Elumelu Bags Belgium’s Highest National Honour

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Says poverty’s threat to all

 FG reassures on support for foundation

By James Emejo

The Kingdom of Belgium has conferred the honorary distinction of Officer in the Order of Leopold, the country’s oldest and most important National Honour, on Africa’s leading investor and philanthropist, Mr. Tony Elumelu, in recognition of his commitment to poverty eradication and the economic empowerment of young Africans.

The Ambassador of Belgium to Nigeria, Mr. Daniel Bertrand, presented the royal decoration on the Chairman of Heirs Holdings on Sunday evening at a ceremony attended by top government officials including Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha and Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.

Elumelu was particularly acknowledged for spearheading initiatives that created millions of jobs and employment for young Africans across the continent, through his philanthropy, The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF).

The foundation’s flagship intervention, the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, is a 10-year $100 million commitment to identify, train, mentor, and fund 10,000 young African entrepreneurs across 54 African countries.

Elumelu said over 9,600 young Africans have so been empowered just within six years since its inception.

Speaking at the occasion, the SGF said the foundation’s core priorities for poverty alleviation and empowerment was in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s aspiration to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next 10 years adding that the current administration will continue to support Elumelu’s initiatives towards poverty eradication.

He said: “Mr. Elumelu, I listened to your priorities, which include; eradicating poverty, creating jobs and improving access to electricity and I can assure you that this was the motivation of President Muhammadu Buhari when he spoke about lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.

“When we identify somebody in the private sector who believes in that core mandate, the government has no option but to continue to support your endeavours, and I can assure you that on behalf of the president, you will continue to receive it.

“As Nigerians, we stand here today very proud of the excellent work Mr. Elumelu has done in Nigeria and on our continent and we ask him to do more. That is why as a government, whenever Tony has anything to do we give him all the support because the three core things that drive his foundation fit into the agenda of Mr. President and I feel very happy about it that the King of Belgium decided to recognize this spirit of patriotism, entrepreneurship and being your brother’s keeper.”

However, Bertrand told journalists that the partnership with Elumelu will open up a new vista of economic opportunities between Nigeria and Belgium going forward.

He said:”His excellency, Tony Elumelu is very well considered by the Royal Family in my country for his excellent job in favour of promoting private enterprise, job for youths, the promotion of digitalisation, the promotion of the private sector, the eradication of poverty in Africa.

“So Mr. Elumelu is very well appreciated by the Royal family and by the Belgium government and that’s why Her Majesty the King decided to give this special award to him. “

However, speaking after receiving the award, an elated Elumelu said the honour was a celebration of youths and African entrepreneurs, adding that there cannot be true wealth with widespread poverty.

He said the Groups including the UBA, Transcorp, and Heirs Holdings, are driven by three core aspirations, one of which is poverty alleviation adding that “poverty anywhere is a threat to all of us. So it’s important that we work together to move people out of poverty.”

He said:”I am happy that Belgium Kingdom, the king and heirs and others will continue to work together to prioritise our young ones to help create access to capital for them, to help mentor them, to help create networking platform for them to make sure that they can succeed and I know that if they succeed, all of us succeed.”

He however, expressed optimism that the recognition will be a watershed in “new levels of engagement and relationship between Belgium and Africa, between Belgium and Nigeria so that we can attract investments from Belgium to Africa to help create jobs. We can attract support for younger entrepreneurs so that they can become employers of labour tomorrow.”