Founded on the principles of Africapitalism, in 2015, when we launched Africa’s largest Entrepreneurship Development Programme we set out to democratize and institutionalise luck by designing an authentic, innovative, credible, homegrown, and game-changing programme that will bring economic transformation in Africa from the ground up. We are equipping our entrepreneurs with the skills, networks, mindset, and values they need to succeed as the next generation of business titans.
Our progress excites me and I’m happy to share some highlights from 2017 and celebrate the incredible work and achievements of our team, our entrepreneurs, and mentors who are creating innovative and disruptive solutions to complex challenges across Africa.
2017 TEF Entrepreneurship Programme
In 2017, we witnessed growth and innovation of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme and the Tony Elumelu Foundation – as we consolidated on the success of the first two years (2015 and 2016). We received staggering 93,000 applications from 54 African countries from over 30 sectors. They went through the rigorous selection and due diligence process supported by Accenture. The selected one thousand received business development training through our 12-week Startup Enterprise Toolkit, supported by Mentors selected from around the world, business plan reviews by Accenture, followed by the seamless disbursement of $5 million direct seed capital to the qualifying 2017 TEF entrepreneurs! We increased the number of women business owners from just 24% in 2015 to 39% in 2017! With our investment in over 900 African women business owners, the increased role models, we have every confidence that this number will continue to grow. Agriculture remained the largest sector with 30% followed by ICT, fashion, manufacturing, education, and training. The quality of applications received were even more impressive as the TEF Alumni shared their experiences of the programme with the new applicants across Africa. We saw increasing sophistication in the marketing and revenue models and innovations proposed.
The training, mentoring and an investment of $15 million as direct seed capital in 3000 African entrepreneurs over three years is already showing evidence of impact as the entrepreneurs are creating jobs and generating revenues through the success of their businesses across the continent. Many have successfully leveraged their association with the Foundation to win awards; access new funding; business support services; training; cross border trade across Africa and the world generating revenues and creating jobs. The Foundation has built an investible pipeline of 3000 entrepreneurs who are a viable investment opportunity for African and global business across the high growth sectors.
Technology Innovation and Exchange
Technology innovation and exchange are important drivers and in 2017 we built proprietary robust, scalable, and cloud-based multilingual technology platforms for Applications, Mentor Learning, Documents Management, and Alumni Engagement. These platforms are the Foundations greatest assets, facilitating knowledge exchange, product promotion, networking and enabling the Foundation to connect African entrepreneurs across the continent. We have a database of over 200,000 African entrepreneurs from 54 African countries which is set to grow in 2018 and will form the foundation for TEF Research Publications in 2018.
Improving Access to Finance
We formed a range of diverse partnerships with financial services providers and investors to mobilise both early stage and growth stage financing for TEF Alumni with United Capital to set up SME Fund for Africa, Agence Francaise De Development (AFD)to provide risk guarantee scheme and United Bank for Africa (UBA) to set up SME desks across 19 countries. In 2018, we will further diversify and deepen the partnerships between financial services providers and investors with the TEF entrepreneurs. Contrary to the perception that African start-ups are risky investments, we have ample evidence that they are bankable provided they are given the right business development support as proven by our entrepreneurship development programme. Through our engagement with African start-ups, we are aware that financial literacy is the weak link and we have enhanced our financial management modules to support them. We are also aware that the finance sector also needs to be educated to better serve start-ups and are working with angel networks, promoting public private grants and technical assistance, venture capital, private equity, and financial institutions to facilitate networking and exchange.
Scaling TEF Entrepreneurship Programme through strategic partnerships
We developed our value proposition to scale and replicate the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme with strategic partners like ECOWAS, ITC, and UNDP. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) made a $1,000,000 commitment to sponsor an additional 200 TEF Entrepreneurs to be identified, trained, mentored, and funded alongside the 1000 in 2018. Other game changing partnerships include Microsoft, Sage One and GE for ongoing business development support services and access to markets for the TEF Alumni. They will serve as blueprint for others to follow as we actively engage the participation and contribution of the partners to support sponsorship of additional entrepreneurs, value add partners and research partners in 2018.
