By Stephen Ubanna
The United Bank For Africa, UBA, and Tony Elumelu Foundation, TEF, two-day Market place, fair, tagged Entrepreneurial has come and gone. A Statement by the Bank reveals that no fewer than 5,000 participants and 60 speakers across Africa, Europe and Asia, had converged at the event, described as the largest gathering of African entrepreneurs The Statement further confirmed that 150 Small and Medium Scale . Enterprises, SME, across twenty African countries including Nigeria, exhibited their products at the world class fair.
The initial confirmation by members of the Organising Committee for the UBA/TEF , Entrepreneurial Fair, was that Presidents Paul Kgame, Macky Saall and Felix Tshsisekedi the of Rwanda, Senegal and Democratic of Congo, DRC, respective, had given their words to participate in the Fair. The mere mention of the three Progressive African Presidents may have encouraged many of the SMEs investors across the African Continent to rush to book space at the fair ground at Hilton Hotel Abuja, the Federal Capital Teriitory. FCT, exhibit their products ostensibly to reach out to them in order to facilitate investing in their countries. Some of the SMEs investors may have got it right as they were given generous incentives which they could not resist that could not be resisted to encourage them to invest in their respective countries.
But at the last count The Value News learnt that Yemi Osinbajo Vice President , and the country’s National Economic Council Chairman, at the instance of Muhammadu Buhari, and the President Rushakana, the Prime minister of Uganda who was said to have represented Yoweri Museveni, were also at the event. Aisha Buhari, the first Lady, and Keita Aminata, wife of the the President of Mali were said to have participate in the entreneurship programme. Djena Kaba Conde, the First Lady of Guinea , Gilles Carbonnier, President ,National Committeee of the Red Cross, ICRC, and Dr. Tedros .M. Ghebreyesus Director General, World Health ORganisation, WHO, were said to have also made it to the the UBA/TEF, two-day programme.
Other notable players in the world economy that were at event as well were Dr. Sidi Tah, Director General , Arab Bank For Economic Development in Africa, Koen Doens, Deputy Director, International Cooperation and Development Commission, Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank, ADB, Benedict Oramah, a Professor and President, Africa Export Bank among others.
The gathering of the Afrcan leaders and global business leaders may have given Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of UBA and founder of Tony Elumelu foundation to draw their attention to the urgency of creating jobs in the African Continent to catlyse development. He may have won the heart of the African leaders at the Entrepreneurship fair when he said that ‘’ extremism is a product of poverty and joblessness’’, noting that that poverty everywhere is a threat to everyone everywhere’’ . According to him, if the African leaders can understand the reason and rationale for the youths in their respective countries to succeed, they would do everything within their powers in the formulation of policies that would support them and not make things difficult for them.
Elumely who is the arrowhead of the transformation of UBA to a world class Bank and the drive for empowering young African Entrepreneurs through the Tony Elumelu Foundation, also stressed on the important role which technology could play in accelerating development in the Continent . He cited the TEF Connect , a digital platform for African entrepreneurs , which was launched by the Foundation in 2018.. At present , the TEF Connect, according to the Foundation Authority has over 500,000 registered users, giving the African entreneurs the opportunity to ntwork and forge business partnership regardless of country of location. Osinbajo, the Vice President key note address, may have been used as a working document by the discussion panel in one of the sessions. The Vice President had enumerated the impact of TEF on the economy , arguing that it had compelled the Buhari Administration to focus more on really what the Youths could do on their own to achieve their life time dreams. Given an insider information, he said the ‘’message of TEF to African emerging economic giant was a clear one: how and what can you contribute to empowering the next generation in order to help them realize their own dreams.
The two day event which had no dull moment, was said to have ended on a happy note as Participants were taken round the UBA market place exhibition stands where the entrepreneurs had opportunity of interacting of interacting with the African Presidents and global business leaders and to showcase their products to them.. Given the intense Competition among the African entrepreneurs to manufacture products that could compete with similar products in other part of the world , the Management of UBA and TEF, had set a standard ,which must be fulfilled by the young entrepreneurs to show that they were in for business. This year’s Marketplace Fair , the winner was said to have be given a $5,000 grant by , the Kennedy Uzoka controlled Bank to force others to sit up in order to win the monetary grant next year. The importance attached to the yearly event may have informed why it was given adequate coverage by the United States based, Cable Network News, CNN, as one of its presenters Fareed Zakaria, was on ground to see things himself on the invitation of the Organising Committee. It was aired worldwide, further popularing the UBA/TEF Entrepreneurship Fair.
Many believe that the given the success achieved in organizing this year’s Fair, that of next year would be much better as more African entrepreneurs would want to participate because of the immense gains . Take for instance the 5,00 grant for the entrepreneur whose product are judged o to be of world standard and could compete favourably with similar products in other parts of the world. As they may may want to put in more efforts to win the amount.