Osinbajo, Kagame, other African leaders attend 2019 Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum

The fifth edition of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum held in Abuja, the Nigerian capital was a huge success.

The two-day event is themed ‘Empowering African Entrepreneurs,’ and will host “the largest gathering of entrepreneurs, policymakers, and business leaders,” according to the organisers.

The forum will feature a masterclass, a dynamic pitching competition, panel debates, and a presidential debate. It will engage an audience of 5,000, comprising of startup entrepreneurs, development institutions, and policymakers.

Some of the speakers expected at the forum include Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s Vice President; Aisha Buhari, Nigeria’s First Lady; Tony Elumelu, the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation; Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation; and Akinwunmi Adesina, President, African Development Bank.

Other speakers include Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Macky Sall, President of Senegal; Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister of Uganda; and Benedict Oramah, President of AFREXIMBANK, among others.

On the sideline of the Forum, organisers say the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc will host over 20,000 visitors, 100 small and medium enterprises from around the Africa, and leading private and public sector players at the Africa’s largest entrepreneurial fair tagged #theUBAmarketplace2019.

PREMIUM TIMES will be bringing you live updates from the venue of the event at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja.

Follow the event on Twitter via the hashtag #TEFForum2019.

It is 9:20 a.m. and Awele Elumelu, Trustee, The Tony Elumelu Foundation and CEO of Avon Medical, sets the ball rolling with her opening remarks.

She says it’s not always easy to be an entrepreneur – you need to raise the capital, have the nice people around you, navigate all the obstacles among other things.

She say ideas can come in the shower, in the office, and gradually transforms into something tangible.

She say empowering our African youths must be prioritised if the continent must move forward.

“When young men and women start they, they lift their families out of poverty.”

“With the right push, the right resources, you out entrepreneurs will compete on the world stage. Young Africans, there is excellence you. The world awaits you.”

The first plenary is underway and it’s about tackling challenges and seizing opportunities.

The moderator is Jennifer Blanke, the vice president, Agriculture, Human and Social Development, African Development Bank.

A panellist, Papa Sarr, Minister and Presidential Delegate for Entrepreneurship in Senegal, says his country got a funding of $50 million a year to support young entrepreneurs. He says they have opened up about 78,000 bank accounts in 2018 to try to encourage entrepreneurship.

Mohammed Yahya, UNDP Africa Regional Programme Coordinator, says Africa is also struggling with structural impediments such as the energy impediment. He says culture is also “extremely important” and that entrepreneurs should accept that failure is not an option.

Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, a former World Bank country director in Nigeria, says access to finance is a challenge and remains a stumbling block.

Ms Marie-Nelly is currently the country director, Maghreb and Malta, Middle East and North Africa, World Bank.

“We need to segment the problems and we need to look at the young enterprises. There is a need to move to a new phase of seed financing and early capital financing. To provide them for young entrepreneurs.”

She says there is a limitation in micro financing in the north African region.

Olusegun Awolowo, CEO, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, says Nigeria has just signed the African Free Trade Continental Agreeement and entrepreneurs should take advantage of that.

“It is the largest free trade area in the world.”

He says the AfDB says 22 percent of Africans are starting new trades, the highest in the world.

“85 percent of the jobs that are going to exist in 2030 have not been created yet.”

He says 60 percent of farmers are elderly people and there might be a need to build a wall to stem rural-urban migration of young people.

He says one way to make agriculture sexy is to have “dollars attached to it.”

Ms Blanke, the moderator, reiterates one of the panellist’s point that young businesses should focus on creating impact first and the funds will come afterwards.

Another panellist, Mr Ahmed, says the money he got from winning the TEF award in 2015 overcame the risk of using his own money to invest in his mobile solar pump.

During the question and answer session, a panellist responds that entrepreneurs should make more use of the LinkedIn platform to connect with one another.

Mr Awolowo says they are working to get EU certification to get honey to Europe. “We already have our honey in America.”

He says 12 companies producing cocoa and sesame were last year certified to take their products into Europe.

The first panel comes to an end, the panellists line up for a photo op. Three more sessions are to be done today.

For the second plenary, Africapitalism: What next and when?

The moderator for the session is Somachi Chris-Asoluka, Head, Policy and External Relations, Tony Elumelu Foundation.

A panellist, Viwanou Gnassounou, Assistant Secretary General, African Carribean and Pacific Group of State (ACP), begin by clarifying why he almost stumbled while stepping onto the stage. He says he got a new shoe and “it’s not thee one he uses to walk on the stage.”

He says he has been an entrepreneur and also been on the policy side. “Many know that every job you are creating you don’t have to wait for corporate social responsibility.”

Mr Kallon says over the next few years, about 54 million jobs will be created in Africa but those who need the job will be over 120 million.

He says the concept of Africapitalism has given an opportunity to focus on the concept of entrepreneurship.

“Our shared destiny requires a knowledge-based economy. Our reliance on natural resources is not taking us anywhere.”

The next panellist, Tony Okpanachi, MD/CEO, Development Bank of Nigeria, says most entrepreneurs in Nigeria do not have access to long term financing. He says there are at least 41 million micro and small scale businesses and most entrepreneurs fit into that category.

