A Peep into Tony Elumelu’s Entrepreneurship Model

1st January 2019

By Odinaka Anudu


The United Nations data show that 46 percent of African youths live on less than $1 per day, which more or less means that they live in acute or chronic poverty. Only those earning above $1.90 live above the poverty line.

An International Labour Organisation report in August 2016 showed that working poverty rates among youths in sub-Saharan Africa was almost 70 per cent, translating into over 64.4 million working youths in the region living in extreme or moderate poverty.  One in every four working youth in North Africa lived in extreme or moderate poverty in 2016.

Similarly, 50 percent of the 10 million graduates produced by more than 668 universities in Africa yearly do not get jobs.

With the level of poverty, unemployment and high working poverty, the youth have no option than to seek migration.

According to the ILO report, 38 percent of youths in sub-Saharan Africa are ready to move out of the continent. The figure was 35 percent in North Africa in 2015.  Among sub-Saharan African countries, the percentage of youths willing to migrate ranges from 77 per cent in Sierra Leone to 11 per cent in Madagascar, according to ILO.

This is why entrepreneurship remains the biggest hope for Africa.

Tony Elumelu, chairman of Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), has taken up a challenge to raise 10,000 young graduates that will become the pride of the continent in five to 10 years.

The model is simple. There is $100 million meant for 10,000 entrepreneurs across Africa. Apply online, and if your business is high-impact, then you will get seed funds to spur your business.

Tony Elumelu  often regrets that he can only take 1,000 out of thousands that apply. This year, over 150,000 Africans from 114 countries worldwide applied to join the 4th ‎cycle of the programme.

The 2018 class, however, included an additional 250 entrepreneurs to the standard selection of 1,000. This was made possible by  $1 million partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which pledged to support 200 entrepreneurs in conflict and fragile zones of Nigeria, particularly in  the North-East where Boko Haram insurgency is rife and the Niger Delta region hard hit by environmental degradation from oil spillage. There was also a $200,000 agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support 40 pan-African entrepreneurs and a $50,000 partnership with Indorama to support 10 Nigerians.

This year, there was a near 50-50 split between male and female applications, ‎reflecting the entrepreneurial ambition of Africa’s women. Agriculture was the leading sector among selected entrepreneurs with a turnout of 30.5 percent, followed by technology (10.5 percent) and education/training (9 percent).

“The number and quality of applicants, 151,000 ‎ in total, was outstanding. It illustrates the strength and depth of entrepreneurial promise and commitment on our continent. Selection is never easy, and we profoundly regret that we cannot help all. Our partnerships with the Red Cross, UNDP and Indorama, alongside ongoing discussions with other international organisations, reflect the growing global recognition of what we have known all along – that entrepreneurship is the most effective path to sustainable development on our continent and our Programme is the model to follow,” Tony O. Elumelu, TEF founder, had said.

Elumelu has thrown a challenge to well-to-do Africans and is showing the way that the continent’s talents should not be allowed to waste.

“If his model is copied by African countries, the economic landscape and story of the continent—including its trade, employment and exports— will change,”  Ike Iheaso, a technology entrepreneur, said.

This article was originally published on Businessday