Africapitalism: Tony Elumelu Urges African Entrepreneurs to Embrace Technology
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Business - June 21, 2023

Africapitalism: Tony Elumelu Urges African Entrepreneurs to Embrace Technology

During the second day of the Viva Technology Conference, a prominent tech event that took place in Paris from June 14th to 17th, Tony Elumelu, a renowned African philanthropist and businessman, delivered a compelling message. 

As the Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, he emphasized the crucial importance of African entrepreneurs fostering sustainable businesses and embracing technology.

Elumelu emphasized during his fireside chat session theme Entrepreneurship in Africa: Africapitalism that in order to thrive and endure, startups must wholeheartedly embrace technology. He further emphasized that those who neglect to adopt technology are essentially setting their businesses up for failure.

He says “I can say that businesses that fail to embrace technology are preparing or planning to fail. And as entrepreneurs, you should be building to last,” 

Why African entrepreneurs need to adopt technology

Africa’s internet penetration has seen substantial growth in the past year. Statista reported a remarkable increase, with around 570 million internet users recorded in 2022, more than doubling the number from 2015. Nigeria leads the way with over 100 million users, followed by Egypt with 76 million and South Africa with 41 million.

Despite improved internet access in Africa, small businesses have not fully embraced digital technologies, as highlighted in an IFC-World Bank research report. Only less than 7% of microenterprises utilize smartphones and computers for business purposes, and a staggering 71% of these small businesses perceive no necessity for such technologies.

While African small businesses show limited interest in technology, consumers are adapting quickly. However, the failure to embrace technology puts businesses at risk of bankruptcy, emphasizing the urgent need for African entrepreneurs to adopt its use.

Elumelu’s take on Africapitalism

Since 2011, Tony Elumelu has been a strong advocate of Africapitalism, an economic philosophy centered around Africa’s private sector driving long-term investments and fostering economic and social progress. Elumelu emphasizes that the continent’s development should not rely solely on African governments, donor countries, and philanthropic organizations, but must actively involve the private sector.

He said “That’s the thing about Africaptalism. It’s no longer about Africa sitting for donor organisations to bring in money to invest in different sectors. But this is us saying we need to develop entrepreneurs, we know how to develop entrepreneurs, so let’s partner to develop more. We have put our money into it, so come let’s partner to do this.” 

Elumelu’s impact through the Tony Elumelu Foundation

Founded in 2010 by Tony Elumelu and headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) is a prominent non-profit organization with a strong focus on Africa. TEF is a pioneering member of the Global Impact Investment Rating System and serves as a leading advocate for entrepreneurship in the continent. Its primary goals include empowering individuals, particularly women and men, throughout Africa, stimulating economic growth, combating poverty, and fostering job opportunities.

“We have today supported over 18,000 beneficiaries with a non-refundable capital of $5,000 each, both men and women. Last year, we funded 70% of women-led businesses and 30% of businesses led by men. The reverse used to be the case when we started our foundation,” Elumelu said. “That shows a lot. Our women are being encouraged, they are stepping forward and they are doing very well.”

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