By Obinna Chima
The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) has explained that the opening of the application portal for its entrepreneurship programme on January 1, 2021, was to empower young entrepreneurs in the continent so that they can contribute the recovery of economies in the continent that had been ravaged by the COVID-19.
Speaking during a virtual media briefing at the weekend, the Chief Executive Officer, TEF, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, said 2021 marks the seventh edition of the entrepreneurship programme. According to her, till date, the Foundation has trained, mentored and funded just over 9,000 African entrepreneurs.
According to her, the world understands that Africa is critical to the recovery of the global economy from the pandemic.
“We are also excited to say that PwC in conjunction with our Foundation has just completed an impact assessment report which would be released in the first quarter, to mark our 10-year anniversary. So, there is a lot happening in our Foundation,” Ugochukwu said.
She explained that shortly after the application portal for 2020 closed, the COVID-19 lockdown took place across Africa and the entire world.
“We knew that we could not continue with the programme at that time because most people were under strict lockdown and there were no movements in their country.
“Most of our entrepreneurs often times needed to go to schools, business centres or offices to have access to the internet to take the programme. So, we decided to postpone the programme to 2021. “Now, we all know that Africa had to bear the brunt of the health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But for the economic impact, some people have said that Africa is the epicenter of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the SMEs, which are the heartbeat and lifeblood of economies in Africa, is on the frontline.
“Most SMEs do not have the shock absorber that the bigger organisations have. And that is why it has never been more urgent than now, to deepen and expand the work that the TEF does in empowering African entrepreneurs. That is why for us, opening the application portal January 1, 2021, marked a new beginning.
It marked the renaissance and the beginning of recovery; and the beginning of Africa really taking its place in the global stage,” she added.
She further explained that from those that applied in 2020, the Foundation would still select 1,000 entrepreneurs who would be funded.
“Now, for the 2021 applicants, the world understands that Africa is critical to the world’s economic recovery from the pandemic. And that is why we have partnered with the European Union to fund and train an additional 2,400 women on the TEF Entreprenuership Programme for 2021.
“This is in addition to many other partnerships that we have been running through the years with the likes of the United Nations Development Programme as well as the ICRC. For us, we have put up a call to action for all development organisations, for African government and foreign governments that, now is the time to scale and expand the work that we have been doing in empowering African entrepreneurs with capacity building and the much-needed seed capital funding.
“We do not want to lose the gains that we have made over the last 10 years whereby we have put entrepreneurship on the global agenda. Most governments know that it the SMEs that would create the jobs needed to catalyse growth across the continent and now is the time to SMEs that have been hit-hard by the pandemic,” she added.