As we’ve previously announced, The Tony and Awele Elumelu Prize for Academic Excellence is soon to be discontinued to allow a focus on entrepreneurship through the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP). However, as we close-out this programme, we continue to have meaningful sessions with our awardees and respective Universities and have experienced first-hand the impact that such support has had on communities. With TEEP our aim is to deepen that impact through job creation and economic empowerment.
On Saturday 7th November, The Tony Elumelu Foundation was in Conakry, Guinea, for a very special prize-giving ceremony at the Kofi Annan University. The University is one of the largest in Guinea and boasts over 10,000 students and unique resources including a Professional Institute which specialises in vocational training for students to ensure they’re equipped for the business world. We saw many parallels between the University’s focus and the focus of the Foundation. Here are just some of the many highlights from the trip:
We arrived in Conakry and were immediately struck by the lush green and welcoming ambiance of the city and indeed the staff of the Kofi Annan University, who were wonderful hosts. We were pleased to be presenting the school with its first ever international prize for its student.
We went to the University and had a pre-meeting with the 6 awardees for academic excellence. The students mostly spoke French, and with translation help from the head of the University training department, Mr Blancherie, we were able to have rich discussions about the Guinean education system and the importance of entrepreneurship. Many of the students had entrepreneurial ambitions including poultry farming, plastic fabrications and grain farming. This was encouraging to hear and they all agreed that they would apply for the 2016 cycle of TEEP.
The students were also pleased to have a brief interaction with Gabriel Curtis, MD, Investment Promotion Agency of Guinea (APIP). We shared some of the insights from our earlier session with him, and he stated that this was the perfect timing, as his agency is currently working on establishing enterprise hubs in regions across Guinea to encourage enterprise development in the Country.
Later in the afternoon, it was time for the prize-giving ceremony which is the most culturally rich we have ever experienced at a University! The audience, which comprised of faculty members, students, family and friends, were treated to authentic Guinean entertainment through music, dance and oration. Our awardees also got on stage an happily participated in the festivities.
The Foundation presented each awardee with a plaque and $1,400 USD for Undergraduate students and $2,800 USD for Postgraduate students.
All of the recipients attended the ceremony with family and friends and there was certainly an air of jubilation. For many of our students, the funds will go towards further education, resources such as books and as seed capital for their businesses.
Maxim Sabin Dopavogui, winner of the award for Best Graduating Student across all subjects told us of his dream of going to Harvard to lecture. Maxime quickly became a local celebrity and his friends flocked the stage to show their support.
After the colourful ceremony, we had time for a quick snap with the CEO of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Guinea, Franck Goore. The UBA team were on hand to lend their support and emphasise the great work that the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs from TEEP 2015 have been doing. Despite the prize discontinuing, we are confident that partnerships, such as between UBA and Kofi Annan University will be just part of the lasting effects that will encourage private-sector lead development across Africa.