Leading Ivestment Company in Africa

Greetings from Seychelles!

I am here for the 22nd Annual Meeting of the African Export-Import Bank Advisory Group on Trade Finance and Export Development, and I have just concluded a plenary session with some of Africa’s leading CEOs exploring intra-African trade as a catalyst for economic transformation.

I applaud AFREXIM for their consistent efforts in promoting intra-Africa trade and investments on the continent. What Dr. Okey and his team at AFREXIM are doing is aimed at making Africa more commercially competitive, so our goods and products can compete globally. Well done.

As Chairman of both Heirs Holdings Group and United Bank for Africa (UBA), we have enjoyed goodwill and support in our businesses across Africa. We firmly believe that the support for private sector must be in African government’s agenda. We live in an interdependent, highly competitive world, and Africa must make her products, services and investment environment competitive. We must modernize our policies and improve our tariff-related regimes to achieve significant growth in Intra-Africa trade. Africa’s current infrastructure cannot support significant Intra-African trade.

The conversation on Intra-African Trade should start with a drive towards industrialisation. Industrialization will be impossible to accomplish without prioritizing entrepreneurs and putting in place an enabling environment that encourages entrepreneurship and attracts capital. Here, our governments must listen to concerns and calls from the private sector to create a conducive climate for investments.

Africa needs investments to build the right kind of infrastructure to support intra-Africa trade. Our $90billion annual infrastructure deficit must be addressed to allow Africa push more significant volumes of trade within the continent. To boost intra-Africa commerce, government must ease constraints in the operating environment – especially relating to decades-old transport networks – that currently stifle trade and integration.

In a nutshell, for Africa to achieve sustained progress, there are hard and soft approaches. The hard approach covers infrastructure development, while the soft approach includes progressive and enabling government policies and improved access to capital. On soft approaches especially policies, our governments can do better. I recognize that progress has been made in some countries but more needs to be done in some other nations.

Government should see private sector as being complementary and supportive of its work. They must see us as partners. Government needs private sector to succeed just as private sector won’t flourish without government’s support. When United Bank for Africa (UBA) in 2007 needed banking licence to operate in Ethiopia, Nigeria’s President Obasanjo assisted UBA in engaging the late President Meles Zenawi in this quest– he even personally drafted the letter to the President. It did not end there, President Obasanjo also brokered a meeting in China with the Governor of China Development Bank when UBA needed to access Chinese capital. This is the kind of push and support private sector everywhere in the world require from political leaders.

As an Entrepreneur and Investor with investments in 20 African countries, I shared some of my own key success factors in doing business in Africa, with the audience:

1. Private sector must adopt a long-term perspective to investments‪#‎Africapitalism‬;

2. Having a conducive business environment – unfortunately, this can only be created by government.

3. Hardwork;

4. Discipline and sacrifice.

All of Africa – including private and public sectors – should be talking about a multitude of entrepreneurs across the continent and not just a handful because entrepreneurship ‪#‎TEEP‬, will drive the continent’s growth. I challenged President Obasanjo to declare his commitment to entrepreneurs by engaging other political and policy leaders across Africa to assist in the promotion of entrepreneurship. Why am I so passionate about entrepreneurs, you ask? Because I have made this my legacy to support upcoming entrepreneurs in order to democratize the luck I enjoyed early in my career. This is the reason why through the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme, I committed $100m to support the next generation of African entrepreneurs from all the African countries.

In conclusion, African governments must work hand in hand with our private sector and all other stakeholders, to realize Africa’s economic transformation. Government on its own cannot create employment, they need the private sector and all of our hardworking entrepreneurs to succeed to create the jobs and opportunities necessary to achieve prosperity for all Africans.

Tony Elumelu at 22nd Annual Meeting of the African Export-Import Bank Advisory Group on Trade Finance and Export Development