Tony Elumelu is the founder of the United Bank of Africa (UBA) and the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) and sits as the Group Chairman of UBA. The Nigerian billionaire and entrepreneur acts consider this as a way of giving back to Nigeria and Africa. This has seen him sponsor over 15,000 budding entrepreneurs on the continent.
Despite the immeasurable impact of his foundation in grooming youths to be entrepreneurs that cause the needed change and growth, he discovered that there is still a lot of work to be done. In Nigeria, he identified three key areas that need to be addressed to ensure growth.
Tony Elumelu is one of the leading promoters of entrepreneurship in Nigeria and Africa. He believes this is one way to combat unemployment in Africa and transform the continent.
In a speech he made at a Virtual Fireside chat hosted by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), “Youth unemployment is a waste of talent and a betrayal of a generation. It feeds extremism and insecurity. The fight against extremism and conflict must start with making youths and creating jobs the centrepiece of African countries’ policies.
The economic transformation of Africa lies in the hands of the young ones, young entrepreneurs, who have great ideas, energy and audacity and what and how they can contribute to the development of the African continent.”
However, this is impossible without implementing specific tools such as funds. He said, “As an entrepreneur myself, I understand what it feels like to yearn for a lifeline, to hope for a ‘big break’, to look forward to enjoying some luck.”
With this vision, he has been promoting entrepreneurship in 54 African countries. To further facilitate this, the foundation partnered with different organisations. Recently, TEF signed an agreement with the U.N. Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). According to the agreement, the two parties will support and promote youth entrepreneurship in Africa, focusing on historically underinvested areas within African frontier markets.
To ensure employment and entrepreneurial spirit are developed, its partnership with Google is helping solve the problem. The foundation can only accept 2,000 students from a pool of 350,000 applicants. Google is, therefore, building a training platform with unlimited reach to cater to this need.
Poor housing policies and programme implementation are problems affecting Nigeria’s mass housing projects. Elumelu contends that while supporting economic growth is the proper function of the government, this should be led by the private sector.
The best way to do this is for governments to implement policies that promote growth in crucial industries, including housing, agriculture, electricity, infrastructure, manufacturing, and finance.
Despite the move by the government, this is still a prevalent issue in Nigeria. Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, during a Townhall Meeting on the achievements of the Federal government in infrastructure development organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture in Abuja, said that the ministry, through the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) and the Family Homes Funds (FMF) scheme had contributed a total of over 13,542 houses from 2019 to 2021.
Tony Elumelu believes that the Nigerian insurance industry is a factor that determines a stronger Nigeria. However, the industry needs to be vibrant and have the capital to achieve this. Also, there should be professionalism and democratisation, which are processes to have a strong Nigeria.
Despite its importance, some Nigerians are unaware of it. Since insurance protects people against unforeseen situations, people need to be sensitised to its significance and reorient people who have lost interest in the industry.
During his keynote address at the 60th anniversary of the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers Conference (NCRIB), he said, “Not least in these testing times, our people need financial security, secure savings and protection against uncertainty. Our industry needs to offer simple, smart products that give value and deliver. We need a professional industry that can catalyse investment in key sectors such as power, infrastructure and housing.”
He further illustrated that he is a doer of what he preaches. He said, “Our two insurance companies, Heirs Life Assurance and Heirs Insurance Limited, are leading the democratisation of access to insurance – which is a tool for financial inclusion, employment creation, poverty eradication and female advancement.”
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