By Stephen Ubanna
Aisha Buhari, the First Lady, appears to have identified with the five year -old Tony Elumelu Foundation which has become a source of pride to African Entrepreneurs who had received direct funding and financial support from it to grow their business.
This is evident going by what transpired at Transcorp Hotel, Hotel , Abuja, on Friday, March 22, 2019, when Tony Alumelu , Chairman, United Bank For Africa, UBA, unveiled the 2019, selected 3,050 Applicants of the over 216,000 Applicants, that had applied for direct funding and financial support from the Foundation. Indeed,It was a day of joy for Elumelu and the Foundation Staff including the UBA Staff, as well as friends and Associates of Elumelu who had turned up to identify with the great African Entreppreneur and motivator.
A report from the Foundation shows that 1,000 of the 3,050 selected Applicants would be funded directly from the Foundation while 2,350 would receive financial support to further boost their business. Going by the 10 yea, time lag set for the Foundation by the promoter, Elumelu, when it was launched in 2010, $100 million was said to have been injected into the Foundation to fund entrepreneurs of African origin in the drive for the development of the African Continent.
The unveiling of the selected beneficiaries of the Foundation this year gives an insight to the prudent management of the funds by past and present Management of the Foundation. Elumelu who could not hide his joy that the Entrepreneurship programme which he started five years ago has produced thousands of small and medium scale Entrepreneurs in Africa and supported many other businesses which were at the verge of collapse to succeed has promised to do more.
He is optimistic that the Foundation would continue to do what which it had started in Africa for the next five years. As he moved about exchanging pleasantries with dignitaries at the Foundation organised event in Abuja recetly, he looked fulfilled as one who has made his own contribution to African development through industrialisation.Many believe that the Foundation has succeeded in its Entrepreneurship programme because of the commitment and transparency of the promoter and the officials.
The last Friday event, according to an eyewitness account was a day of joy for the selected one thousand Applicants who were given $500 or 1.805 million cheque, each , going by the current official exchange rate of N361.00 to a dollar. The other 2,050 selected Applicants were said to have been given undisclosed amount each in order to support their business or bail it out from imminent collapse.
The Value News learnt that Dupe Olusola, Group Head , Marketing for UBA, was among the 100 most aspiring Nigerian business women who benefited from the Foundation cohort this year. Those who have come in contact with the woman described her’ as a great motivator who have made huge impact in their lives. ”She provides visionary leadership with the aim of development and delivery of integrated strategy for all UBA Group Bank and non -Bank subsidiaries”. UBA, officials, however, described her as a caring person who is ”passionate about women Affairs and Empowerment , Economic development of under-developed countries and financial inclusion of for the disadvantaged in the society”.
As a private sector operator before joining the Bank, she was said to have spearheaded a partnership arrangement with Coca-Cola Plc to produce Five Alive Pulpy Orange Fruit Juice as Chief Executive officer of Teragro, thus making the company the sole local raw material source for the juice.
The list includes Abisoye Ajayi -Akinfolarin. She was also said to be the founder of Pearls Africa Youth Foundation, a non governmental organisation, NGO, aimed at educating young girls in under-served areas in the country with technology skills. Recall that in 2018, going by her immense help to the less privilaged in the society, Abisoye , was named one of the CNN Heroes of the year. She was also recently named as one of the BBC’S 100 women
Note that the 100 women who were selected this year to benefit from the Elumelu Foundation which includes Olusola, a UBA Staff, were drawn from different business backgrounds and sectors of the economy. The successful applicants were said to have stood out in their respective businesses and most importantly ”deliberately impacting their world and their local communities through the power of their strength of ideas and achievements”.
Leading Ladies Africa, founded by Francesca Uriri,and founded with funds from the Foundation, according to an insider, are already making giant strides in the world of business, politics, advocacy, governance and enterprise. ”It’s perhaps our most diverse list yet”, Uriri had said.
A UBA source disclosed that in the last five years, the Foundation has funded directly over four thousand African Entrepreneurs . This is in addition to the financial support given to 470 others. The good news was the money given to the African Entrepreneurs are non refundable which appear to have removed much of the financial burden of running the small and the medium scale industries on the Entrepreneurs.
Given the demands on the Foundation , iFenyinwa Ugochukwu, the Chief Executive Officer , CEO, has stressed the need for collaboration with other partners and philanthropists to share the responsibility to create ”economic prosperity for all in the African continent”.Mrs. Ugochukwu, who is happy at the increased participation of women entrepreneurs in the 2019 programme, urged potential women entrepreneurs in the north to take a cue from their counterparts in the southern part of the country to apply for direct funding or financial support from the Foundation. She revealed that there had been ”tremendous transformation of the Foundation since the past five years” which should touch many others.
Aisha, who spoke at the unveiling of the Elumelu Foundation cohort gave kudos to Elumelu and his Foundation over his contribution to African development, described as emerging economies, through its financial support to small and medium scale industries. She maintained that it would go a long way to foster development in the African continent.
She further said that the training and mentorship programme initiated to support the business enterprises would promote social and economic change in the continent. She insists that the ”African private sector must begin to play a more active role in advancing the economic development of the Continent’ through the various dynamic programmes initiated by the Elumelu Foundation to provide both Capital and human Resources which are helping budding African Entrepreneurs”.
The First Lady may have used the Elumelu Foundation event as an opportunity to speak also about the visions of the office of the First lady , as wife of President Muhammadu Buhari. According to her, the office is active in the drive to reduce the rate of maternal and newborn mortality in the country.
”We are active stakeholders in this sector’ to contribute to the acceleration of efforts to end preventable maternal , newborn and child deaths through advocacy and the strengthening of accountability mechanism in order to enhance the peace and development of Nigeria”, she had said.