On Building People and Raising Leaders – A Conversation with TEF CEO, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu
CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, recently took an interview with HH People, the magazine publication of Heirs Holdings, on the importance of raising leaders, and the Foundation’s upcoming 10 year milestone.
On the Evolution of the Tony Elumelu Foundation
The Tony Elumelu Foundation has been consistent right from the beginning. Our mission is simple: We are empowering African entrepreneurs to catalyse Africa’s socio-economic growth. We set out to achieve this when the Foundation was launched in 2010, and to date, we keep building on the year by year milestones towards the attainment of this goal. At the onset of the Foundation in 2010, and thereafter when we launched the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme in 2015, people thought it was overly ambitious and audacious. It was rare that a private foundation, founded by an African who was born, raised and resides in Africa, would set aside $100million to train, mentor and fund 10,000 startup African entrepreneurs in 10years. Many people queried the decision, our belief in the economic philosophy, Afriacapitliasm, and our conviction that Africa’s development lies in the hands of small business entrepreneurs.
Fast forward to 2020, I do not think anyone doubts our achievements. With over 9000 beneficiaries across 54 African countries, who have created thousands of jobs in their communities, and with over 1million Africans connected to business opportunities and market linkages through TEFConnect, the Foundation’s digital networking platform, the Tony Elumelu Foundation continues to enlighten the world that entrepreneurship – African entrepreneurship – is the catalyst for sustainable development on the continent. We have worked with global partners who share this same belief and who have joined hands to scale our impact.
On the Meaning and Importance of Africapitalism
Africapitalism is an economic philosophy created by the Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Tony O. Elumelu, CON, an economist, investor, and entrepreneur— the term is a coalition of his personal business experiences investing in Africa and his projections for a stronger Africa.
Africapitalism is the belief that the private sector must take the lead in driving the sustainable development of Africa, but more importantly the private and public sectors must work collaboratively to achieve this. This is what fuels our ambition at the Tony Elumelu Foundation and what has inspired our actions and decisions.
On The Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Impact Stories
We have thousands of stories of impact across the continent. To mention a few: We have an entrepreneur, Laud Basing, in Ghana, Founder of Incas Diagnostics, who is saving lives with his social enterprise that develops rapid Covid-19 test kits. Henry Mascot, an entrepreneur in Nigeria is redefining insurance technology with his business, Curacel. Kofoworola Oyeleye, founder of Iyin-Creative, is promoting and preserving the African heritage and culture with her creative startup. Through her work she has reached over 7,000 Children of Nigerian heritage worldwide.
In Morocco, Maher Oudira, the CEO of Green ALAFCO, runs a recycling company that recycles and exports aluminum cans to international buyers. His business has gone beyond the shores of Africa.
In Botswana, Barbara Kamba-Nyathi is an award-winning media powerhouse and was recently listed as one of the 25 most powerful women in her country.
You can read hundreds of interesting and inspiring stories TEF entrepreneurs on our website: https://www.tonyelumelufoundation.org/alumni
On The Foundation’s Milestones
Our biggest milestone is surpassing the target number of entrepreneurs we set out to empower each year. At the onset of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme, we made a commitment to empower 1,000 entrepreneurs each year for 10 years. Ideally, as this is the 6th year of the Programme, the number of beneficiaries ought to be 6,000 entrepreneurs. Fortunately, and with the wonderful support of our partners, we have over 9,000 entrepreneurs who have benefitted from our Programme across the continent.
We are proud to be leading the new narrative of a self-sufficient Africa. The validation of our work is the global partners we work with such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), German development agency, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the US Consulate (Nigeria), a few of our African governments, and of course, the Heirs Holdings Group. The list keeps growing and this demonstrates to us the validation of our work and our impact.
I would also say that a big milestone for us is embracing technology and leveraging big data which has been crucial for us. Launching TEFConnect, the digital networking platform for African entrepreneurs and growing its numbers to over 1million subscribers amplifies the additional support we lend to the larger African entrepreneurship ecosystem. In truth, the Tony Elumelu Foundation supports millions of African entrepreneurs, supporting their business growth and facilitating trade connections and opportunities.
On Anniversary Wishes and Projections for The Next Ten Years
We have only just begun, as a Group, and as a philanthropy redefining excellence from Africa by Africans! As our Founder would always say, we will not rest until every African entrepreneur is empowered. This is our legacy and the drive that launches us into another decade of impact, and it is our commitment at the Tony Elumelu Foundation to ensure that every African entrepreneur is able to access and unlock the opportunities that will truly make the continent the world’s next manufacturing and business leader.
This interview was first published on Heirs Holdings‘ HH People as part of its 10th year anniversary activities.