The 2022 Tony Elumelu Foundation Annual Letter
The Tony Elumelu Foundation, the leading philanthropy empowering a new generation of African entrepreneurs, has trained over 1.5 million young Africans on its digital hub, TEFConnect, and disbursed nearly USD$100 million in direct funding to 18,000 African women and men, who have collectively created over 400,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The Foundation’s mission is deeply rooted in Africapitalism, which positions the private sector, and most importantly entrepreneurs, as the catalyst for the social and economic development of the African continent.
When we launched the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme in 2015, just about 20,000 young women and men across all 54 countries on the African continent applied for an opportunity to receive funding, mentorship, training, and access to global networks and markets, from the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
We saw a 2000% increase from the application figures in 2015, receiving over 400,000 applications in 2022 alone! This figure has risen dramatically each year, as we open up applications for our annual flagship entrepreneurship programme. This reinforces the key fact that now more than ever, entrepreneurship is on the rise and more importantly, there is no better time to invest in African entrepreneurs than now.
Our African entrepreneurs, through their businesses, are demonstrating innovation and creativity in solving some of Africa’s most intractable challenges.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation remains committed to driving poverty eradication, ensuring jobs creation, and increasing women’s economic empowerment.
To vividly illustrate the impact of our entrepreneurship programme on the African entrepreneurial ecosystem, we present to you our most recent impact report, which showcases how our entrepreneurs are improving lives and transforming communities in all 54 countries across Africa.
Somachi Chris-Asoluka | Chief Executive Officer
The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship program’s alignment with the needs of entrepreneurship program participants and donor priorities was assessed through an evaluation of participant satisfaction and the achievement of planned outputs such as enabling participants to start their businesses. The program was found to be highly relevant to TEF entrepreneurship program participants who expressed enthusiasm for all aspects of the program and found it helpful. Participants also reported that the program was effective and well-organized in delivering content and funding.
In addition to specific business skills training, participants benefited from increased confidence and self-efficacy through participation in the program. An overwhelming majority of participants were satisfied with the program and would recommend it to friends, with 98% reporting increased confidence in their ability to run a business. The program provided opportunities for interaction and collaboration with other entrepreneurs, important indicators of a strong entrepreneurship ecosystem. 96% of participants reported that the program provided opportunities to interact with others facing similar challenges while 95% believed that selection criteria were clear and fair.
The programme ensures a fair and inclusive selection process and is effective in delivering all components. 94% of participants agreed that seed funding was disbursed as promised and training activities were on time. 88% reported that TEF was available to troubleshoot issues and 78% received certification as promised. Participants view the program as organized and responsive to the needs of African entrepreneurs. The foundation’s commitment to improving entrepreneurship capacity has resulted in increased knowledge and skill building, platform accessibility, and overall quality of the training program. The majority of TEF entrepreneurship program participants report that the training increased their knowledge and strengthened their business management skills. 96% found that the training matched their expectations and the TEF platform was easy to use while 85% agreed that the quality of the training exceeded or met their expectations. Participants rate modules on business ownership and starting a business as the most useful and express high levels of satisfaction with the program’s content. By expanding their business capacity, TEF entrepreneurship program participants are targeting Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations such as quality education, industry innovation, infrastructure, and reduced inequalities. Over 90% reported increased confidence in running their business while 54% found funding adequate to start a business.
Access to funding continues to be a major challenge for entrepreneurs in Africa. Despite over 18,000 being funded by the program, only 54% of entrepreneurship program participants report that TEF funding was adequate for starting their businesses. This suggests a need for more support to increase funding access so that entrepreneurship program participants receive adequate funding to sustain their businesses in the future.
The vastness of the TEF network and mentorship are particularly impactful as they provide access to people and specific knowledge that would otherwise be impossible. Program participants also note that the program has allowed for connections with like-minded and passionate entrepreneurs across countries and the continent. Several entrepreneurship program participants reference having a positive experience with their mentor and are eager to pay forward the experience by mentoring future entrepreneurs both within and outside of the TEF structure. Participants appreciate receiving real-world business advice from people who have undergone similar experiences and challenges. Having a mentor who can speak to industry-specific standards and country-specific policy can greatly impact the helpfulness of the mentorship relationship.
The impact of the TEF program is assessed based on its contribution to the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Africa. Industry indicators are used to inform qualitative and quantitative instruments and measure how the program contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) created by the United Nations (UN). These goals aim to end poverty and encourage economic growth. Learnings from the program also feed into policy and entrepreneurship from organizations such as the World Economic Forum and Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.
