By Nwangwu Uba
Barely five years after the launching of the Tony Elumelu, foundation, who incidentally was a former group Managing Director and now chairman, United Bank , thousands promising entrepreneurs within Nigerian and other parts of the African Continent appears to have benefited from it. The Foundation which was launched in 2015, may have become the entrepreneurs delight in the Continent because of ”transparency, consistency and keeping to its mandate”.
Elumelu may have studied the African business environment that he was well prepared to fund the Foundation to ensure that many young entrepreneurs benefit from it as a way of quickening up the industrialisation of Africa. Note that from the onset, Elumelu, the UBA, Chairman , had made it clear, that the Foundation is a philanthropy Organisation ”committed to empowering African entrepreneurship programme”.
The Foundation, which was managed by UBA,, according to a source, has not deviated from the original vision of the founder as the bank had allied itself to the economic philosophy. The UBA boss may have been inspired by his economic philosophy of ”African Capitalism and his vision to institutionalise luck and democratise opportunity for a new generation of African entrepreneurs”.
As a prelude to ensuring that the Foundation has funds at every point in time to give the needed financial support to applicants, Elumelu was said to have set aside a $100 million 10-year seed money for it. Based on the funds, officials of the Bank were said to have opened up the door for applications from entrepreneurs from the 54 African countries including Nigeria to The Foundation was said to have targeted a million jobs in the African continent and $10 billion annual revenues.
The Value News finding shows that in the last four years about 4,470 applicants had benefited from the Foundation. Each of the beneficiaries were said to have received a seed capital of $5,000 , given access to mentors, trained and exposed to other numerous business opportunities to” impact on policies at the local and global levels”.
The good news about the Foundation ”entrepreneurship programme” was that” it accept ideas from entrepreneurs with less than three years of experience in all sectors of the economy as well .It is not surprising why there are so many small and Medium scale industries, SMS, scattered all over Africa.
Chukwu Onyedikachi, a Lagos based businessman, described the Elumelu Foundation as ”one of the few accelerator -type programme that encourage viable businesses at the’ idea stage that can demonstrate potential to scale, generate revenue and create employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed in African countries”.
Appealing to other well to do Nigerians to take a cue from Elumelu to launch a similar one that could help the young entrepreneurs in the 54 African countries, Onyedikachi said it would stop the mad rush of young Africans abroad to seek for greener pastures as what they may be looking out for abroad could be found within their own country.
The Elumelu foundation may have forced the Bank of Industries which was established by the government to play the role of promoting SMS, in the country to sit up.
The rush by other potential entrepreneurs to access the Foundation, may have forced UBA, the managers of the Foundation the ban to call for new applications this year . Perhaps to accommodate the numerous applications, the bank was said to have extended the deadline for applicants to March 1, 2019. The applications which were made through TEFConnect- www.tefconnect.com, regarded as the largest digital networking platform for African Entrepreneurs for easy reach.
Note that the Foundation had constituted a selection Committee with members drawn from different parts of Africa , for purposes of transparency and they had a mandate to select the most promising one thousand start-ups businesses across the continent annually. Insiders told The Value News that the section Committee of the African business leaders have kept to the mandate.
A Statement by theUBA averred that ” the selected beneficiaries from this year’s applications would join the 4,470 current alumni of the Foundation to receive ” $5,000 seed Capital each and would be given access to mentors, bespoke training and exposed to other numerous opportunities in business”. The bank disclosed that the applications will be judged based on the following criterias: feasibility study of the project, scalability and potential for growth of the product and service, market opportunity for the idea and business including financial understanding , leadership potential and entrepreneurial skills.
Those who are conversant with the activities of the UBA managed Elumelu foundation confirmed that there had been some success stories of Entrepreneurs since it was launched over the last four years . They include Mama Moni, founded by Nkem Okocha. Mama Moni, according to the bank source, was a fintech social enterprise in Nigeria which was said to have been funded from the scratch by the Foundation to provide loans to women in rural Communities in different parts the country. The government of President Muhammadu Buhari,may have studied the success recorded by by Mama sMoni in the opeation of the social scheme and at the instance of Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President to set up ”trader Moni”, to advance N10,000 .00 loan to petty traders across the country.
Another successful Enterprise allegedly funded by the Foundation which is making waves in Africa was ”Desert Anyone” founded by one Martin Ruga in Kenya. it is a Chocolate processing Company , which according to the UBA source now serves over two tonnes of Chocolate to 50,00 Consumers in the country alone.
this is in addition to ”Help Mum” a Nigerian based company that provides birth kits to prevent child and maternal mortality rate in the country. The Company , founded by one Abiodun Adereni, was said to have won the first ever ”Goggle Nigeria Impact Challenge”. it was said to have attracted additional Capital Investments- iMed Tech, founded by Nneile Nkholise and innovates in the Medtech space in South Africa using technology to create breast prostheses for women with breast cancer.
Businessmen in Egypt were also said to have taken advantage of the existence of the Foundation to benefit from it. Take for instance, one Ahmed Abbas, who founded Sun city that now uses mobile solar pumps to support small farmers.Recall that six beneficiaries of the Elumelu Foundation alone, were recognised in the Forbes under 30, list of successful Enterprises ,among several other landmark achievements.
The success recorded in running their own Enterprises from scratch and turning it around in less than five years may have informed the reason why some of the beneficiaries of the funds from the Foundation have been appointed on the boards of some multi-national Companies, government and developmental Institutions, thus influencing their countries economic policies at all levels. Elumelu, according to business analysts, has set a standard for others to follow in Nigeria and other parts of Afica.