Tony O. Elumelu, MFR, and Rt. Hon. Tony Blair were in Freetown on Tuesday to formally kick off the first part of a joint innovative programme aimed at supporting transformational governments in Africa. The Blair Elumelu Fellowship Programme (BEFP) – a partnership between The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) and the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) – will give partner governments access to experts drawn from international private and public sectors.
The launch of the fellowship programme in Sierra Leone will see the partnership supporting President Ernest Bai Koroma’s drive to develop his country’s domestic private sector. Working within the Government of Sierra Leone, the first Blair Elumelu Fellow is currently supporting the administration’s drive to attract foreign investors and develop its domestic private sector.
By leveraging the expertise of Elumelu, a business leader who transformed a single-country bank – United Bank for Africa (UBA) – into a pan-African financial institution spanning 20 African countries and 3 continents; and Blair, the former British prime minister; as well as the expertise of the full-time Fellows, the three-year programme aims to help partner governments:
– Enhance competitiveness;
– Attract and nurture private investment;
– Move beyond aid.
Speaking to an audience of Sierra Leone’s leading business people, entrepreneurs, and public sector officials, Elumelu, who set up his Foundation to help foster the growth of Africa’s private sector, said:
“I am delighted to launch this innovative partnership with Mr. Blair as a way of supporting the Sierra Leonean people. I am particularly encouraged by the work that President Koroma is doing to transform the economic landscape of Sierra Leone, and I want to ask the country’s private sector to prepare itself to take advantage of the enabling environment which is being created.”
He also added: “Africa is lucky to have a friend like Mr. Blair. He has 10 years’ experience leading a major country. This means that the power of Tony Blair’s advice to a government is more than what you can learn in any textbook – he has been there. I believe that the Blair Elumelu Fellowship Programme is an important further step to help contribute to this country’s success.”
Blair, Patron of the Africa Governance Initiative, which has been working with the Government of Sierra Leone to help build its capacity to deliver public services and develop the country’s private sector since 2008, said:
“Sierra Leone has made very significant strides in attracting investment over recent years, and President Koroma is absolutely right to take inspiration from the success of emerging economies like India and China. Sierra Leone’s future prosperity – indeed, Africa’s prosperity – depends on developing a private sector that can compete with the best in the world.”
He went further to say: “Our goal is to make donors unnecessary in the long term. When I talk to leaders around the world – and it does not matter what stage of development their countries are in – I advise them that they must prioritise a few key things and actually get them done. This is why it is important for us to have someone like Tony Elumelu involved in this partnership, because he is used to getting things done, as exemplified in the manner in which he transformed UBA from a one-country bank to a global one with a presence in 20 countries across Africa and on 3 continents. Therefore, I am delighted to stand next to Mr. Elumelu and say that AGI and the Blair Elumelu Fellowship Programme will play its part in helping Sierra Leone unlock the huge potential of its people.”
Dr. Wiebe Boer, CEO of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, added:
“After its founding 200 years ago, Sierra Leone became a symbol for promise and progress in Africa. Despite a debilitating civil war, President Koroma is leading the rapid transformation of the country. We are therefore delighted to be formally launching this historic partnership between the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative and The Tony Elumelu Foundation in Sierra Leone, and our hope is that our contribution to this private sector-led economic development model will become an example for other countries in Africa to follow.”