The future of Africa depends on an army of industrious, intelligent citizens joining forces to make this continent the powerhouse it ought to be, writes Tony O Elumelu.
Africa’s future will not be forged by a single global event. Neither will it be determined by foreign aid or by opinion pieces in newspapers. The future of Africa depends on an army of industrious, intelligent citizens joining forces to make this continent the powerhouse it ought to be. I believe entrepreneurs are the key to this continent’s future.
For a large group of African entrepreneurs, and for the continent overall, these next few days are going to be exciting, as a thousand extraordinary emerging business owners and operators converge outside Lagos for an “entrepreneur’s Oxford”.
It’s a two-day boot camp for entrepreneurs from all over Africa, and in a range of industries, who were selected to participate in the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme’s 2015 class. They’ll go through live-action learning to hone the hard and soft skills specific to doing business in Africa, form relationships with mentors and peers, and plant the seeds essential for pan-African collaboration and trade.
The participants have already pursued an intensive 12-week online course, guided by expert mentors from around the world – and they’ll have the opportunity to receive two separate rounds of long-term seed capital.
The entrepreneurs themselves are quite special. Through a rigorous selection and due process, we selected 1 000 out of more than 20 000 excellent applicants from 52 African countries. A total of 31 members of the 2015 cohort are from South Africa, and all are toiling to grow the nation’s economy.
By 2020, 122 million Africans will enter the labour force. The number of new jobs that must be created to accommodate them is enormous. This demographic explosion can spell economic boom or doom for the continent.
From my experience, I have observed that African start-ups see adversity as an opportunity.
Each entrepreneur-created job translates into a chance to pull a family permanently out of poverty, a wider tax revenue base for African governments and a prosperous, spending household.
I am happy that the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme stands to create, over 10 years, a million new jobs.
Our entrepreneurs are our future.
* Tony O Elumelu is an economist, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. He’s the chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation.
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