Founder's Letter

As an African, I see and have seen firsthand –right from my youth – the linkage between the environment, poverty, and climate. I come from the Niger Delta region of Nigeria and, growing up, I witnessed directly how environmental degradation and tragedy lead to a human and health tragedy.

When my wife and I created the Tony Elumelu Foundation in 2010, we aimed to empower and improve young lives in a catalytic fashion, in a manner that helps Africa to develop from within. We believe that no one but us will develop Africa. We know where the shoe pinches us and how it feels. Thirteen years later, we are so excited to see these young Africans that we’ve supported over the years – how energetic they are, and how excited they are to contribute their own quota in helping to change and improve lives on the continent.

We see the devastating impact of climate change on the continent. We see how its negative impact is depriving lives and livelihoods. We see floods. We see famine. We see desertification. We see disease. The prevalence of malaria is increasing because of the changing temperatures and harsh weather conditions. Malaria control has become more difficult than ever. Indeed, we cannot talk about the economic development of Africa without combating climate change.

Joblessness is a betrayal of young Africans. Youth joblessness remains a major issue on the continent. The disastrous impact of climate change is worsening joblessness. We read and hear about the problem of emigration of young ones from Africa to Europe under very harsh conditions. We must ask ourselves why they do that. Because they’re driven by poverty; they’re driven by joblessness, they’re driven by the fact that there’s no hope for tomorrow, so they’d rather die crossing the Mediterranean than sitting back on the continent and having no jobs.

This is the tragedy of our lifetime. We need to collaboratively work together – development agencies, governments, and the global private sector. How do we create jobs for our young people? How can we improve the economic and human conditions on the African continent?

How do we achieve this in the face of climate impact? If you want to go fast, you go alone. If you want to go far, you go with people. For this to succeed, we need a coalition, a global coalition, a North–South coalition. We need our women, our young ones, our private sector, development agencies, and government, all of us coming together to propagate and let the world know, as we see every day in our respective communities, that climate change is real. It has a telling impact on health. It has a significant impact on joblessness. It has huge impact on security.

People who are deprived of their economic opportunities take to extremism. I have seen this firsthand. Extremism is being fuelled by poverty and escalated by desertification. If you look at the Sahel region of Africa, a region that suffers most from the brunt of climate change, insecurity is highest there. Our youth in Africa currently live in one of the world’s most challenging and complex contexts. We must mobilise as leaders across the public and private sectors to address the critical role of youth in contributing to peace, security, stability, and economic growth in Africa.

The young people of the continent, specifically the energetic and dynamic entrepreneurs, present the best opportunity to catalyse sustainable economic development for Africa’s emergence. The success of our young African entrepreneurs will engender the rise of the African middle class. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the world: nearly 60% of the working population are self-employed or employers and we must harness this potential for the socioeconomic development of the continent.

The Tony Elumelu Foundation’s catalytic approach to job creation empowers young entrepreneurs in the 54 countries on the continent by providing seed capital, training, and mentoring. Our more than 19,000 young African entrepreneurs who have been funded with US$ 5,000 seed capital and received business training and mentorship have directly and indirectly created 400,000 jobs across the continent. Through our TEFConnect.com platform, we have given access to business management training content to 1.5 million young Africans on the continent.

We understand the role of entrepreneurship in building climate resilience. Entrepreneurs and their innovative ideas can help to solve the climate crisis facing the continent – a dangerous combination of carbon emissions, environmental degradation, and global warming. Green entrepreneurship and agripreneurship play critical roles in driving a greener and more sustainable mindset as well as offering innovative solutions to environmental issues, and we must include the people behind these ventures to be able to attain climate equity on the granular level. More than 1,500 Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurs run small businesses addressing environmental issues, in sectors ranging from energy/power generation to waste management. Entrepreneurs from Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya have so far developed the most eco -friendly and sustainability-conscious businesses.

Our latest impact report shows our approach and achievement in the green space. The green businesses that we have supported have collectively created nearly 10,000 decent jobs. 
As many as 84% of our TEF alumni have taken measures to minimise carbon emissions in their operations. A total of 91% of all our entrepreneurs are actively reducing waste in their business practices. Through our programmes and innovative approaches, we are making strides towards realising our vision of a self-reliant and prosperous continent. But we must do more.

We look forward to further partnerships with like-minded partners committed to empowering young African entrepreneurs. As they say, if you want to go fast, you go alone. If you want to go far, you go with people. It’s about partnership, it’s about unity, it’s about all of us realising that there is so much to do in empowering young ones on the African continent. One institution, one Foundation cannot do it alone; we need the power of collaboration, we need the power of partnership. We must play our part to make the world a better place for everyone because poverty anywhere is a threat to all of us everywhere.


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