Shaping the Future of Africa through the Tony Elumelu Foundation

Shaping the Future of Africa through the Tony Elumelu Foundation

When the Tony Elumelu Foundation, TEF, was set up in 2010, its objective was to empower women and men across the African continent, catalysing economic growth, driving poverty eradication and ensuring job creation. Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that 13 years down the line, the foundation has blossomed to become the leading champion of entrepreneurship in Africa. Recently at the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York, TEF alongside partners like United Nations Development Programme, UNICEF Generation Unlimited and IKEA Foundation held a roundtable to chart the way forward for a more prosperous continent and its teeming entrepreneurial youth population

Tag the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) as the ‘leading philanthropy in Africa’ and you won’t be wrong. And all these is because of one man, who has picked up the gauntlet in championing the cause of the youth by empowering them with the right mix of mentorship, training and even seed capital.

Founded by Nigerian economist, and philanthropist, Tony Elumelu, who also chairs Heirs Holdings and Transcorp, the foundation believes the private sector is critical for Africa’s development by creating social and economic wealth.

With strong belief in African entrepreneurship, TEF built an infrastructure that supports entrepreneurial talents across the continent and since its set up in 2010, the foundation has blossomed to become the leading  champion of entrepreneurship in Africa with the objective to “empower women and men across our continent, catalysing economic growth, driving poverty eradication and ensuring job creation”.

In 2015, Elumelu and his family launched their flagship program, the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship programme with a $100 million commitment.

Already, the foundation has supported over a million African youths by empowering them through programmes aimed at eradicating poverty, illiteracy, high density of migration for greener pasture, and hunger among other salient issues affecting the growth of Africa.


Recently, at the sidelines of the ongoing 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, TEF alongside the  United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Generation Unlimited (GENU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and IKEA Foundation held a breakfast roundtable

At the event, President Bola Tinubu, who was represented by the Minister for Trade and Industry, Doris Uzoka-Anite, said Tony Elumelu has been the major person driving investments in supporting the youths and start-ups, thus we need to challenge ourselves a bit more further as Africans and stop looking for international organisations for donor funding..

In his speech, Founder TEF, Tony

Elumelu said this highlights the significant contribution of the TEF’s flagship 100 million dollars Entrepreneurship Programme in advancing Africa’s socio-economic development. 

He noted that 13 years ago, the foundation took a bold step to rewrite and change Africa by enhancing entrepreneurship development to galvanise African solutions. 

Stressing on the seed capital, training and mentoring and networking provided by TEF, he added “we have lit a beacon, and we need the beacon to shine brighter and better. To do this, we need the support and collaboration of everyone. 

“100 million dollars is a drop of water in the ocean compared to what we need in Africa. Young Africans need economic support. We’ve seen the devastating effect of climate change, how our young ones due to hopelessness are migrating and living in difficult situations. We want to put a stop to that.”

To achieve that, Elumelu called for collaboration to prioritise young Africans, bring more women to economic activities and alleviate poverty, adding that “poverty anywhere is a threat to all of us everywhere”.

Also speaking, Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa (UNDP) said they  partnered TEF due to similar belief in galvanising development across Africa and globally, adding that Africa’s wealth was its population, which constitutes 70 per cent of young, vibrant and innovative Africans. 

“It is our loss if we don’t invest in them because that is the future of prosperity,” she said, just as she called for enhanced collaboration and investment to strengthen economic development of African youths.”

Earlier on, TEF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Somachi Chris-Asoluka, said the organisation is the partner of choice for all development agencies across the world who want to transform the way they give to Africa, who want to have a more catalytic, impactful partnership with the African continent.

She said: “The Tony Elumelu Foundation is a leading philanthropy in Africa empowering young African entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries. We launched our flagship program, the Tony Elumelu foundation Entrepreneurship programme in 2015 with a $100 million commitment by Mr Elumelu and his family. 

“His goal was to see 10,000 African entrepreneurs over 10 years, in only eight years, we have more than surpassed that target so date. We have funded 18,000 entrepreneurs, disbursing over a 100 million dollars directly as seed capital to these entrepreneurs and they have gone on to create over 400 thousand jobs across all African countries.”

Amongst other personalities present were Director for Africa, National Security Council, Deniece Laurent-Mantey; Travis Atkins, President USADF, an independent U.S. government agency established by Congress to invest directly in African grassroots enterprises and social entrepreneurs; Oliver Alawuba

CEO of the United Bank for Africa; Executive Director for International Banking, and the CEO of UBA America, Sola Yomi-Ajayi;  Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Transcorp Hotels plc, Modupe Olusola; Linus Idahosa, Founder DelYork Group; and Nollywood actress and director, Omoni Oboli. 


