Africa has recently been hailed as an emerging market to watch, and many estimate that consumer-driven growth and a large middle class will soon be on the rise. Studies have shown that a majority Africans consider entrepreneurship to be an attractive career choice.
However, the same studies also show that the high cost of capital hinders start-ups, along with a lack of necessary skills, and cumbersome business administrative policies. In addition, potential investors are made uneasy by the instability caused by war and the spread of diseases such as Ebola. These challenges make it difficult for someone with an innovative business idea to get a start-up off the ground.
In December 2014, a Nigerian businessman named Tony Elumelu launched a $100 million initiative to support and empower a new generation of African entrepreneurs. Called the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme, the initiative aims to grow 10,000 start-ups and young businesses in Africa over the next 10 years, creating one million jobs and $10 billion in annual revenues.
Each year, the programme will accept 1,000 African entrepreneurs and equip them with seed funding, a 12-week business skills training course, mentoring, an entrepreneurship boot camp, and networking opportunities. The programme is the first of its kind to be spearheaded by an African philanthropic organization, and it is the largest African-sourced initiative targeting local entrepreneurs. The programme is based on the belief that an African-led private sector is the key to unlocking the continent’s potential, that African entrepreneurship must be empowered, and that the African start-up environment should be nurtured and supported in its early stages.
In its first competition in early 2015, the programme received over 20,000 applications from African entrepreneurs in 52 countries. At the end of March, the first 1,000 entrepreneurs were chosen by a selection committee comprised of prominent African business leaders. These 1,000 entrepreneurs will receive a structured, multi-year opportunity to access funding, knowledge, mentoring, and empowerment on a large scale. The 19,000 applicants who were not selected will have an opportunity to join an entrepreneurship network and further their skills as well.
Those chosen represent a range of sectors such as agriculture, education, fashion, and ICT, come from different African regions, and represent all of the continent’s major language groups. Mr. Elumelu says that the programme is to be the cornerstone to African development and will support the men and women across Africa who will lead the continent’s development and transform their own future.
Many of Africa’s already successful entrepreneurs, such as Christian Ngan, a Cameroonian founder of an organic cosmetic firm, believe that the solution to Africa’s poverty must not rely on aid, but must come from within. There is key support for the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s programme because it has the potential to give local entrepreneurs a platform to turn their ideas into sustainable businesses that will drive economic growth and job creation.
The goal of the programme is to create a movement that grows by 1,000 new businesses every year and contributes to African trade and the African economy in a tangible way. The programme will show the world that Africa has great ideas and innovative entrepreneurs who just need the support to turn their ideas into a profitable reality.