For the growth and development of the African economy, it is impossible for one business or organisation to bear the burden alone. This has made partnerships a key tool in the world of business as it pushes organisations into new markets, gives brands exposure in new terrain and helps companies overcome obstacles faster by utilising one another’s unique strengths.
Almost a year ago, the International Committee of The Red Cross (ICRC) decided to partner with the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), identifying a need for a union between the private sector and the humanitarian sector.
They met with the TEF Team to speak about their work with the Foundation so far and their future plans for collaboration.
Q: Give us some background information on the reasons why ICRC decided to enter a partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation?
A: The partnership between the ICRC and the Tony Elumelu Foundation exemplifies the developing nexus between the humanitarian sector and the private sector, one that seeks to drive community engagement and community generated solutions. The ICRC believes that entrepreneurship can spur economic growth and help communities recuperate from the economic scars of war towards building a better future.
For the ICRC, a people-centric approach to humanitarian intervention incorporates sustained sources of livelihood among persons affected by armed conflict by fostering local solutions to local problems from communities that are most affected by armed conflict. The idea is to allow the community members themselves to identify, define and provide solutions using sustainable processes thereby allowing them to “own the process and product”.
Q: So far, what are the key contributions you have made to the vision of the Foundation—Empowering African Entrepreneurs.
A: We were able to identify and support 200 Nigerian entrepreneurs hailing from various war-affected communities, (from the south and north-east Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States mainly) to give them the chance to join TEF EP’s stellar 12-week online business training and provide advisory services through TEF’s alumni members who acted as mentors to the new participants. This was possible thanks to the ICRC/TEF partnership. Our entrepreneurs came from the following areas in Nigeria: Borno, Cross River, Delta, Edo, FCT, River State, Rivers, Yobe, Yola, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa and Abia.
We are investing 1 million Swiss Francs (App. 1 million USD) to support 200 Nigerian entrepreneurs with seed money which would help them kick-start their businesses. The selection of participants was based on the business viability of their ideas/current business, their completion of the 12-week online business training given by TEF EP among other factors. Most importantly, in this partnership, we and TEF focused on selecting entrepreneurs from the communities affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence in Nigeria.
We encouraged entrepreneurs to develop ideas related to agriculture, construction, fashion and design, commerce, trade, and microfinance, including production. Working closely with the badly-affected communities as a result of armed conflict and violence in the northeast, the middle belt and the south of Nigeria, we have identified these sectors as key sectors for development, which would enable a quick recovery of the markets in these regions and create more job opportunities.
Q: What benefits has your organisation gained from this strategic partnership?
A: When the people we help (victims of violence and armed conflicts) benefit, we as a humanitarian organization benefit. That said, TEF provided the opportunity to the 200 candidates supported by the ICRC to be part of the event on 25th of October. More importantly, it gave them the opportunity to develop their business management skills further making use of the 12-week-long online course. Finally, the mentorship provided by TEF program alumni was essential in helping the participants understand their challenges better and to work their way towards overcoming them.
Q: What were the key takeaways and action points for your organisation from the recently concluded TEF Forum 2018?
A: We are grateful for our partnership with TEF. When we met our participants during and right after the event, they were full of inspiration and determination to become entrepreneurs. This only confirmed our belief that the best solution to community challenges, often come from the communities themselves, given the right support is present.
Q: What are your plans for future collaborations with the Tony Elumelu Foundation under the umbrella of this partnership?
A: We are looking forward to continuing our partnership well into 2019. This year has been remarkable, and we hope that we continue identifying the future entrepreneurs of Nigeria, together with TEF, in 2019. We are committed to our partnership with TEF in 2019 on the entrepreneurship program and look forward to expanding our partnerships into other projects, where both our organizational objectives match.