At the roundtable, commendations poured in torrents for the foundation and its chief driver. President Tinubu led the flurry when he commended Elumelu for the impact his foundation has had on young people and SMEs in the country and beyond since 2010.

Also speaking, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, said: Listening to the great work that Tony Elumelu has done, especially with partners, resonates with me. As the governor in the largest African economy with the largest youth population, I know the importance of inclusive empowerment.”

Per Heggenes, CEO IKEA Foundation, also expressed happiness at the chance to work with the TEF and GenU, to “collaborate with entrepreneurs in sub Saharan Africa to help create their own opportunities”.

While thanking Elumelu for the partnership, Kevin Frey, CEO GenUnlimited, said it has continued to drive them forward on entrepreneurship and it was amazing that they have achieved so much already.

Other important guests include Microsoft EVP and President, National Transformation Partnerships, JP Courtois, who also lent support to  empowering more young African entrepreneurs to shape the future and deliver the UN #SDGs.

Alexia Latortue, assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Trade and Development, USA, who said he is so inspired by the TEF entrepreneurs, said ” we need to create education that matters; local green solutions to local problems; and Credit”, adding that “if we are to reach the SDGs, we need Africa. If we are to reach the SDGs, we need the youth”.

Game-changing Initiatives 

At the roundtable, TEF announced two game-changing initiatives. First was The Tony Elumelu Foundation Impact Report: “A Decade of Impact”, which revealed how Elumelu’s $100 million commitment ignited socio-economic transformation across Africa. From eradicating poverty to creating jobs in all 54 African countries, the Tony Elumelu Foundation is fostering inclusive economic empowerment and nurturing the next generation of business leaders. 

The second initiative was the BeGreenAfrica, where TEF joined hands with UNICEF Generation Unlimited and IKEA Foundation to launch #BeGreenAfrica, a groundbreaking Green Entrepreneurship Programme. The goal being to equip African youth to combat climate change, biodiversity loss, and resource scarcity while creating sustainable job opportunities. Already, applications are ongoing and will be open until September 30, 2023.

A Decade of Impact Unveiled

In unveiling its Decade of Impact in the TEF Impact Report for 2022, Fatou Assah, TEF Advisory Board Member, said in its 13 years of empowering young African Entrepreneurs across all 54 African nations, TEF has trained 1.5million entrepreneurs, over 18, 000 beneficiaries as disbursed 100 million dollars seed capital with 400,000 jobs created (with 58 per cent created by female-owned businesses). 

Also, TEF funded businesses generated 2.3 billion dollars in revere since 2015 while the beneficiaries annual profits were on average of over 22X (the average annual income per capita in their corresponding countries).

Over 25 per cent of TEF beneficiaries have acquired additional investments in their business since receiving TEF Seed Capital and women employment rate has risen from 24 per cent to 52 per cent  given that the program has empowered over 7,183 women with 85 per cent of these women single handedly leading their businesses. 

When it comes to its contribution to environmental sustainability, 83 per cent  of the beneficiaries are contributing to the minimisation of carbon footprints while 91 per cent of beneficiaries are contributing to waste minimisation and the use of natural product and sustainable materials, just as 69 per cent of beneficiaries are contributing to safer energy sources. 

Essentially, TEF is also 100 per cent contributing to SDG 8 decent work and economic growth; SDG 2 on quality education with 76 per cent tackling Zero Hunger. 

Strategic Partnerships

Essentially, the value of the TEF’s entrepreneurship drive lies in strategic partnerships with leading development institutions, including the European Union (EU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Committee of the Red Cross, United States Government via USADF; Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), French Development Agency (AFD), German Development Finance Institution (DEG), German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), African Development Bank (AfDB), and Google, among others.

Coalition for African Entrepreneurs

In its pledge, TEF said they will build on these successes and its robust delivery process and deepen its commitment to reach across sectors and geographies to identify and support young African entrepreneurs, targeting female empowerment and growth in fragile states, through its soon-to- be-launched Coalition for African Entrepreneurs.

In essence, the coalition aims to catalyse a further 100,000 young African entrepreneurs and small businesses, focussing on fragile states, women entrepreneurs, and green entrepreneurship. The Coalition is open to development agencies, the global private sector, philanthropic organisations, and governments to collaborate in empowering Africa’s next generation, particularly in the green economy.

About TEF 

The Tony Elumelu Foundation has always aspired to position entrepreneurs as the catalyst for Africa’s social and economic development. Since its launch in 2015, the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme has demonstrated the catalytic role of systemic funding, training, mentoring, and access to networks for young African entrepreneurs in driving poverty eradication and catalyzing job creation and ensuring women’s economic inclusion, across all 54 African countries.

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