Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Tony Elumelu CON, joined the Anglican Church of Nigeria Joshua Generation International Youth Conference as a keynote speaker for the event, themed ’Living with A Purpose” on April 6, 2021.
The event, which was organised by the Church of Nigerian (Anglican Church) and the Primate, The Most Rev’d Henry Ndukuba, The Archbishop, Metropolitan & Primate of All Nigeria sought to proffer solutions to advancing the state of African youths.
During the conference, Tony Elumelu emphasized the importance of youth empowerment and the role entrepreneurship and the private sector has in delivering a better future for Africa. He reflected deeply on the situation on the continent, calling to action young Africans to socio-economically transform the continent.
“We have 65% of all Africans below the age of 35 and many of these people are not gainfully employed. The Covid pandemic and resulting lockdowns have exposed the vulnerabilities in our population structure. We now have, as a continent, the largest young generation in history – this youthful population is Africa’s hope, it is our pride and it is our potential. The urgency and need to unlock the potential of this generation is imperative for the security of our collective future.”
He highlighted how the Tony Elumelu Foundation invests in structures, resources and platforms that empower entrepreneurs and enable them build businesses that are sustainable and add economic value to their communities.
“We are helping to give economic hope and opportunities to young Africans. And we speak not just as people that do this in Nigeria but in all 54 African countries, the TEF intervention cuts across all sectors and gender across the 54 African countries because we believe that prosperity should be shared as much as possible across board and that poverty anywhere is a threat to us all everywhere.”
On the essentials needed to improve the performance of SMEs in order to reduce unemployment on the continent, he identified the following:
Constant power supply: “We cannot have our SMEs spend their profits on buying power for their businesses, we need large scale infrastructural support to provide sustainable and constant power for our people. One of the major complaints we get from our TEF entrepreneurs is about a lack of access to electricity and how it takes a lot of their capital.
Tax friendly policies: “We need tax friendly policies that encourage our entrepreneurs, we need to reduce taxes for SMEs, and one must commend the Federal government, it has done good work in this area in terms of tax waivers for Micro-businesses, but still, much more is required.”
Access to finance: “We must access to finance; this is crucial, as young people have the ideas, what they lack is the training and financing needed for their businesses to take off. At the Tony Elumelu Foundation, we provide non-refundable seed capital for entrepreneurs.”
Employ more Africans: “Some labor is imported in Africa, doing things that we can have Africans do. By getting them employed, we are giving them a sense of self-dignity as they work and earn a living and by so doing, improving their families, the communities and contributing in their own way to the economic prosperity of the continent. I daresay that our young people want to be counted, they want to be part of the solution.”
Moral Rejuvenation and reorientation of young ones in Africa: “We need our young ones to embrace hard work, be disciplined, to believe that success comes from commitment, hard work and making sacrifices. Our young ones must learn about perseverance, patience and must think long-term, they must know that quick gains/wins can create more problems later in life.”
He concluded with an urgent call to action for all relevant stakeholders to combine forces towards the advancement of youth for the future trajectory of Africa, “The answer is now, there is not better time than now to bring our youth to the forefront. Any further delays will be extremely catastrophic. We cannot afford to waste the demographic dividend especially as we have millions of youth entering the job-market place yearly. The answer is entrepreneurship, functional and vocational training and moral rejuvenation/moral re-armament and a shift in our value orientation. The answer is all of us working together for their greater good.”
The 2021 Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme runs on www.tefconnect.com.