TEF Alumni Engagement
Paramount to the success of TEF Entrepreneurship Programme is our continuous engagement with the entrepreneurs who have successfully completed the programme because we are building to last. We maintain contact with the entrepreneurs both online and offline.
Through the online TEF Online Hub, we have built Africa’s largest online network of African entrepreneurs for cross border business growth, skills, and knowledge sharing. TEF Hub is the go to destination for TEF Alumni and our value add partners, who provide ongoing products; business information, advisory services, innovation capital, market access, skills & training, and supply chain integration for TEF Alumni. This is also the platform through which we promote the emerging entrepreneurship networks across Africa and globally, important for business opportunities, building cross country networks and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship.
We are strengthening and building the local entrepreneurial ecosystems by facilitating our programme Alumni to set up TEF Regional & Country Hubs across the 54 African countries. In 2017, 50 Alumni were appointed TEF Hub Leads, 7 of which are Nigerian regional Hub Leads, to serve as representatives of the Foundation in their countries and help to drive deeper engagements.
We brought innovation to the organisation of in-country TEF Ecosystem Hub Meet-ups with the TEF Alumni and mobilised the local ecosystem players to promote dialogue among different networks from government leader, policy makers, incubators, hubs and investors in Durban, Johannesburg, Botswana, Rwanda, Egypt, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Sokoto, South Africa and Cote D’Ivoire, to mention but a few. These TEF Ecosystem Hub Meet-ups help to raise awareness about the local entrepreneurial opportunities, provide access to relevant information, markets, investors, mentors, and networks. They are also a way for the Foundation to deepen our engagement with the 3000 TEF Alumni, facilitate peer to peer networking and highlight their products and services to each other for business growth.
In 2017, we launched TEF Entrepreneurship Awards to recognise the achievements of TEF entrepreneurs from 5 African countries who have applied their training, funding, and networking to develop innovative solutions to address the pressing problems in their communities and to grow their businesses. The awards help to raise their profiles and inspire investors and policy-makers to recognise and support African entrepreneurs.
The 2017 TEF Forum Pitch was used as a platform for the Foundation to promote 4 select Alumni, who participated in a pitch practice competition. The 60 second pitches were an opportunity for our Alumni to sharpen their marketing skills as they highlighted their business services, need for investment, future aspirations for their businesses and the impact they have made on their respective communities in form of jobs creation and revenue generated. Over 20 Alumni took the opportunity to participate in the TEF Africa Market Place at the TEF Forum to showcase and sell their products and services to a diverse and inclusive pan-African gathering of 1,500 entrepreneurs, business leaders and investors from across the continent and even world-wide.
The Foundation secured Value Add Partnerships for access to additional funding, training, and publicity, for our Alumni by partnering with the following bodies:
- SheLeadsAfrica, International Trade Centre (ITC): Business development and digital marketing workshops were held for over 200 female TEF entrepreneurs in Lagos and Abuja.
- Sage One: 600 Alumni registered to access the Sage One platform.
- Microsoft: 660 Alumni registered to use the Microsoft BizSpark platform, a training was also held at the TEF Forum, to educate the Alumni on how to use BizSpark as an enhancing resource for their businesses.
- Africa 2017: 8 TEF Entrepreneurs were sponsored to attend the Africa 2017 Forum in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt.
- Radio Shows: 36 Alumni have been featured on the weekly MetroFM Agrotainment show and 26 on the SME Africa show to a total audience of 4.5 million listeners, where they disseminate relevant information about their businesses and talk about their experience with the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme, while promoting their brands.
- Corporate Farmers: 20 entrepreneurs were selected to participate in the Corporate Farmers Reality TV show.