He says there are onerous demands from financial institutions when they are approached for funding.

He says his bank has done over N35 billion in loans to small scale businesses.

Claude Borna is the next panellist.

She is the MD/Chief Innovation Officer, Seme City Development Agency.

She says she came with 60 young entrepreneurs.

She says what they are doing in Benin Republic is proof that Africapitalism is working.

“The entrepreneurs that came out of the TEF must have something special. The ones that are here can continue with our government programmes if they like.”

She asks how to empower Africa young entrepreneurs to conquer the world.

Patrick Smith, the Editor-in-Chief of The Africa Report, says the media has a huge role to play to encourage investors to come to Africa.

He says on the quality of reporting, there is a struggle to get reliable data.

“We have real struggle.”

He says a lot of Nigerian companies were not featured in his paper’s top 500 companies in Africa because of the challenge in verifying data in the country.

Mr Kallon says the private sector remains an indispensable partner in achieving sustainable development goals.

“I will not shy away to say the social wealth creation strategy remains extremely critical for the future of this continent.”

Mr Smith says journalists should interview more entrepreneurs to give them more visibility.

During a question and answer session, Ms Borna tells entrepreneurs, “Do not wait for the government to do it because the government might not know how to do it.”

Mr Smith says there are new ways to harness information and adds that African entrepreneurs should develop an African version of Facebook.

Mr Gnassounou says from 2020, the ACP will be supporting at least 2,000 African entrepreneurs.

The second plenary comes to an end.

The third plenary begins immediately.

The first speaker, Kojo Boakye, the Head of Public, Policy, Connectivity and Access, Sub Saharan African Region, Facebook.

He says technology is important in helping African entrepreneurs solve a lot of their problems.

He says it is important to instil critical thinking for people that come out of the education system.

Mr Uzebu, another panellist, says there is a role of government and private sector in getting things ready.

“It’s not a question of whether we are ready or not. It’s about getting fresh perspectives.”

He says apart from value from tech, there is a need for deliberateness.

Khadijat Abdulkadir, Chief Technology Officer, Africa Prudential, says African entrepreneurs are growing aggressively and participating in the ecosystem.

She says one of the issues has noticed is the different pace in capacity.

Ms Ayobola, who manages TEF Connect, says it is necessary to have a digital platform that connects African entrepreneurs.

She says TEF Connect is designed to be the Facebook of Africa.

“You can share ideas, interact with one another, leverage on each other’s strength.”

Onyebuchi Akosa, Chief Information Officer at UBA, says the bank has provided Marketplace, a platform to enable the inter-connectedness of entrepreneurs.

He says the bank has also provide Open Place, a marketplace for tech entrepreneurs.

Mr Boakye says there’s no such thing as an African Facebook but instead, a multiplicity of platforms is necessary.

A member of the audience, a shea butter producer from Ghana, asks how internet can be made affordable in Africa.

“We keep on saying we need to replicate Silicon Valley in Africa, we need to create our own Silicon Valley because the situations are not the same.”

Ms Abdulkadir says there is a need for collaboration between the private sector and government to make internet affordable.

Mr Uzebu says the Asian companies shipped about 100 million phones into Africa in 2018.

“Innovation is about solving problems.”

He says there is always a downside to technology.

Mr Akosa says problems can be solved from either a global scale or an individual scale.

Ms Marie-Nelly of the World Bank says there’s a commitment the ministers of finance in Africa to double the connectivity capacity by 2021.

It’s time for the masterclass, and there are six of them:

– Using photography to tell your SME story

– Healthcare, the unseen opportunities

– Disruptive healthcare

– Building brand equity

– Leveraging the agriculture value chain

– Exploring African excellence

The gathering will break for lunch after the master classes, and return to the hall at 2.20 p.m.

We’re up and running for the second half of Day One of The Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum 2019 holding at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja.

A quick recap: three hugely informative plenaries had rolled by since Awele Elumelu, the trustee of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, made her opening remarks.

One of the highlights of the day yet was the comment by Olusegun Awolowo, the CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, that “85 per cent of the jobs that are going to exist in 2030 have not been created yet.”

In other words, more young people should embrace entrepreneurship because the unemployment situation will yet worsen.

Mr Awolowo suggested a magic bullet to check the massive rural-urban migration and make African youth stay back in the villages and engage in farming: BUILD A WALL.

He did not, however, say who will fund the wall since Mexico is not an Africa country.

There have been six masterclasses: using photography to tell your SME story; unseen opportunities in healthcare; disruptive healthcare; building brand equity; leveraging the agriculture value chain; and exporting African excellence.

There’s still one more plenary to go, and it will involve several African First Ladies.

It gets underway now.

The fourth plenary will be a six-member panel moderated by Mrs Elumelu. It is themed ‘The role of healthcare in economic transformation.’

She says this is the first time healthcare will be taken as a topic at the TEF forum.

The first speaker, Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, begins by saying 150 migrants died off the coast of Libya.

He says people are migrating and losing their lives because they are looking for opportunities.

He says initiatives like what TEF is doing is key to stemming such illegal migration.

