By Stephen Ubanna
When Tony Elumelu, a philanthropist and renowned business man, who is incidentally the Chairman of UBA plc, initiated the Tony Elumelu Foundation, popular, TEF, to actualize his vision of promoting African Entrepreneurship, in year 2000, nobody took him serious.
This is because of attitude philanthropists who had started similar Foundations in the past in different parts of Africa but abandoned it mid-way due to financial constraints , thus, fueling speculations that they were not really prepared for the project. Take for instance. In Nigeria, there many of such Foundations which had been launched over the years but are now working in bits and fits due to lack of funds to continue it and poor management.
Elumelu , may have done his home- work before going ahead to launch the multi-million Foundation . As a prelude to ensuring that the Foundation did not go the way of others before it, he was said to have committed $100 million, equivalent of N36 billion naira, going by the current exchange rate of N360.00 to a dollar, to it. His target was to spend $10 million or N3.6 billion , spread in ten years in supporting 1,000 African Entrepreneurs annually . He demonstrated that he was out to fulfill his promise when the first set of over 1000 African Entrepreneurs were selected from the thousands of application received on the first year to mark the take- off of the Foundation The beneficiaries , which caught across the African Continent were promptly paid and guided through training and mentorship to start their business. Investigation by the Value News shows that there have been a remarkable improvement in the selection process with the introduction of new technologies.
Between year 2000 and now, the Foundation , which had turned 10, has produced 9,631, Entrepreneurs , spread across the 54 African countries. The doubting Thomas’s who did not initially give Elumelu, the UBA, chairman, any chances of succeeding in the multi-million dollar project were forced to give kudos to him that he has achieved the vision the Foundation and thus, put the African Continent on the path of Industrialisation through the establishment of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs, that now litter the Continent.
They believe that if the African leadders could do half of what Elumelu Foundation over the last ten years, the Continent would have be fast lane of economic growth. Perhaps, to get as many applications as possible that , the funds available could accommodate the in this 2020, being the last of the cohort, the Foundation was said to have been extended the deadline for applications which started January 1st to March 1,2020. on TEF connect.com.
Unlike in the previous arrangement where the Foundation delay on the issuance of feedback to beneficiaries, the story appears to have changed. It was learnt that this time around ‘’applicants will receive instant feedback on the progress of their business to facilitate their movement to the next stage of the Entrepreneurship programme.
It was gathered that the shortlisted applicants will receive business training tailored to their business stage . This is basically for those expected to move to the next stage mentorship . Insiders informed the Magazine that it is from the list the top performing Entrepreneurs from each country in the African Continent that those that will proceed to the business pitching Competition ,to determine the finalists who will receive the seed capital and induction into the Foundation’s fast growing alumni network across the 54 African countries will selected and announced.
The good news was that some of the beneficiaries of the TEF, non- refundable loan , have grown beyond the shores of Africa into the global market place. Take for instance, Kwabena Danso, a Ugandan manufacturer of bicycles and its accessories from the local bambo whose product has entered the International market and now in high demand , particular in Asia and other African countries.
Another case of a successful story of the beneficiary the Foundation African Entrpreneurship drive was Mohammed Dhauoafi, a Tunisian, who is the founder of ‘’3D printed , biosynthetic prosthesis manufacturing company.
Adeyinka Tekenah, a Nigerian, who also benefited from the Foundation financial support to start a business is another successful case that had been recognised by the Financial Times of London. The London based Newspaper had described his Coffee making business as ‘’Africa’s starbucks’’ which is encouraging.
It is not surprising why officials of TEF, are optimistic of producing more African entrepreneurs in the 6th cycle of the programme , which had been launched last January. ‘’We will achieve the Foundation’s mandate of transforming African Continent through investment in SMEs by the Entrepreneurs.
Note that the most prominent among the enhancements are the new dates that had been selected in the programme 6th cycle, with its emphasis on providing the thousands of Entrepreneurs that had already been produced by the Foundation with basic business training. This is in addition to leveraging on its acquired technology to optimise the applications and the selection process as well as personalise the journey of each applicant in the programme tailored to their knowledge and business stage.
Recall, that the Foundation programme cycle has been updated with much emphasis placed on getting more Entrepreneurs through business training in the 2020 edition. A Statement by the Foundation confirmed that the finalists , who will inducted into the TEF Alumni will be announced on March 22, 2020, when the Foundation will hold its Forum, that will bring together all the Entrepreneurs that had benefitted from it. The Conference, going by the plan of the Committee, is expected to be the largest ever to be organised in the African Continent or any other part of the world.
1.Tekenah Locally Processed Coffee Business
2.Cross – session Of African Entrepreneurs At TEF Forum
3Dhaouafi: TEF Alumnus From Tunisia.