TEF Entrepreneurship Forum: Largest Convening of African Entrepreneurs
The TEF Entrepreneurship Forum has evolved into the largest convening of African entrepreneurs in Lagos, Nigeria! In 2017, over 1,500 entrepreneurs, past alumni, mentors, policy makers, donor agencies, financial institutions and the media gathered for 3 days, highlighting the value of entrepreneurship and its contribution to promoting social and economic transformation of Africa. Speaking at the Forum, the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo charged African Entrepreneurs to take their destinies into their hands as he said, “the History of Africa does not determine its future unless we allow it”. African entrepreneurs need to see and hear from African role models like the Former Prime Minister of Benin Republic and Advisory Board Member Lionel Zinsou, Chairman of Dangote Group, Alh. Aliko Dangote, Mr Tony Elumelu to inspire and motivate the young African entrepreneurs.
Over 100 TEF Mentors participated in the Forum from 20 different countries across the world, sharing their experiences of mentoring African start-ups on the programme. We produced the second TEF documentary, which was launched at the 2017 TEF Forum of the journey so far.
This gathering resulted in an exchange of ideas and inspiration unlike anything I have seen in my travels across the world. The energy level defies description.
At the Forum, we achieved 3 strategic milestones, reiterating our reputation of being doers, and not just talkers:
- The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRIC) took up our challenge with a commitment of $1 million to support entrepreneurs in conflict areas.
- We signed an MOU with Agence Française Développement (AFD) to set up a risk-sharing guarantee framework to provide loans to SMEs, support the Foundation with accessing French speaking mentors and to sponsor joint research publications on youth entrepreneurship in Africa.
- We also signed an MOU with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to equip start-ups and existing small enterprises (SMEs) with necessary entrepreneurship skills to enable them to grow their businesses.
In 2018, we will continue to build on the success of the 2017 TEF Forum, organised by an African Foundation, in Africa, and for Africans, to influence policy makers and international development community to recognise and embrace entrepreneurship as a new model for the development of Africa, and help shape the local, national, regional, and global agenda for the growth of African entrepreneurs.
Promoting Awareness and Networking
The emergence of African entrepreneurs shaping their own destinies and the destiny of the continent is a compelling story for the world to change its perception about Africa. In 2017, the Foundation’s participation in high-profile pan-African and international business conferences, summits and forums afforded us the opportunity to highlight the economic value of entrepreneurship to policy makers, promote entrepreneurship as good career choice, encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses, and supported the development of an entrepreneurial culture across the continent.
In January 2017, we took the stories of Africans transforming Africa to World Economic Forum in Davos where we hosted an event with GCERF (Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund) to share the TEF story of building Africa’s biggest entrepreneurship development programme; why we are investing in African start-ups and the TEF Alumni success stories. In March we participated in the Wall Street Journal African Business Conference, in London, to share the impact of the TEF Agriculture entrepreneurs in feeding Africa and the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in South Africa.
In May we returned to South Africa for the WEF Africa and London for the Global Corporate Venture Symposium to address over 400 business leaders from the corporate venturing and wider high growth business ecosystem corporations. They were intrigued by the ambition of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, and wanted to know what the large corporations, universities and governments learn from the Foundation’s leadership in pioneering structured philanthropy in Africa through entrepreneurship and how large corporations can support entrepreneurs in Africa.
In June we joined the European Development Days and EU Africa Business Forum in Brussels and began a conversation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to support their endeavours to bring structured financing to the Continent for SMEs. In November, we continued the conversation with our participation in the EU Africa Business Forum in Rwanda. In the same month we took part in the De Beers Diamond Conference in Botswana; presented a key note address at XL Africa Policy Workshop organised by the World Bank, in South Africa, where we discussed the role of innovation – can play in job creation and economic growth; and the African Entrepreneurship Policy Forum, organised by Rwanda Development Board with UNCTAD to explore innovative public-sector approaches to advance entrepreneurship in Africa.
