By Stephen Ubanna
Until the launching of Tony Elumelu, Chairman , United Bank For Africa, UBA, Foundation, i 2018, not many people knew that there were several hidden young entrepreneurs scattered all over Africa waiting to get little financial support to explode their business and contribute to the economic transformation of their country through job creation.
The opportunity to bridge came in 2014, with the launching of the Elumelu Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria. The target of the Foundation, according to an insider was to empower one thousand Entrepreneurs yearly from Nigerian and other African countries. Each of the beneficiaries, the source confirmed receives $500 or N1.805 00, going by the current official exchange rate of N361.00 to a dollar.
The good news was that the loan advanced to the benefiting entrepreneurs are non refundable which removes the burden of servicing the loan from them. According to the source, the benefitting entrepreneurs which are scattered all over Africa, are also exposed to established business mentors to guide them.
To further prepare t heir as entrepreneurs, it was learnt that the Foundation organises a three month training programme which exposes them to new opportunities on how to promote their business to the global audience. Many of them were said to have taken advantage of the training programme to make new contacts which had be very rewarding to their business.
A Statement by the Foundation shows that applicants to its entrepreneural financial support receive access to ”TEFCONNECT, Africa’s digital entrepreneurial hub”. The hub, the Statement , reveals provide access to networks, training , further capital sources and business opportunities”.
For this year’s award to selected entrepreneurs, the Foundation has set Friday, March 22, 2019, for the event. This year’s selection announcement may appear unique , going by the programme released as it will feature the Nigerian TEC Alumni Meet and an interactive dialogue with the founder, Elumelu,, an accomplished and successful business man known the world over.
Investigation by The value News show that that over 215,000 entrepreneurs from Nigeria and other African countries had applied to be considered by the selection Board to benefit from the $100 million or N3.61 billion fund of the Foundation , going by the current official exchange rate of N 361.00 to the dollar. Iwas gathered that that the selection Board are currently ”reviewing and finalising the applications”, in readiness to make the announcement on March 22, 2019.
Recall, that last year, the Foundation had received 151,000 applications. The female population of the applicants was put at about 62, 000. The sensitisation by the Foundation officials to encourage more female participation in the world of business may have encouraged more female applications to the Fund. The figure was said to have gone up to 90,000 this year.
The rising figure of women to become entrepreneurs, the Foundation said ” demonstrate the burning desire of the African entrepreneur to develop the African continent”. It is not surprising why the Foundation has urgently converted the passion into viable businesses to develop the continent.
There is no gain saying the fact that the Elumelu Foundation has produced many successful entrepreneurs who are employers of labour in the last five years. The story painted by Osato Noah, West Africa Lead, Acenture Development Partnership, about the Foundation speaks volume.
”We have worked with the Tony Elumelu Foundation since the inception of the entrepreneurship programme and in 2015 during the first round of the programme which had 20,000 applications for the Foundation”. He confirmed that this year , the Consulting firm had reviewed 215,00 applications, an indication of the growing awareness of people wishing to go into private business about the existence of the Foundation which gives non refundable loans to potential entrepreneurs and other assistance to succeed in the business venture.
Giving kudos to the Elumelu Foundation over its commitment to the transparency of the programme, Noah said , they are proud to partner with the Foundation in the delivery of its Pan-African pet project: Africa entrepreneur ship programme”.
Business analysts, disclosed that in the last five years since the Foundation launched its entrepreneurship programme, it has empowered over 4,000 African entrepreneurs directly . This is in addition to the financial support to 470 others. Only recently, the Foundation appointed one Ifeanyinwa Ugochukwu, as the Cheif Executive officer of the Foundation to further strengthen it. She succeeds Parminder Vir, OBE, who the Foundation officials believe would continue to lend her experience and expertise as a member of the Foundation Advisory Board.
Mrs. Ugochukwu, the new Chie Executive officer, of the Elumelu Foundation , has told those that care to listen that they must look beyond the yearly commitment of empowering only 1000 entrepreneurs. This is good news for those who have never benefited over the years because of the limited figure.
As a prelude to empowering more African entrepreneurs, the Foundation , sources said are looking forward to working with other partners to collaborate with it to scale the platform and process that had already been created. ” Empowering African entrepreneurs must be a shared responsibility to ecreate economic prosperity for all’, she had said’.