The CEO of Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, delivered the keynote speech at The West African Business Forum: Empowering Women and Youths to Spur Africa’s Transformation Agenda.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) convened sector champions in various industries to be a part of a Regional Business Forum in Lagos structured around high-level meetings and consultations with youth and women in the West African business ecosystems.
In her keynote address, Ifeyinwa emphasised the Foundation’s commitment to foster gender inclusion, through the gender mix of our workforce, mentors, and TEF alumni.
“The reason our Entrepreneurship Programme is arguably the most ambitious Youth focussed Pan-African entrepreneurship programme on the continent is because it is a direct response to the transformation Africa needs. It a programme that is sector and gender agnostic; a programme that recognizes the equal potential of us, as Africans. Women make up 58% of the continent’s self-employed population. Yet they seldom get the recognition they deserve for their role in sustaining local economies/informal industries. They also do not receive the appropriate support they need to take their businesses to the next level. Some of the challenges faced by women in Africa and youth come from lack of access. Access to networks, funding, and market linkages.”
Recognized as the leading philanthropy committed to empowering the growth of women and youth entrepreneurship, as well as linking them to quality markets and dedicated support:
“Although we launched the programme, we knew that a sustainable digital infrastructure was needed to support the lifespan of these business. As a continent, we cannot afford to miss the fourth industrial revolution. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the immense value in digital connectivity. If you are not connected, it’s almost like you do not exist. That’s the problem African women and African entrepreneurs face, and it’s one that governments across Africa must tackle immediately. We need an immediate, massive rollout of connectivity and cheap access to the internet across every village, town, and city.”
She also illustrated the Foundation’s holistic approach to empowering African entrepreneurs through training, funding, mentorship, and resource mobilization. Touching on the immeasurable value of TEFConnect.com in supporting African entrepreneur, Ifeyinwa said:
“On our end, we are contributing to digital upskilling and capacity building around digital entrepreneurship through our digital infrastructure, TEFConnect.com. TEFConnect is the largest online network of African entrepreneurs who are interested in connecting with key players from the larger ecosystem of investors, business leaders, etc. The platform empowers young entrepreneurs to build investible businesses by training and mentoring, provides them with easy access to market, and connects them with other African Entrepreneurs and ecosystem players.”
Ifeyinwa touched on the main thrust of the Regional Business Forum, which was focused on how support for the socio-economic empowerment of women and the youth will be essential to achieving socio-economic transformation across the continent:
“When we first started the programme, our goal was to achieve 50% women’s participation, and we began at 25%. Today, we’re at 40%. This year, the Foundation will fund over 3,000 women owned businesses across the continent. This will not be possible without some of our partners who believe that women, when empowered, can contribute to socio-economic prosperity.
How can Africa harness its demographic dynamics for sustainable development?
It is by empowering our younger demography, knowing fully well that the future belongs to them, and we owe them the support require to define it in a manner that guarantees prosperity. It is by teaching a woman how to fish, and not giving her fish, or giving her male counterparts the fish to hand out whatever he can afford to her.”