Through partnerships, TEF has equipped program participants with the skills and mindset to establish and sustain businesses of various sizes in different industries. 84% of participants started the business they pitched to TEF, 91% still own these businesses, and 80% make revenue. Many business owners operate in industries such as agribusiness, ICT, commercial/retail, education/training, and fashion.
In countries with at least 10 TEF program participants reporting, the average reported annual profit was over 22X the average annual income per capita in that country. This suggests positive impacts on business development capacity for program participants.
Between 2015 and 2020, those who did not yet own a business were more likely to be selected as participants in the TEF program. This aligns with the program’s goals of encouraging new entrepreneurs and creating inclusive access to finance for emerging entrepreneurs. Since completing the program, 84% of TEF and partner program participants who did not yet own a business report starting the business they pitched to TEF. This indicates that the program significantly improves business ownership through training and funding.
Of those who already owned or started the business they pitched to TEF, 91% of TEF and partner program participants still own that business. This suggests that participants who received access to seed funding and mentorship were better equipped to establish and sustain their businesses. Additionally, 83% of TEF and partner program participants report being the main person in charge of their business’s day-to-day operations. This includes 85% of female participants, aligning with the program’s mission to empower female entrepreneurs. The majority of participants (87%) report that the program has increased their ability to provide for their families, with 69% reporting they can save more money to expand their businesses.
The TEF Programme’s sustainability is evaluated in terms of the entrepreneurs’ ability to start and grow their businesses over time and the program’s ability to maintain partnerships and serve a large number of participants. The program has been successful in creating optimism among participants about their future, with 88% confident in maintaining their business for the next year and 62% planning to improve their existing goods and services. Participants have also demonstrated their ability to adapt to digital technologies, improve production methods, introduce new goods and services, improve logistics methods, and change management practices. These actions show that they are active and market-responsive entrepreneurs who have received the necessary skills to sustain and expand their businesses. The program’s ability to maintain donors and serve a large number of participants in a diverse environment indicates its potential for long-term sustainability.
The program has been successful in supporting its participants in accessing relevant markets and expansion opportunities. 80% of participants reported adequate access to the market for their business and 73% have found new ways to reach their target market. The majority of participants have also had success with supply chain integration: 76% are suppliers to other businesses and 69% have partnered with a supplier. This indicates that these businesses have a steady source of supplies to meet their production needs. Moreover, 28% of participants have received awards or recognition for their businesses, implying that the program has helped entrepreneurs improve the quality of their products and services.
The growth outlook remains positive for the majority of these businesses. 69% recorded a significant increase in demand for their goods and services over the past six months. This suggests that the support provided by the program has helped to increase its visibility and accessibility to customers. High levels of optimism and confidence can lead to better decision-making and growth opportunities. To further increase their chances of success, many participants are adapting to the changing needs of their businesses in the next six months.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Program has made a significant contribution to empowering women and other marginalized groups in Africa. The program partnered with Google and Women Entrepreneurship for Africa (WE4A) to provide funding exclusively for women entrepreneurs. The TEF Program helps to empower individuals and businesses by developing their capacity and facilitating their engagement in income-generating activities. Most of the TEF-supported female entrepreneurship program participants (85%) report that they are the main person in charge of their business. Female entrepreneurship program participants funded by TEF and its partners are doing as well as male entrepreneurship program participants, indicating gender equality is a key indicator of business success.
The TEF Program is contributing to gender equality by employing impressive rates of women in their businesses. Over half of the entrepreneurship program participants’ current employees are female, up from 44% at the time of applying to TEF. Among the new jobs created by TEF-supported businesses, on average over half to two-thirds were filled by women and nearly one-third to one-half were filled by youth. This shows that the TEF Program is making a positive impact on both gender equality and youth employment.
The TEF Programme has had a positive impact on entrepreneurship ecosystems by providing seed funding to over 18,000 participants and enabling 23% of them to fund other entrepreneurs. This has contributed to the growth of businesses and economic development in their communities. Additionally, 58% of participants support charities in their community as a result of their business. The programme has also had a positive impact on human capital by enabling participants and their families to pursue further education. The support for building networks and partnerships is fostering a culture of collaboration in local entrepreneurship ecosystems and Africa at large.
