The Keynote address at the Coca-Cola Global Leadership Team Meeting
“Harnessing Africa’s Talent Potential & Entrepreneurial Mindset to Fuel Growth”
(November 05, 2019)
- Good afternoon all;
- Talent is not hard to find in Africa – nor is dedication, nor ideas, nor discipline – the components of entrepreneurial success.
- That is not in question.
- Just look around – take Lagos – a city of 20m entrepreneurs. You have seen our young on the streets, selling, negotiating – often in the hardest of conditions – but striving for success.
- Probably only in Lagos do you see books by Michael Porter, my old mentor, Jack Welch and Jim Collins for sale by street vendors – along – of course – with Coke and Fanta.
- But how do we harness that raw talent – drive it in the right direction – channel it for the greater good.
- 60% of our population is below the age of 25, we have the youngest workforce in the world – and most mobile. This mobility can sometimes create tragedy as our young are driven across the Mediterranean – talent can turn to crime or extremism.
- If nurtured, our youth population has the potential to create businesses that will contribute not only to economic growth – create jobs for millions of other African youth – but also anchor families, provide for communities, creating sustainable growth.
- The issues to address are a stifling operating environment, access to capital and investment, and mentoring and training.
- I invest in African youth and businesses every day, through The Tony Elumelu Foundation.
- We fund, train and mentor young Africans. But we also engage with government – demonstrating them where opportunity lies – putting our most senior leaders face to face with a new generation.
- We provide tools – designed for Africa and delivered on a cutting edge platform – required to grow ideas and nascent businesses.
- We created the largest online platform for African entrepreneurs – TEF Connect – which brings together over [500,000] people across our continent. We break down barriers, create networks, open minds to collaboration, as well as offer access to investors for second-stage funding.
- Young Africans do not need aid or handouts – I repeat – our young people need investment, and that is the message we champion at The Tony Elumelu Foundation.
- We look particularly at the SME sector – In Africa, we have to encourage the growth of SMEs – only they have the catalytic ability to create jobs and wealth in communities and lift our people out of poverty – on the scale and in the places – rural and urban – where change needs to occur.
- Historically, our governments have sought to develop through the public sector. This has to change.
- We know there is only so much that government can achieve through direct job creation and it is the private sector’s responsibility and role to lead the way in the sustained creation of wealth – and the broader social benefits that flow from a vibrant private sector.
- In our programme, we are acting forcefully to remedy this – but we can all do so much more.
- I have a philosophy – Africapitalism – it champions a private sector led approach to the development of the continent through long term investments that create economic prosperity and social wealth.
We need to create both economic and social wealth!
- We need the private sector in Africa, African Governments and Policy Makers, Development Partners, all working together to create the right environment and give hope to our young ones so that the so called talent – can be realised for the development of Africa.
- In 2019, over 300,000 people applied for just a 1,000 spaces on our programme.
- Let me here, commend UNDP, GIZ, US Embassy, ICRC, for their support to young African’s through their sponsorship with our Foundation.
- I hope that Coca-Cola will join in this crucial mission of helping Africa to realise its full potential by harnessing our talents.
- Simple to say – but we are implementing in practice – I look forward to all in this room sharing the burden and reaping the opportunity.
Tony O. Elumelu, CON
Chairman, United Bank for Africa
Chairman, Heirs Holdings
Founder, Tony Elumelu Foundation