Tony O. Elumelu, MFR, Chairman of Heirs Holdings, an African proprietary investment, and Founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, delivered the commencement address at the Rwanda School of Finance and Banking’s (SFB) sixth graduation ceremony on Friday, December 9, 2011.
During his keynote speech to the SFB’s largest graduating class to date, Mr. Elumelu fulfilled what he said during an interview in July 2010 when he retired as CEO of United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) – “I will dedicate the next phase of my life towards mentoring and grooming young Africans who need role models.”
The leading business school in the region, the SFB is an institution of academic excellence with undergraduate and graduate students from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Eastern DRC and Haiti. The school is known for providing education to drive growth in banking and finance across the region.
The Rector of the SFB, Dr. Reid Whitlock, described Mr. Elumelu as “an outstanding example of Africa rising.”
Mr. Elumelu made his remarks to the class of 550 and an audience of over 1,500 staff, family and friends. He charged the graduating BSc and MSc students to “go forth and conquer” the business world, reminding them that the circumstances they face today are no less different from what he and other African entrepreneurs have faced and yet were undeterred in their quest for the pursuit of business success and excellence.
He described how his path was similar to that of the students – growing up during a major national crisis, educated and raised in Africa, no golden spoon – and how through hard work, a commitment to a vision, and the building of a strong team, he built a great business in Nigeria, and then across Africa.
“If a regular African like me can do it, you can, too,” he said. “Today, there are even less challenges, and you are in a country that is poised for take-off.”
Mr. Elumelu also commended President Paul Kagame for the ongoing economic transformation of Rwanda, thus giving hope to the graduating students about a brighter future.
He left the graduands with this sage advice: “Do your best in everything you do. Go forth and conquer. I believe that the knowledge and skills you have been equipped with will enable you to succeed in life.”
Following the East African tour, Mr. Elumelu proceeded to Abuja to hold discussions with former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on the progress of the partnership between Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative and the Tony Elumelu Foundation. The Blair-Elumelu partnership is aimed at strengthening the private sector’s role in the economic transformation of select African countries – starting with Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone – by developing the capacity of their governments to enhance competitiveness, attract and nurture private investment, and move beyond aid.