About 3,050 young entrepreneurs from 54 African countries were on Friday unveiled as the beneficiaries of the 2019 Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Programme.
The Foundation said in a statement after the unveiling ceremony in Abuja that it would directly fund 1,000 of the entrepreneurs, with an additional 2,050 beneficiaries to be supported by partners.
The beneficiaries of the $100 million fund committed to empowering African entrepreneurs emerged after undergoing a selection process by Accenture Development Partners.
The foundation said its list of partners has continued to grow over the five years of its existence.
The latest partners include the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Federal Republic of Benin (Seme City), the Anambra State Government, Indorama Petrochemical Limited, the Government of Botswana and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
This year, the foundation said over 216,000 applications were received, about 43 per cent increase from last year’s 151,000.
From the number of applications, the foundation said almost 90,000 were submitted by female entrepreneurs, an increase of 45 per cent, in line with its strategy to promote greater gender equity.
The foundation said each of the selected entrepreneurs will each receive a non- refundable $5,000 (approx N1.7 million) of seed capital, in addition to access to mentors, and a 12-week business training programme directly focused on the needs of African entrepreneurs.
On July 26 – 27 2019, the successful applicants will gather at the TEF Entrepreneurship Forum, the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurship ecosystem on the continent.
TEF Founder, Tony Elumelu, unveiled the beneficiaries as part of his 56th birthday celebration.
He said governments, businesses, and indeed the entire African society must harness their resources to transform the economies and people’s livelihoods.
“Every year, we face an almost impossible task to select 1,000. Our entrepreneurs are hungry to effect change. We know we are only scratching the surface. We see the depth of entrepreneurial talent. We must rally together to empower the people and accelerate the change we want on the continent,” Mr Elumelu said.
The wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, who attended the event commended the programme’s impact on the continent.
She charged the selected entrepreneurs to contribute meanifully to the advancement of the African continent.
“Indeed, I am confident these Tony Elumelu entrepreneurs will inspire deep confidence and be of immense value not just to Nigeria but to the entire continent,” she said.
The incoming CEO of the Foundation, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, said the entrepreneurship programme has successfully empowered 7,520 entrepreneurs in its first five years.
The fifth anniversary of the 10-year programme, she said, includes 2,050 entrepreneurs, supported by the foundation’s partners in addition to 1,000 entrepreneurs it was committed to empower annually.
Last year, Mrs Ugochukwu said the foundation launched TEFConnect, the digital networking platform for African entrepreneurs.
The platform, she said, was open to all, to further democratise the access to opportunities for the thousands of entrepreneurs that cannot directly benefit from our Entrepreneurship Programme.
“This further demonstrates our commitment to empowering our entrepreneurs and our belief that entrepreneurship holds the key to unleashing the true potential of the African continent,” Mrs Ugochukwu said.