By Omoh Gabriel
At the gathering in Lagos of young entrepreneurs and well wishers of Tony Elumelu to celebrate his 60th birthday, former America President Bill Clinton in a video clip thanked Elumelu for believing in a better future. This is a profound statement as many African politicians who have the responsibility of shaping a better future for Africans have only worked for their pockets. Yet, one of the beneficiary said that it is hard to believe that a man like Tony would invest so much of his hard earned money on youths without asking for anything in return, not even a vote. She echoed the voice of several African young entrepreneur whom Elumelu had touched and help to grow their businesses. The two speakers elucidate the yearnings of Africa youths who have been denied the needed conducive environment to grow. Tony is one who believe strongly in share value and in pursuit of this has been giving back to society through the several businesses he has established. He is one person who believe that the Africa narrative can be changed for good through entrepreneurship. At 60, he can look back with some level of satisfaction that life has been kind to him, and he has been kind to other human beings by making life better for them. Those who have had contact with him at close quarter will testify of his kind gesture. The foundation he sets up after stepping down as the CEO of UBA has impacted many. He has trained well over 1.5 million entrepreneurs across Africa. The foundation has disbursed about $100 million to around 18,000 aspiring Africa entrepreneurs who have created over 400,000 jobs across Africa. He tells Africa youth that the Future of Africa is in their hands
In 2014, while in Vanguard as the Group Business Editor, I had the unenviable task of having to write a tribute for him as the Vanguard Business Personality 2014. Here is what I wrote then. “Africa has long been described as a dark continent where nothing good is happening apart from savagery and war of attrition. This notion has in the past tended to make African stars to be clouded out of reckoning by others. Today, a new vocabulary called African capitalism has entered into the global business dictionary. It is the idea of an African, a Nigerian who is making waves in the international business arena, whose voice can no longer be ignored. He believes that Africa should take its destiny of economic emancipation in its own hand. As it was in Europe in the 16th century when some group of business men in search of profit developed Europe and America, this eminent Nigerian also believes that African businesses can change the face of Africa and transform it from a poor and needy continent to an industrialised one.
“The high priest and chief advocate of this noble idea also believes that the current trend, where in Africa, the primary advocates for investing with social impact – that is the creation of value, jobs, and wealth, are philanthropic agencies and NGOs can be replaced by African businesses taking the lead in development. He has set up institutions to instil entrepreneurial values in African youths to make them stand out as employers of labour instead of ending up in paid white collar jobs. He believes that for Africa to successfully achieve optimistic growth targets, particularly in the consumer sector, wealth must be created on a far larger scale, with broader participation than exists today. Thus value and wealth creation can no longer be a niche business and investment practice: they should drive all private sector development in Africa. The Africapitalism concept which asserts value creation through entrepreneurship is Africa’s unique future. Like capitalism itself, the Tony Elumelu is urging African businesses to view their operations from the perspective of creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing needs and challenges. Tony O. Elumelu is the voice crying in the African business wilderness for Africans to look inwards and imbibe the spirit of knowledge economy to develop Africa.
“Elumelu was born on 22 March 1963. He is a Nigerian economist, banker, investor, and philanthropist. Elumelu as of today is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, a pan-African proprietary investment company with interests in strategic sectors of Africa’s economy. He is the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an Africa-based and African-funded not-for-profit organisation (NPO) that is dedicated to the promotion and celebration of excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa. Elumelu holds the Nigerian national honour, the Commander of the Order of Nigeria, CON. New African magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in Africa. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Ambrose Alli University and a Master of Science degree, also in Economics, from the University of Lagos. He is an alumnus of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Programme. In his early career, Elumelu made a name for himself when he acquired and turned Standard Trust Bank into a top-five player in Nigeria. In 2005, his corporate reputation as an African Business Leader was sealed when he led the largest merger in the banking sector in Sub-Saharan Africa to acquire United Bank for Africa, UBA. In five years he transformed it from a single-country bank, to a pan-African institution with over 7 million customers in 19 African countries.
“Following his retirement from UBA in 2010, Elumelu founded Heirs Holdings, which invests in the financial services, energy, real estate and hospitality, agribusiness, and healthcare sectors; all of which help to create economic prosperity and social wealth across the continent. In the same year, he established the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an African-based and African-funded, philanthropic organisation dedicated to the promotion of excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship, to enhance the competitiveness of the private sector across Africa. In 2011, Heirs Holdings acquired a controlling interest in the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc , Transcorp, a publicly quoted conglomerate that has business interests in the agribusiness, energy, and hospitality sectors. Elumelu was subsequently appointed Chairman of the Corporation.
World Economic Forum’s member. He serves as an Adviser to the USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa, PCGA, Partners Forum. He sits on the Nigerian President’s Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council, ATIC. He is also vice-chairman and a key driver in the formation of the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria, NCCN, and serves as Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute Dialogue Series on Global Food Security. He additionally chairs the Ministerial Committee to establish world-class hospitals and diagnostic centres across Nigeria, at the invitation of the Federal Government.
“He was a member of the World Economic Forum’s Regional Agenda Council on Africa. His presence on the Bretton Woods Committee, which brings together senior leaders in the global banking industry, is recognition of his work on African development. He is a Fellow of the Nigeria Leadership Initiative, NLI. He insists that Africapitalism is not capitalism with an African twist; it is a rallying cry for empowering the private sector to drive Africa’s economic and social growth. Elumelu subscribes to Michael Porter’s concept of Creating Shared Value (CSV). He studied under Professor Porter at Harvard Business School and Professor Porter is the Founding Patron of The Tony Elumelu Foundation.
Recognition In 2013, Mr. Elumelu received the Leadership Award in Business and Philanthropy from the Africa-America Institute, AAI, Awards. He was also named African Business Icon at the 2013 African Business Awards”.
A toast for this great Africa achiever. Happy birthday.