Now is Time to Invest in African SMEs, Elumelu Tells Global Investors 

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Peter Uzoho

The founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) and Chairman, United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Heirs Holdings, Mr. Tony Elumelu, has advised French investors to look to Africa for long term investment opportunities.

He said this at the “Ambition Africa,” conference organised by the France Invest Africa Club in Paris, where he delivered the opening address.

He told his audience to, “do much better and be much smarter in channeling funds to emerging markets.”

“These markets present huge opportunities – as well as risks for investors, but investors need to fulfil a critical need to catalyse and improve the economy. We salute companies like Total, Bouygues, Accor, Orange, and Bolloré as well as others who have accepted this challenge, but there is room for many more” he added.

Elumelu, stressed the importance of private equity inflow into Africa, with a focus on investing in small and medium scale businesses, the lifeblood of the African economy. 

He stated that Africa has the youngest workforce in the world, with over 60 per cent of its population below the age of 25. This, he said was a potential demographic doom that could be turned around to become the continent’s greatest asset if the youths have jobs and economic opportunities. 

According to him: “Africans do not need aid. Rather, our young people need investments. Private equity is a force for positive development in Africa. We have a large youth population, who are eager and innovative. 

“They are looking at solutions to problems in their communities but are hampered by the access to capital and investment, mentoring and training. When done right, this kind of investment can bring not just capital but can also strengthen job creation, corporate governance and help improve sustainable business practices.”

Furthermore, he cited the impact and growth rate of the beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) as evidence of the potential of SMEs in Africa today. 

The TEF has endowed $100 million dollars of his family wealth, to fund over 10000 African entrepreneurs in ten years. 

 A statement, quoted Elumelu to have also commended the French President, Emmanuel Macron’s initiatives for strengthening the relationship between France and Africa and concluded by inviting investors to consider investing in Africa for the long term. 

 “The key phrase here is long term investment – no one should come to Africa for short term gain. The time is now to invest in Africa. Private equity has to be part of it. We need it for all,” he added.

Earlier, the French Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, who introduced Elumelu to the audience, said that France could position itself and direct investment towards Africa to end the cycle of poverty and to accelerate development globally. 

He commended Elumelu’s stance on strengthening the SMEs in Africa to catalyse development. 

“We share the same ambition in Supporting African SMEs and entrepreneurs as this is essential for the economic development of Africa,” he said, referring to Elumelu’s passion to create wealth on the African continent.