The TEF Program places a strong emphasis on mentorship and networking to assist entrepreneurs in establishing and maintaining their businesses. According to the assessment, a majority of TEF entrepreneurship program participants (76%) are likely to seek advice from the TEF alumni network, although less than half (49%) have done so. Of those who have sought advice, 96% found it helpful. Reasons for not seeking advice include a lack of knowledge on how to do so (44%) and doubts about the usefulness of the advice (14%). Despite this, TEF entrepreneurship program participants have successfully developed professional networks and connections outside of the TEF alumni network. When comparing the TEF alumni network with non-TEF professional networks, it appears that entrepreneurship program participants are more likely to turn to non-TEF networks for business-related inquiries. Overall, the TEF Program’s focus on mentorship and networking has had a positive impact on entrepreneurship in Africa.
The TEF Programme is contributing to the UN’s first sustainable development goal of eradicating poverty by empowering entrepreneurs to provide for their families and create jobs. 87% of participants report that the programme has enhanced their ability to provide for their families and 76% state that their businesses are the primary source of income for their households. 80% of TEF-supported businesses generate revenue and make substantial profits. In countries with at least ten participants, the average annual profit of their businesses was more than 22 times the average annual income per capita. The programme has also helped new entrepreneurs start earning revenue and making profits more quickly than they otherwise would.
TEF-supported businesses contribute to poverty reduction by paying fair wages to their employees. In countries with the most entrepreneurship programme participants reporting, full-time employees make over three times their country’s average per capita income. In 15 out of 16 countries with the most TEF entrepreneurship programme participants reporting, the typical monthly earnings of full-time employees exceeded the average per capita income. As a result of TEF’s support, over 36,000 employees of TEF-supported businesses have been lifted out of poverty. The TEF Programme’s impact on poverty reduction is significant and helps towards achieving SDG 1.
The TEF Programme contributes to achieving the UN’s sustainable development goal of providing quality education for all in two ways. Firstly, the training provided by the TEF Programme equips entrepreneurship programme participants with the skills and knowledge required to start and grow their businesses. 96% reported feeling ready to start a business and 97% reported feeling ready to sustain and grow their business. The training was found to be the most effective aspect of the TEF Programme. Secondly, seed funding and resulting revenues from TEF-supported businesses have enabled entrepreneurship programme participants and their families to pursue further education. This has been possible for 76% of entrepreneurship programme participants and 46% of their family members. By providing education and training to entrepreneurs and their families, the TEF Programme is making a significant contribution towards achieving SDG 4: Quality Education.
The TEF Programme is making strides towards achieving the UN’s SDG 5: Gender Equality by breaking gender barriers and empowering women entrepreneurs. With a focus on funding women entrepreneurs, almost 39% of TEF’s entrepreneurship programme participants are women. 85% of female entrepreneurship programme participants are the primary decision-makers in their businesses and TEF-supported businesses boast impressive employment rates of women. Female entrepreneurship programme participants report making slightly more profit than their male counterparts. The TEF Programme’s efforts towards achieving gender equality are laudable.
TEF has helped new entrepreneurs across various sectors open, sustain and grow successful businesses. 84% of entrepreneurship programme participants opened the business they pitched to TEF and 91% still own the business they pitched. TEF’s impact on economic growth in Africa is evident in the success rate of TEF-supported businesses. The majority of entrepreneurship programme participants’ businesses have advanced to an intermediate or advanced stage and have made substantial profits.
The TEF Programme has contributed to the UN sustainable development goal of building resilient infrastructure and promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization. TEF has equipped entrepreneurship programme participants with access to markets and helped them integrate into a supply chain. However, some entrepreneurship programme participants heavily rely on friends and relatives as clients which may pose challenges to growth.
TEF support has helped many new entrepreneurs launch and sustain their businesses. TEF is creating a ripple effect with entrepreneurship programme participants providing seed funding to other entrepreneurs and contributing to charities or supporting causes in their communities. TEF is committed to creating a level playing field by selecting entrepreneurship programme participants from underrepresented groups such as women, young people, and those with disabilities. By doing so, TEF is helping to reduce inequalities and build a brighter future for all.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) is promoting a green economy and assisting businesses that tackle social and environmental problems. TEF achieves this through its training and selection of entrepreneurship programme participants. A majority of the entrepreneurship programme participants consider environmental sustainability objectives when planning and operating their businesses. For example, many aim to reduce waste and use sustainable materials, use solar power, and practice recycling. TEF has also successfully taught the entrepreneurship programme participants to be mindful of the potential impacts of climate change on their businesses.
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