Remarks by Tony O. Elumelu, CON,
Founder, Tony Elumelu Foundation
During the Selection Announcement of the 5th Cohort of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (3,050 Entrepreneurs Announced)
March 22, 2019
Transcorp Hilton, Abuja
- Your Excellency, our amiable wonderful and well admired first lady here on behalf of the President of Nigeria, wives of state governors who are here with us today, the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, our supporters, partners and equally importantly, His Majesty Chief Ebitimi Banigo.
- As Ifeyinwa said we are all here because of the generosity and the magnanimity of one man.
- In the organisations I have run when it comes to recruitment, I pay serious attention to it.
- When people apply for jobs, I do my best to read their CVs because I believe that it is one thing that I owe others. It is something that helped me to be where I am today.
- So, it takes foresight, it takes generosity, energy, being painstaking and meticulous in going the extra length to change the course of history.
- Sir [to Chief Banigo], thank you very much.
- Ladies and gentlemen, we have heard everything. I won’t bore you. Especially the young Africans…In fact, someone tweeted two days ago and said that he has not been sleeping. He has been waiting for this announcement.
- Today is my biological date of birth.
- But what excites me is not that. In fact, I was discussing with someone two days ago and I said that I really don’t know why we celebrate birthdays. The person said that at least you thank God that you added one more year, that you are alive to see one more year.
- For me, it is much more than that. Growing up we have always had one purpose or aspiration or the other.
- From you want to become a graduate, to you want to have a good job to you want to overcome economic challenges, poverty and then to some level when you think of “what next”?
- Some think of what next from the point of view of increasing their bank balances and account and etcetera. Some think of what next from the point of view of trying to change society in their own little way or from point of view to change society either through political power or other means.
- Some try recognizing certain natural philosophies, one being that poverty anywhere is a threat to everyone everywhere, to telling ourselves in the 21st century: Must we as Africans continue to have this entitlement mentality that some others must develop us. So, I belong to that category.
- I believe that first, government alone cannot transform Africa. This is encapsulated in the philosophy of Africapitalism.
- Two, that no one but us will develop our continent.
- Three, that the private sector has the key role to play to implement this.
- Four, that when you talk of the private sector, it is not really the big businesses that make the difference. It is the small and medium scale enterprises that are known for creating jobs and alleviating poverty, helping to bridge the inequality gap, helping to make sure that women are more economically involved because we know that when a woman succeeds, that success is beyond her: Even her family (it could even be beyond her community), the impact and the benefit of it, goes far beyond that.
- Realising all of this and realizing more importantly that at the end of the day, to those who belong to that school of thought, what counts is not what we have in our bank balances but what counts is our ability to impact humanity. What counts is how we are leaving the world we met, the way and the state that we found the world.
- Are we contributing our own little quota in making it a better place?
- This realization is the reason that we founded the Tony Elumelu Foundation and decided that entrepreneurship Is the most catalytic way of making little contributions to humanity.
- Today, as you all join us, in celebrating this very day, we have decided to use it as an opportunity to democratize luck further and institutionalise opportunities as Ify said.
- Today we are happy to unveil and announce 3,050 young African men and women from 54 African countries, sector-agnostic so that there will be more prosperity on our continent.
- I want to thank everyone.
- First lady, you will help us please send our congratulatory messages to His Excellency and his re-election as our president.
- I say this on behalf of Nigerian entrepreneurs who have benefitted from this programme.
- Over 2400 entrepreneurs have benefitted so far from all the states of our country even Abuja. And in fact, we have seen the testimonies of people, especially from the far Northern states talk about how they have renounced certain practices because there is now economic opportunities for them.
- And one told us how he has been able, from the proceeds, to set up a school, empowering people, training other people and more importantly, others are seeing how his life is changing and therefore renouncing extremism.
- This and many other interventions we have been having. To Mr. President, for what he is doing, and we hope that in this second term he will even continue to do more.
- For me, on behalf of African entrepreneurs, one single thing we urge Mr. President to help to do is to improve access to electricity because we know that once you increase access to electricity, entrepreneurs will flourish.
- So, we are now ready to unveil the 3,050 entrepreneurs from 2019 Entrepreneurship programme.