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Tony Elumelu: The Entrepreneur, Philanthropist African Youths Can Rely On

With the seeming failure of political leadership across the African Continent, its youths and future leaders have now rested their hopes and aspirations on successful business figures and entrepreneurs who are showing the way with their long standing track record of success both in business and their career path. 

One of such rallying icons is the highly sort after Forbes and TIME Magazines recognized entrepreneur and philanthropist, Nigeria’s Tony  Onyemaechi  Elumelu, an economist and banker who has carved a niche for himself globally for his leadership and Philanthrophy. 

How it all started 

Born on March 22nd 1963 in the chilling city of Jos, Plateau state, North-Central Nigeria. Elumelu has crisscross the length and breadth of Nigeria in search for the proverbial solutions to Nigeria’s problem especially in the area of engaging the youth productively.  

Armed with two excellent degrees, first from Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma Edo state and a Masters from the prestigious University of Lagos,  the Onicha-Ukwu in Delta State born Economic Tzar has not only made Nigeria his terrain, he has decided to rest the problems of the continent on his shoulders. 

He was once quoted; “Everything I have today is because of Africa, I was born here, went to school here, I work here and I am achieving some level of financial comfort here,” with such a loud and profound belief in Africa, nobody would hold Tony Elumelu any grudges, how much investment and impacts he has plunged on the continent. After all, “Poverty anywhere is a threat to everyone Everywhere,” He once enthused. 

The huge transformation; Standard Trust Bank To UBA 

There is nothing as important like the decision a man takes. An individual’s decision making process is pivotal to their success or otherwise. Little wonder, Mr. Tony Elumelu aptly put it thus; “the difference between a successful and non-successful leader is the quality of decision you make.” 

So, when he leaped from a mere Youth Corp member during his one year compulsory National Service at Union Bank, to Standard Trust Bank and off course, snowballing into what is today known as the United Bank for Africa, UBA, which can easily pass as his signature establishment. 

It was the decision to acquire Stbdaed Trust Bank in 2005 and later UBA that catalputed Elumelu into the towering figure he is today. 

As at September 2020, Elumelu has rise from a Youth Corper at Union Bank to becoming the Chairman of UBA Plc, Heirs Holdings, Transcorp and not forgetting the famous Tony Elumelu Foundation-a non profit initiative to empower African entrepreneurs and young business leaders. 

Though, Elumelu retired from UBA Plc in 2010, certainly not before turning the bank into one of the finest and biggest financial brands on the continent today. His acquisition of UBA, is still regarded as the largest merger in the banking terrain not just in Nigeria, but in sub-Saharan Africa. With in five years, Elumelu was credited with the transformation of the bank, from a single-country financial hub to a pan-African institution with over 7 million customers in 19 African countries.

A rallying voice for African Youths 

It is on record that no African business personality has given a voice to its entrepreneurs like Mr. Elumelu. In fact, he is now seen as the light that shines on young leaders and entrepreneurs across the continent.

His support  for African entrepreneurs  by enhancing competitiveness, productivity is legendary and almost second to none. His annual programme, The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Forum is an initiative that sponsors entrepreneurs across Africa  to build network, brainstorm, share ideas, and connect with private and public sector institutions and leaders in one location, in order to tackle  challenges of entrepreneurship on the continent. The sixth edition is billed for October 2020. 

Since the inception of this laudable venture, the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Forum has helped hundreds of African entrepreneurs and young leaders to activate and build successful businesses of their own and this has in turn created job opportunities on the continent. 

His vision for Africa has led him to coin the philosophy “Africapitalism”- which is geared towards the pursuit of African’s own niche of capitalism. He succinctly opined; “There is a better way to invest in Africa for a sustainable future that creates value for all.” 

His  Philanthrophy: Tony Elumelu Foundation 

His concern for Africans and particularly his Philanthropic mien is well known, so when Tony Elumelu launched his brain child, the Tony Elumelu Foundation  in 2010, it didn’t come as a surprise to many. TEF as it’s now known is a Philanthropic initiative of the highly revered banker with the aim to promote and support the prosperity of Africans through  sound leadership and mentorship. 

The Foundation, which has its headquarter in Lagos, Nigeria, among other objectives is geared towards a new course and frontier for African philanthropy and upliftment. 

TEF is not your regular grant-awarding body, but is armed with a holistic system of effective and intensive support for entrepreneurs through its 7-pillar model. In his words, “My vision for the foundation is to unlock the obstacles that African entrepreneurs face, so that they, rather than aid agencies or governments will spur the continent’s transformation.” 

The foundation major pillars include;  The Mtanga Farms Investment to accelerate impact on investment via Mtanga Farms Limited, The Elumelu Legacy Prize: an award created by the philanthropist and wife, Dr. Awele Elumelu to honour homegrown academic excellence in their chosen career path and The Elumelu Professionals Programme (EPP) meant to bring on board experienced professionals graduates from prestigious Masters in Business Administration and Masters in Public Administration.

Others are, The Blair Elumelu Fellowship Programme (BEFP), a joint initiative between Elumelu’s TEF and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative and The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) a not-for-profit body dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of impact investing.

Global recognition

Aside his recognition by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2003 as a member of Order of the Federal Republic, (MFR), Elumelu has received numerous global recognitions, among which are; African Business leader of the Year 2006 by the United Kingdom based magazine, The African Inventor. In 2009, he serve on the Presidential Committee on the Global Financial Crisis.

He has been variously ranked as a Billionaire by Forces Magazine. In its 2020  100 List, TIME Magazine named him among its  100 most Influential Icons. Tony Elumelu is a recipient of other illustrious honours and awards 

He is married to Dr. Awele Elumelu and they have seven children together.

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