Tony Elumelu: Representing Africa as Global Leaders gather at President Macron’s Tech for Good Summit
I remain a committed founding member of French President Emmanuel Macron’s flagship initiative, Tech for Good, because it deals directly with two themes very close to my heart – technology and gender equality. At this year’s summit which took place yesterday at the Elysee Palace, we retained our attention on technology while also broadening our focus to address diversity and gender inclusion.
Technology is the leading accelerator for economic transformation and development. From efficient payment systems, to access to data that fosters connection and collaboration — technology is our new reality and it offers a world of opportunity and promise. But Africa cannot be left behind. Africa needs this type of gathering – we are a continent with over 60% of its people under the age of 30 – they need economic opportunities, they need hope. They need Tech for Good and just as important, Tech for All.
I represented the African continent to draw attention to our young ones who seek economic hope and opportunity via technology. Technology is a great employer of labour, technology drives inclusiveness, technology helps to alleviate poverty, but we must not forget that in Africa we are just starting out and we cannot afford to lag behind. We need the world to pay attention to Africa so that young Africans are not disenfranchised and left behind in this new technology era. We need the world to pay attention to the plight of young Africans so that issues of migration can be addressed in a more fundamental way – by tackling the root cause which is a lack of economic hope. We must address these issues holistically to fight poverty which as we all know is a threat to everyone everywhere.
I challenged the world leaders who gathered in Paris today, specially invited by President Macron from the most competitive nations in the world and the most innovative and profitable private sector organisations. I challenged them to train and invest in young Africans, and to make capital investments on the continent that will ensure that tech is truly for all. Tech is for good but we must make sure it is for all. These commitments will make the world a more equitable and inclusive place. I reiterated to them that even as they gathered in the next G7 and G20 summits, they should prioritise tech for all on the African continent.
At the Tony Elumelu Foundation we have led in committing to Tech for All. Our digital hub for African entrepreneurs, TEFConnect, demonstrates the possibilities that can be unlocked on our continent when we leverage technology in business, investment and social good. Our platform is a demonstration of what can be achieved when the digital revolution is democratised – personal empowerment, business growth, equitable bilateral relationships and a more gender balanced and inclusive society.
Finally, on behalf of UBA Group — I have also joined other select global leaders to co-sign a diversity pact aimed at increasing participation of women in leadership and technology by 2022. The pact will leverage technology to bridge the gender divide in today’s fast-evolving workspace, drive a more inclusive work environment and accelerate innovations that will further simplify our lives and make us more efficient.
Why? Because Africa needs to act. According to a report by the Africa CEO Forum, only 5% of CEOs of major groups in Africa are women. These numbers are staggeringly low – but we are pacemakers and role models.
In our group, we walk the walk – in UBA, we are currently leading in diversity across the 20 African countries we operate in, as well as in the UK, USA and France. 31% of senior/executive management positions group-wide are held by women, with nearly 30% female representation on the boards within the UBA Group – we have female regional CEOs, and some critical functions are female-led – because we appoint on merit – and merit alone. Last September, we announced the appointment of four new directors at UBA, two of which – by no coincidence — were women, bringing the total female representation on our Board to 30%.
We also made similar appointments at Transcorp Plc, with the appointment of a female CEO for the Hotels and two female Non-Executive directors. At The Tony Elumelu Foundation, we currently have 50% female representation on the board, and a remarkable 100% representation in our Senior Management! Yet, we remain committed to achieving an even higher representation of women broadly in leadership, including representation on Board and Management Committees within the Group. In our flagship Entrepreneurship Programme, we have seen a dramatic increase in the applications from women-run businesses, from 25% in 2015 to 42% in 2019!
I thank my good friend, President Macron, for this wonderful opportunity to champion African entrepreneurs, while reconnecting with old friends. It was especially good to touch base again with world leaders including Theresa May of United Kingdom, Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Leo Varadkar of Ireland, and friends including Jack Ma and John Kerry.