On Thursday, March 25, 2021, the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu presented the keynote at Day 1 of the Impact Africa Social Entrepreneurship Summit, a partnership between the British Council and Ashoka Africa to accelerate innovative solutions to Africa’s most pressing challenges.
At the event, she also discussed entrepreneurship with a focus on women and youth in Africa with CNN’s Eleni Giokos, among other global personalities in the social investing & enterprise development world, encouraging more young African women to apply to the Tony Elumelu Foundation with 5 days to go to the close of its Entrepreneurship Programme.
Read her keynote speech below:
• Good afternoon Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, permit me to stand on all existing protocols.
• It is an honor to be here at the Impact Africa Social Entrepreneurship Summit and I would like to thank the organizers Ashoka Africa and the British Council for creating this much needed platform for a most important discourse – Thank you also to our fabulous moderator – Eleni good to see you again albeit virtually.
• How times have changed!!! From the good old days when we moved freely at our own whims and caprices from country to country, did we ever imagine a world where movement would be so restricted such that traveling for a holiday or going on a business trip could be considered illegal with a 5000 pound fine?
• I don’t know about you but if someone told me 18 months ago that this would be the case I would throw my head back in peals of laughter and tell them that at best that’s a good script for a B rated movie.
• Alas here we are in March 2021 and this is our reality – this is our world…this is your world
• What does it mean to be a young African Entrepreneur in these times? What does it mean to be a female African entrepreneur in these times and What does it take to succeed in these times?
• That is in essence why we are here today.
• The primary objective of the Impact Africa Social Entrepreneurship Summit over the next 12 months is to accelerate innovative solutions to Africa’s most pressing challenges by inspiring, supporting and connecting you to an entire ecosystem that is fast emerging on the continent singularly committed and laser focused on your success.
• Just over 5 years ago the Tony Elumelu Foundation in what was then unchartered territory put its money on African SMEs!!! Our Founder Mr. Tony Elumelu bet $100 million on 10,000 African SMEs and their ability to transform the continent.
• A recent world bank study states that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the economic backbone of virtually every economy in the world. SMEs represent more than 95% of registered firms worldwide, account for more than 50% of jobs, and contribute more than 35% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in many emerging markets.
• Whatsmore Small businesses generate most of the new jobs, and help diversify a country’s economic base. They also promote innovation, help deliver goods and services, and can be a powerful force for integrating women and youth into the economic mainstream.
• Yet despite all these benefits, WB studies show that small enterprises remain significantly underserved by financial institutions. Research indicates that the credit gap that formal SMEs confront is about $1 trillion.
• So whilst our $100million investment is a mere 1% of whats actually needed, from a private individual it is a massive vote of confidence in the African SME and a bold step in putting the spot light on the missing middle which is the majority of existing African entrepreneurs – This missing middle is our only lifeline on the African continent – With the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entreprneurship Programme we demonstrate first hand the belief that empowering African entrepreneurs is the most important investment that we can impart on the continent.
• With a burgeoning youth population which in the next 50 years will make up 39% of the worlds population, African Entrepreneurship empowerment is not just a regional issue but a global issue which should be a top priority line item on the global agenda of all governments and institutions.
• This is particularly significant in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic where studies have shown that Africa is the epicenter of the economic devastation of the Pandemic. African countries with many having a mono-economy have seen a sharp devaluation of currencies, supply chain disruptions, food insecurity and growing inflation.
• As an African entrepreneur especially as a woman you are likely saying to yourself – why now, why my turn, why cant things just be normal again…(I know because I have teenagers who are faced with similar uncertainties with endless online schooling with no sports, no prom, no travel and in their minds seemingly no future)
• I will tell you what I tell them – In challenging times such as these lies the greatest opportunities and the greatest possibilities for mind blowing success and all you have to do is to strive with all your strength to ensure that you have your mind in the right place.
• Strive for a shift in your mindset and this will change your personal perception. Once you shift your mindset, you experience profound change and see the world in a completely different light. A fundamental mindset change allows you to be completely transformed. Out with the old, in with the new.
• Only in this state will you be able to identify the gold mine of opportunities that these challenging times hold for those courageous enough to take it.
• And there is none more courageous than the African female entrepreneur in these times – Africa’s female entrepreneurship rate is the highest in the world; 27% of the female adult population is engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity. This means African women are twice as likely to start a business as women elsewhere in the world.
• Studies show that Covid 19 has disproportionately affected female entrepreneurs because the proverbial saying of wearing many hats has never been more true with the working from home realities. Meaning that a woman often times in the space of one working day is teacher, cleaner, cook (3 times a day no less) driver, nurse and ofcourse your full time job or business.
• Now more than ever the Female Entrepreneur needs to reach deep with her and connect with her inner Amazon. It will take grit, resilience, determination, foresight and tenacity – the good news is that all these lie within reach on the inside not on the outside.
• In truth there is no better time to be an African Entrepreneur the work we do at the Tony Elumelu Foundation is a testament to the fact that both public and private sector stakeholders alike are committed to creating the ennabling environment and offering the training and funding needed to accelerate the establishment and growth of thriving African businesses.
• Opportunities abound for those entrepreneurs who have cleared the clutter and anxiety from their minds and have an Eagle Eye focused approach to their success.
• At the Tony Elumelu Foundation our application portal TEFCOnnect.com opened on January 1st 2021 and will close on March 31st 2021. We have seen applications from across all 54 African countries not in the 10s of thousands but in the 100s of thousands
• The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which came into force also on Jan 1 2021 is another classic example, its a flagship project of Agenda 2063 of the African Union — Africa’s own development vision, it offers African SMEs a unique opportunity for boarderless trade – our governments must now put in place the policies and infrastructure framework needed to actualize this unique opportunity.
• In keeping with the times at the Tony Eluemlu Foundation we too are shifting our mindset and changing the way we engage. Prior to Covid we would usually select 1000 from the applications received for training and funding. However in the bid to reach all genuine entrepreneurs who wish to seize the opportunities of the times we have introduced a psychometric assessment into our selection algorithym and will now be training up to 50 times the numbers of previous years after which the top performers will go on to a Pan African virtual pitching competition from which will emerge the final recipients of the seed capital funding.
• This expanded engagement will create visibility, capacity building and a platform for many who previously would only have ended their journey at the application stage.
• There is no better time than now and it has to be all hands on deck, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has shown us how interdependent we are and how fragile our current global systems and value chain remain. We need to work together to build resilient systems through a mutually beneficial partnership of equals.
• In closing, Africa is full of many opportunities and breathtaking potential; Yes, challenges do exist, but we also have a high ROI cutting across all industries and regions, which means that investments in African SMEs is not only a moral obligation but a savvy investment decision,
• Our greatest asset, our greatest wealth is our people. If we put the people first the wealth will follow…let us cultivate creativity, passion, resilience, enterprise, excellence, execution as a people and as a continent. Let us usher in a new golden age of Africa’s rising SMEs in whose hands the future of the worlds global economy lies.
About this event:
The Impact Africa Social Entrepreneurship Summit is a partnership between the British Council and Ashoka Africa to accelerate innovative solutions to Africa’s most pressing challenges.