“When the rest of the world is grappling with an ageing population, Africa has a young population. By 2025, the age of people between 18 and 25 will be doubled.”

He says health is the foundation for the prosperous Africa everyone wants to see.

He says too often, great ideas do not get the impact they deserve because of financing and sustainability.

The representative of the First Lady of Nigeria says 9.2 million Nigerian women and girls get pregnant and 13 of them die every minute giving birth.

She says the government should try to completely eradicate extreme poverty.

“The government should also try as much as it can to enhance medical care for people with HIV, this is an area the government is not doing very well.”

Djena Kaba Conde, the First Lady of Guinea, says the TEF has given a lot of hope for African youth and should be commended.

She says she started a foundation on the protection of maternal and child mortality because of its prevalence in Guinea.

She says a lot of the women do not have access to good healthcare.

“To reduce the high rate of maternal healthcare, we’re trying to sensitise the women to ensure they go for health checks. We are looking at a situation where we can have more medical centres.”

She says the association of first ladies in Africa is looking into a situation where a child cannot contract the HIV virus from the mother.

Gilles Carbonnier, a Professor and the Vice President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, says the state has to provide a conducive environment for humanitarian activities.

He says two years ago they started a partnership in Adamawa, an algorithm for the management of child sicknesses and has spread to about 400 primary health care centres.

He says there is a need to also invest in capacity building in the health care sector.

Keita Aminata Maiga, the First Lady of Mali, says she has a 20-year old NGO that focuses on the environment.

She says if the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents is well handled, then a lot would have been done on maternal mortality.

She says they met with hundreds of religious leaders in Mali to discuss adolescents’ reproductive and sexual health because sexual issues are usually considered a taboo.

She also says child marriages and female genital mutilation remain huge issues.

Oulimata Sar, Regional Director, West and Central Africa, United Nations Women, says entrepreneurship in the area of health is growing.

She says a young lady from Cameroon started a blood bank app that uses data to show where blood is available; and another lady, from Kenya, developed a technology that tracks where an ambulance is available.

Mr Elumelu steps into the hall at exactly 5.15 p.m. to a rapturous applause and cheers from people in the room.

And there are chants of ‘Tony Tony Tony’ across the room.

“May we please be seated,” he begins.

He says the electricity is “exciting and energetic too.”

As I’ve often said, the future of Africa is indeed in your hands. The journey has indeed begun.

“You are more educated, you are more exposed, you are more socially connected.”

He says for the youth to take that step, they must be supported.

“That is why today is a rare moment and opportunity, we are privileged to be among first ladies. Tomorrow we are going to have five presidents.

“Let our presidents who are here know what you need as African entrepreneurs to survive.

“I believe that if our leaders understand the rationale for you to succeed, they will do everything within their power.”

He says development partners across the world are now paying attention to the TEF and are ready to support.

He says their commitment has been for 1,000 entrepreneurs yearly but for 2019, they are doing more than 3,000 people because they realised the importance of development partners.

He says extremism is a product of poverty and joblessness and it’s a threat to everyone everywhere.

According to him, the UNDP has scaled up their support from 40 to 750 and now 100,000 entrepreneurs.

He notes that APC had promised to support 2,000 entrepreneurs and the audience launches into laughter.

APC – Africa, Pacific and the Carribean.

He says the AfDB committed to support 3,000

“We said in ten years we are targetting 10,000 entrepreneurs and in five years, we have already done more than 7,500. And that excludes the 2,000 and 3,000 mentioned today and the 100,000 UNDP partnership.”

He says “Let us not be a complaining generation. There will always be difficulties. What makes the difference is resilience.”

He says it is good to have early successes

“As you commence your entrepreneurship journey, tell yourself that success comprises a lot of things, including short term failures.”

He says he likes to read autobiographies, to learn about people who had tried and failed.

He shares four success tips needed by entrepreneurs: hard work, thinking long-term, resilience, and discipline.

He takes the audience down memory lane when he rented his first apartment in Surulere and had no furniture in his living room and a mattress lying on the bedroom floor.

“That can be your story.”

During a Q&A session, Mr Elumelu says he “can never hire someone because of ten years experience. If my boss wanted ten years experience, I’ll never have become a branch manager at 26.”

A lot of the questioners are using the opportunity to air their problems directly to Mr Elumelu without being told to “see the secretary.”

Mr Elumelu says his presently is in three stages: stage one was trying to make sure his accounts balance at the end of the day; stage two was the self-actualisation phase, the business aspirations; and “where I am now is the legacy phase, helping people like you to succeed.”

A participant from Rwanda says their government (their president will be in a panel tomorrow) paid for them to attend the event. Mr Elumelu says President Kagame had done exceptionally well in the area of ease of business.

An emotional moment as a French-speaking participant struggles with English and finally switches to English to thank Mr Elumelu for his kindness.

One Nigerian participant notes that the TEF grant ($5,000) is not enough and asks if it could be increased, drawing the ire of the audience.

Another Nigerian says since the TEF has a global outlook, local governments in Nigeria should key into the programme.

Mr Elumelu concludes by saying, “My philosophy is you don’t know it all. Two heads are better one.”

(Premium Times)