Dispatches from Davos: The new philanthropy and solving the energy problem

Each day at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, I was challenged, inspired and stimulated by the breadth and depth of discussions that I engaged in. As a pan African investor and philanthropist, it was interesting engaging with some of the world’s greatest minds.
One of the sessions that gave me great pleasure to participate in was “What Worth is Wealth”, where I was tasked to help kick off a discussion among a diverse group of fellow philanthropists on the importance of engaging in philanthropy in a more strategic manner to maximize the impact of our resources. Other participants’ included Stephen Schwartzman CEO of Blackstone Group in the United States and Amr Al Dabbagh of Al Dabbagh Group in Saudi Arabia. We all shared our experiences on how we started our foundations. For me, I founded the Tony Elumelu Foundation using the same business principles that have served me well in my commercial activities. I launched the Tony Elumelu Foundation, to solve the problem of chronic under-development across Africa.
The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (#TEEP) is a U$D100 million initiative that aims to identify, train, mentor and seed 10,000 dynamic African entrepreneurs across a plethora of industry sectors from agriculture, vital to food security, through to technology, pivotal in the Fourth Industrial Revolution era we live in today. TEEP is much more than an act of good will, it is about the empowerment of African entrepreneurs and a strategic intervention in solving the problem of unemployment on the continent with clear measurable and results. Indeed, we even require our applicants to tell us which of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) their business will assist. We are now in our second cycle, but it is my aim that these businesses begin to show profitability and over the next 10 years we are expecting to have created 1 million jobs and realised $10billion dollars in additional revenue.
My audacious plans do not end with entrepreneurship. At both the ‘New Deal on Energy’ forum, where I joined former Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan, President of the Africa Development Bank, Mr. Akinwunmi Adesina and the ‘Catalysing Clean Energy” panel where I was joined by Mr. Adesina once more, Mr. Takehiko Nakao President of the Asia Development Bank and Mr. Francesco Starace CEO of Enel Group, I challenged the status quo in relation to energy creation, consumption and investment in Africa. Bono, the activist and lead singer of U2, who has tirelessly campaigned for access to power in the developing world and I found time to talk about catalysing Africa’s development in the 21st century. He like me believes in a Marshal plan for Africa if we must deal with youth unemployment and migrant issues in a fundamental way. As a speaker at the clean energy session, I challenged the injustice of expecting Africa to develop at a slower pace as a great deal foreign investment is tied to utilising renewable energy, which currently cannot provide enough power alone.
My company Transcorp, currently produces 19% of Nigeria’s power, but still millions remain without regular or indeed any power and this is something that simply must end. Energy, is the vital fuel for entrepreneurship, which in turn fuels development, so the time is now to conclude upon an effective action plan. As I leave the snow-capped mountains of the Alps, I am energised by the variety of projects and ideas and most importantly solutions that are being found at a speedier rate in this digital age we live in. I am also humbled to be one of the pioneer Africans in attendance who represents our perspectives to the worlds of commerce and philanthropy.
Those of you who have followed my activities, have doubtless noticed #AfricaAtDavos. And though, there might have been a modest number of people from my continent in attendance, there can be no doubt of our presence on the global stage, and how critical it is we take charge in informing and participating in the debates about our shared global future.


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