We closed the year with our participation in Africa 2017 convened by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Egypt bringing together six African heads of state and more than 2,000 delegates from 45 countries participating over 3 days. This was a unique platform for public-private sector cooperation, with a focus on “Driving Investment for Inclusive Growth”, with the objective of increasing private sector cooperation in Africa and catalyzing investment into sectors of strategic interest to Africa. A Young Entrepreneur’s Day (YED) was incorporated into this edition where the Foundation led a workshop on building the African transformative entrepreneurship development model for scaling up entrepreneurship sustainably on the continent.
Marketing and Communications
In 2017, the Foundation leveraged all the marketing and communications tools to promote the Foundation and its flagship Entrepreneurship Programme to external audiences across Africa and the world.
We produced television commercials for broadcast on CNN and selected African channels, environmental advertising using images of TEF Alumni as brand ambassadors and role models, produced application statistics using infographics to tell the application growth story at a glance in terms of countries, gender, sectors, and demographics. We leveraged the TEF-UBA Journalism Fellows, established in 2016 across 48 countries to share the TEF stories in their respective countries.
We made strategic use of social media campaigns to help raise brand awareness, followers and foster engagement amongst stakeholders, alumni as well as international media outlets and media influencers across our six digital media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, You Tube and Website. In 2017, the Foundation’s media reach through these digital media platforms included: 7 million website views; 746,283 total followers on the social media channels; and the TEF Forum traditional and social media reach exceed our expectations with over 163,000,000 views from over 60 countries from Africa and around the world. TEF weekly newsletter was shared with more than 6,000 contacts, alumni, and partners of our over 180,000 contacts database.
In 2018, our marketing and communications will be greatly driven by our TEF Alumni stories, to communicate the results and impact of TEF’s work, using multi-media to attract high level media engagement; proactively engaging relevant journalists, websites and international media outlets, networks, and peer organisations to share TEF thought-leading research and insightful knowledge publications and reports; and increasing communications outcome at local, state, country and regional levels across Nigeria and Africa.
Measuring Results and Impact
In 2017, we appointed staff to lead on mentoring and evaluation to measure results and impact of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme cycle from application, selection, 12-week SET, mentor learning, business plan reviews and seed capital investments on the TEF Entrepreneurs. The unit is leveraging the extensive data TEF captures through the technology platforms from Applications to TEF Hub to produce evidence based research reports, case studies and ecosystem reports that will inform the Foundation on improvements to the programme. The findings will be shared with our stakeholder partners, entrepreneurs, business, academic institutions to leverage our proven expertise in entrepreneurship development to design policies and programmes and to establish institutions that will promote entrepreneurship in Africa.
We have also begun to measure the impact of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme on their businesses from jobs they have created, the revenues they are generating and the number of entrepreneurs who have won awards, raised growth stage finance, and accessed further business development support.
Looking Forward to 2018
As we embark on 2018, we invite you to join us as we transform Africa through entrepreneurship. On the first of January 2018, we opened the application portal for the 4th round of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme. The response has been staggering from 54 African countries, 32% female applicants and increasing number of “olderprenerus” applying. Agriculture continues to lead followed by Fashion. Word of mouth through our TEF Alumni and our stakeholder networks is the highest driver of the applications. The application portal will close on 1st of March and we will announce the 4th group of 1000 entrepreneurs who will make up 10,000 businesses that will help achieve the economic transformation of Africa.
In closing 2017, the Foundation is catalysing the African entrepreneurship ecosystem, strengthening the pathways for the entrepreneurs and building new partnerships. We invite African and global corporations, venture capital companies and governments with business interests in Africa, to leverage on our network, our ecosystem, and our knowledge of the African entrepreneurship ecosystem to actively reach entrepreneurs and by extension Africa’s rapidly growing market.
Parminder Vir OBE
CEO, The Tony Elumelu Foundation