform that cuts across borders, culture, language, and sectors; keeping African entrepreneurs connected with technology.
- Private-Sector leadership should always be in action: Even prior to the crisis, we knew that lack of financial access was the single biggest hindrance to both the establishment of new African enterprises and the growth of existing ones within the private sector. Our vision for a stable and competitive private sector as a prerequisite to economic prosperity remained a priority through 2020.
- More attention is needed in women’s economic participation: The statistics on female entrepreneurship in Africa are chastening – women make up 58% of the continent’s self-employed population yet earn 34% less in profits on average, with an estimated $20B financing gap for African women. We believe that more women participating in economic development will certainly accelerate economic inclusion.
- Sometimes what needs to be done is to listen: Listening to entrepreneurs across Africa has led us to redefine business training content for them. In alignment with our founder’s core objective to empower entrepreneurs, a bespoke curriculum for beginner, intermediate and advanced entrepreneurs were curated so that they could be appropriately assisted within their own knowledge pathway.
- Entrepreneurs remain a catalyst for the social and economic development of Africa: With African SMEs accounting for 90 per cent of all businesses in Africa, we remain committed to championing advocacy efforts with policymakers, governments and Heads of States at every opportunity that arises both at home in Africa and globally. Just like our founder says, entrepreneurship is the singular most effective tool for creating jobs and fostering poverty eradication.
- Resilience is needed to empower African entrepreneurs: As we reach our goal of empowering 10,000 entrepreneurs ahead of time, our focus will accelerate to reach and impact thousands more. At the peak of the pandemic, we curated world-class business management training with institutions such as Yale University. We also introduced high-level project management skills and mental health coping mechanisms to African entrepreneurs, encouraging them to take care of their mind, body, and spirit, as well as assisting them in restructuring their businesses for the new normal.
- Everyone matters: Even as voices from Africa, Europe, and several International Organizations continue to relay the importance of thinking beyond the pandemic, none is as loud and inclusive as our Founder’s. According to him, no true transformation is possible without the inclusion of everyone. The magic of philanthropy is that one changed life impacts many more people, and his practice of advocacy will continue to promote value and self-appreciation for the African identity.