By Ikechi Nzeako, Lagos
As part of Tony Elumelu’s $100 million commitment to empowering African entrepreneurs, 1,000 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs, representing 51 African countries from the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) Class of 2015, converged on Ota, Nigeria, for an intensive two-day boot camp session from 10 to 12 July.
The entrepreneurs from across the continent convened in Ota for an entrepreneurship boot camp made up of interactive sessions with successful entrepreneurs, political and business leaders, and an open mic session with the founder, Tony O. Elumelu.
Gambian Badje Modou Lamin, whose business is in the agricultural sector, said, “The boot camp has been a great experience. I have been able to exchange ideas with a number of entrepreneurs. This has really changed my perspective on Africa.”
Maalainine Mohamed Bouya, from Morocco, said: “The boot camp has been a blast! Right from our journey from the airport down to the boot camp, we have been discussing and sharing ideas among ourselves. Africa has huge potential.”
Nigerian Obinna Chukwu, said: “The boot camp has been a wonderful experience – I have met people from all over Africa. It makes me proud of being a Nigerian. I thank Tony Elumelu and the Tony Elumelu Foundation for making this happen.”
Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holdings, spoke on his life experiences and the principles that he learned from mentors and answered questions during a question-and-answer session, offering perspective on innovation, strategy, governance, financial management and decision-making.
He said: “Entrepreneurship is not a short-term journey and I am pleased that we can help these emerging leaders, as they seek to join me in transforming Africa. My commitment towards creating a thousand new entrepreneurs, who can change Africa forever, has now become a reality. This is only the beginning.”
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo welcomed the entrepreneurs and called on them to take advantage of the networks built in Ota to develop pan African investment and trade networks.
According him, “This programme deserves all the commendation it is getting. Tony Elumelu has courageously put his money where his mouth is. Societies can’t develop without social entrepreneurs. I charge you to be little Elumelus and create opportunities for others.”
The Vice President was joined by other senior political leaders, including Kaduna State Governor Nasiru El Rufai, and Lionel Zinsou, Prime Minister of Benin Republic.
Other speakers included Parminder Vir, CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation; Mo Abudu, founder/CEO of Ebony Life TV; Nollywood screen icon Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde; Nimi Akinkugbe, CEO, Bestman Games; Rasheed Olaoluwa, CEO of the Bank of Industry; former SEC DG Arunma Oteh; inspirational coach Lanre Olusola; Martin Eigbike, Accenture Development Partnerships; governance expert Angela Aneke; playwright and producer, Adewale Ajadi; Sam Nwanze, the Heirs Holdings Director of Finance and Investments; and David Rice, Director of the Africapitalism Institute.
The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs of the TEEP Class of 2015 represent 51 African countries and territories. They cover all of Africa’s geopolitical regions – North, East, Southern, Central and West Africa – and major language blocs – Anglophone, Francophone, Lusophone, and Arabic Africa – as well as every state in Nigeria. They represent a diversity of sectors that range from agriculture to education to energy, fashion and ICT, emphasising Africa’s potential.
In his goodwill message to the visiting Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs, President Muhammadu Buhari, wrote, “I am proud that Nigeria (and a Nigerian) is taking the lead in this effort to promote self-worth, encourage entrepreneurship, create jobs, build and promote networks for intra-African trade, business collaboration and investment. Our administration is committed to unlocking all such opportunities to restore dignity to our people. This programme is one example I hope others will emulate and I commend Tony Elumelu and his Foundation for their endeavor and leadership in this area. “
As he closed the boot camp, Elumelu challenged all the entrepreneurs by saying, “I want to go to Zambia when I am 80 years old and meet someone who shows me their manufacturing business or financial institution and tells me that it was built starting with $10k from Tony Elumelu. That’s what this is about and that’s what you owe me.” He added, “The return I want from this $100 million investment is your success, because your success is Africa’s success.”
After the boot camp, the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme will focus on providing the seed capital and support for the entrepreneurs to put into practice the knowledge gained from the boot camp and the 12 weeks of training carried out prior to the event. It will also continue to foster increased collaboration between them and the rest of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Network as it seeks to promote cross-border trade within the continent. The application portal will re-open on January 1, 2016 for emerging entrepreneurs across Africa to compete for places in the TEEP Class of 2016.
Source : Independent