Africapitalism: How Tony Elumelu is unleashing prosperity across Africa (TEF Forum 2017 Report)

How do you change the economic system of an entire continent?

60% of Africans are under the age of 30. Every year, 12 million youths enter the labor market, yet, there are only jobs for 2–3 million. To create millions of jobs and unleash a new wave of prosperity across Africa, Tony Elumelu is staking $100M of his own wealth over a 10-year period to generate $10 billion in new revenue, create 10,000 new businesses and provide 1,000,000 new jobs. Tony’s bold vision is the reason the largest Pan-African gathering of entrepreneurs happened in Lagos, Nigeria on the 13th & 14th of October. Relationships were built, Networks were formed and partnerships were forged. But how did it all happen?


THE 1,000:

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

After missing out last year, I literally had my heart in my mouth as I awaited the unveiling of the 1,000 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs. Seeing my name set the house on fire. My sister & I screamed, jumped and danced. $10,000 to support Comcastle, my idea of equipping Africa’s teens with coding skills for a trailblazing future, all thanks to the generosity of Tony Elumelu.

For Adebola Olanipekun who got laid off her job in February 2017, applying for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program was the perfect opportunity to pitch her big idea. It was a painful period in her life and being selected as one of TEF entrepreneurs not only validated her idea, it gave her the motivation She needed to pursue her dreams. Adebola says “I am grateful to Tony Elumelu for giving me a lifeline”.



Each year since 2015, Tony Elumelu has been changing the lives of 1,000 African entrepreneurs like me who have big ideas but lack funding. Zounon Kevin from Ivory Coast says the grant will help finance his electronic payment system which processes cards using an android phone instead of POS, and is poised to give low income population access to microcredit. These entrepreneurs with diverse cutting-edge ideas not only proffer solutions to Africa’s problems but employ other teeming youths, helping to reduce unemployment across the continent. Tony Elumelu’s generosity is driven by his inclusive economic philosophy of Africapitalism; the belief that a vibrant African-led private sector, with significant participation from entrepreneurs, is the key to unlocking Africa’s economic & social potential.



Instead of just handing us fish, Tony set out to teach us how to fish with a comprehensive 12 weeks online education that featured courses ranging from problem centric entrepreneurship and business model to cash flow management and writing a business plan (with feedback from Accenture!). We also made friends & struck partnerships via forums & chats on the platform. The CEO of Tony Elumelu foundation, Parminder Vir was spot on when She said “The TEF platform is the Facebook for African entrepreneurs”.

We even had leading experts across industries mentor us and for several fellows, the training and mentorship couldn’t have come at a better time.



The 2017 TEF entrepreneurship forum wasn’t just the largest gathering of African entrepreneurs, it was a convergence of Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs, captains of industries, heads of government, and leaders of financial and grant awarding institutions.

Dr Awele Elumelu officially opened the 2017 TEF Forum with a bang: “The future of Africa lies in your hands. Your success is for your cities and the continent. When we empower Women, communities are empowered”

Outstanding fellows were also recognized, with Nigeria’s Mamamoni, a Social Enterprise that empowers low-income rural and urban slum women with free vocational skills and Mobile loans, leading the pack.

The young ebullient Frank Nweke jr, Nigeria’s former Minister of Information and Communications, led the most explosive panel discussion on opportunities for changing Africa’s development paradigm through investment & entrepreneurship.

He asked the representatives from USAID, UNDP & Red Cross burning questions, especially if they were ready to rethink their strategy of providing aid, demanding clarity each time. It paid off: Eloi Filon, Head of Delegation, Red cross Nigeria instantly pledged $1 million dollars to support entrepreneurs in conflict ridden zones. From terrific speeches to insightful panel discussions, here are some of the most memorable quotes:


Tony Elumelu (Opening remarks)

“Growth in Africa is our responsibility and our opportunity. Nobody but us can develop Africa”

“All of us are aware of our continent’s rapid growth in population. Only entrepreneurs will create the millions of jobs, that we need, to lift our economy out of poverty”

“With bright and creative minds such as these, and the other 3,000 entrepreneurs the Tony Elumelu Foundation has empowered over three years, it is only a matter of time before young Africans build technologies that rival the Ubers and E-bays of this world”


Prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe, CEO Fasmicro group (On extending the frontier)

“A startup is an organic living organism that can scale or mutate if necessary”

“Endorsements and big breaks came because I was able to build a brand that gave customers a great experience”

“When looking for that frontier, look for your scalable advantage and what makes you better than others”


Angie Nwandu, CEO Shade Room (on building a brand)

“Be comfortable with being embarrassed”

“Your number reason to start a business cannot be money. You have to have a why”

“If your business cannot grow organically without advertisement, rethink your business model”

“Build a team that loves the brand just as much as you do. If you get someone that loves your brand just as much as you do, you have the heart of 20 people”


Debola Williams, CEO Red Media Africa (on digital marketing)

“Digital platforms give you a level playing field to get voice share. Once you identify your target audience, identify the channels they consume”

“Double down on your value proposition, make it clear in your communication so your customers can be your ambassadors. Engage influencers in tweet conversations on trending issues”

“Pay attention to relationships. I do not have a bank full of money but a bank full of relationships”


Chike Onyia, CEO Zolta limited (on Maximizing your potential)

“Live life based on certain core values or principles”

“Develop and demonstrate competence consistently”


Maxwell Ubah, CEO winning strategies international (on Execution, Excellence & Enterprise)

“Principles are universal. You can achieve greatness wherever you are”

“Execution without excellence is Africa’s biggest problem”

“Excellence pays in the long run. Mediocrity pays right now”

“You can make money with mediocrity, you cannot build a great institution with mediocrity”


Oba Otudeko, Chairman Honeywell Group (on empowering African entrepreneurs)

“The empires of the future are actually the empires of the mind”

“Commit yourself to great vision and powerful ideas”

“The future is not an inheritance. The future is an opportunity and an obligation”


Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-president of Nigeria (on the Tyranny of history)

“The future is not determined by the history of the past unless you allow it”

“Dreams pursued with singlemindedness are more powerful than facts”

“Courage & persistence can triumph over experience”

“Hope and imagination are more potent than history”

“Your history is not necessarily your destiny”


Aliko Dangote, Chairman Dangote Group & Africa’s richest man (on empowering African entrepreneurs)

“Failure is usually the precursor to success”

“Think big and start small. Be diligent and passionate about what you do”

“Develop a solution driven mind-set and build a business that solves a problem or addresses a need that many people have”

“Know your limitations and be humble enough to seek advice”

“Strive, make us proud & in some years compete in top global billionaires list”



Tony Elumelu is a man of incredible vision. His philosophy of Africapitalism and his refreshing brand of philanthropy is not in rhetoric’s but in action: a $100M investment in Africa’s most promising entrepreneurs. Tony is transforming lives and bringing hope to the continent. Imagine if Africa had 10 more Elumelu’s who are willing to invest in building capacity of youth and provide much needed financial support. Imagine if the remaining 92,000 applicants who were not selected this year get a chance to pursue their dreams.

As a fellow, I am immensely grateful for his support and I couldn’t agree more with Tony that “the time is now to invest in our entrepreneurs. If Africa invests in our youth, the continent GDP could rise by $500 billion a year and per capita income for Africa will grow by 55% in the next four years”

The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs are already leading this revolution.

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