Exporting African Excellence

Tony Elumelu

Last Thursday, I was honoured to attend the International Conference for the Emergence of Africa in Dakar, Senegal. Too often, we host conferences in Africa, reciting speeches, making toasts, backslapping, but not offering solutions. This time I felt there was something different – representative of new thinking in Africa – and one, dare I say it, that we have helped engender. I was impressed by the attention governments and public sector officials are beginning to pay to the economic prosperity of our continent – not just seeking handouts from others – but seeing how governments can actively help Africans to create wealth. For the first time in recent history, our governments are thinking with a private sector mindset, finding new and innovative ways to champion development on the continent. It is no coincidence that we, at HH and in the Foundation, are so insistent on advocating that governments play their role, in responsibly liberating the great movement that is African entrepreneurship.

Tony Elumelu at Vanguard Awards

The next day, I flew back to Lagos to attend an award ceremony hosted by Vanguard, where I was awarded the Vanguard Personality of the Year, 2018. Again, it was interesting to note that it was the first time that award was given to someone from the private sector. Timely – and I hope there will be many more – as we fund and nurture the next generation.

The common thread for me – from Dakar to Lagos – is the growing recognition of the role of the private sector in achieving Africa’s economic potential, indeed, the role Africapitalism is playing in elevating our continent. The public sector cannot continue to work in silos; neither can the private sector. Both must work together to realise the Africa we dream of.

This week, as I meet again with President Macron at the ‘Choose France’ Summit, a major conference that brings together the global investment and development ecosystem, I will join other senior level business leaders, with the aim to strengthen our partnerships and speak to the investment potential of Africa. I will go on to Davos, Switzerland, where with other global business leaders, politicians and the other policymakers, we will debate and explore: Globalisation 4.0 at the 2019 World Economic Forum. Why am I going? To make sure Africa’s voice is heard and our unique approach to business and development is understood. This will present another great opportunity to emphasise the role the private sector and entrepreneurship play in Africa with regard to accelerating globalisation – in a meaningful, positive and responsible fashion – building economic and social wealth.

With emerging technologies, a burgeoning youth population and looming debt crisis, it has become critical that Africa needs a strengthened bilateral relationship with the rest of the world. We need an enabling environment that catalyses entrepreneurship and enables SMEs to thrive. Even more urgently, we need to invest in our youth, empowering them to become leaders in today’s fast-paced and competitive world.

The private sector is best positioned to lead this trend.

Africa’s story is yet to be told properly and we alone can shape our narrative. Our youth are innovating and creating solutions to our most critical challenges, despite the tough business environment. At the World Economic Forum, it is important that their voices are heard and that global leaders understand that the continent is emerging rapidly, but we need their support in accelerating this through entrepreneurship and Africapitalism.