An Encounter with the Largest Gathering of TEF Forum Entrepreneurs

Every journey to Nigeria especially its largest commercial city, Lagos is always enthralling and telling of the people’s sheer determination and power to do more to uplift themselves and others in other parts of Africa.

It maybe these attributes that drive the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Africa’s leading philanthropy dedicated to catalysing and harnessing  the entrepreneurial minds of the African youth .

In 2015, the Foundation launched the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme now known as TEF Entrepreneurship Programme which is the largest African philanthropic initiative devoted to entrepreneurship, carries the foundation’s 10-year, $100 million vision to identify and empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs.

Founded by Tony  Elumelu, a Nigerian economist, entrepreneur, and African philanthropist, Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc and Transcorp, the Foundation targets to create a million jobs, and add $10 billion in revenues to Africa’s economy.

As a journalist who was among several other colleagues to cover the launch of the programme in 2015 and also a past fellow of the ‘TEF Entrepreneurship Forum Travel Fellowship for Journalists 2016’ to cover the second annual TEF Entrepreneurship Forum, the most diverse and the largest  gathering of African entrepreneurs and SMEs, the experience was fantastic.

 Team work

I have covered many international events outside my home country of Ghana but the level of team work and volunteerism exhibited by the staff of TEF, UBA, Heirs Holdings and other partners was beyond my imagination. It was so impeccable.

This spirit of team work  was seen throughout my three days of stay in Lagos. From the first evening I arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos, Nigeria, I met other TEF beneficiaries who were attending the TEF Entrepreneurship Forum 2016.

After going through the immigration formalities, we were picked by an executive mini shuttle bus   to the Nigeria Law School where we went through the registration processes before the main event.

As late as 11 pm that night, we were welcomed by the indefatigable Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications of UBA, Madam Bola Atta, Media Relations Executive,
Marketing & Corporate Communications of UBA, Omede Odekina, Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications of TEF, Ms Bolanle Omisore and the Programme Analyst at TEF, Mrs Binta Williams.

They briefed us (the fellowship journalists) at the media centre which was equipped with the necessary facilities on how to provide an immaculate coverage for the event was held on October 28 to 29, 2016.

At the end of the brief, we were served with Nigerian Jollof which Nigerians claimed to be best jollof food but Ghanaians and Senegalese disagreed.

After the delicious meal, we were shuttled to separate hotels because of our sheer numbers. I was accommodated at hotel with The Gambian, Sierra Leonean and Kenyan journalists.

The memorial entrepreneurship day

 This day was the official beginning of the forum. It was the day of memorial speeches, the day of exquisite Nigerian culture and that of Africa.

The keywords at the forum picked this journalist were-Africapitalism which is an economic philosophy propounded by Mr Tony  Elumelu, CON, and is predicated on the belief that Africa’s private sector can and must play a leading role in the continent’s development. Other keywords included-entrepreneurship and its family of words, conducive business environment, private sector and technology and innovations.

The first day was also about meeting the selected 1,000 beneficiaries of the 2016 TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, networking, building new relationships, among others.

Additionally,  it featured prominently plenary panels, masterclasses, TED-style talks and sector specific networking opportunities.

The young entrepreneurs were eager to share and learn best practices, and this was clearly seen through the questions they asked. Indeed, all the entrepreneurs who attended the opening day event had their innovative and mind-blogging fine-tuned.

Interacting with some of the entrepreneurs on that day, I was emphatic that Africa has tremendous potential entrepreneurs with great and creative ideas that can change the course of the African continent.

I realised that entrepreneurship  is key to achieving poverty reduction and empowering Africans to solve our challenges without dependence on aid from western countries.

These young entrepreneurs are willing to revolutionalise all sector of the economies in their home countries with the enabling power of technologies.

For instance,  The Gambian beneficiary of the programme who shared his testimony at the forum, said he started with a team of a few people to creating employment for some 146 people at his company, Tropingo Foods, a food processing company which focuses on adding value to the fruits industry.

Momarr Taal turned over $1.6 million in 2015 and currently exports to Asia, Europe, among other places. They chalked this feat through the Tony Elumelu Foundation Programme that they managed to make their business dreams to come a reality.

Furthermore, another highlight of day one was talked on Africapitalism by the originator of the philosophy, Tony Elumelu.

UBA House

In the evening of that day, Kennedy Uzoka,  Group Managing Director (GMD) and CEO of pan-African banking group, UBA) Plc together with senior directors of the bank held an interactive media session with the more than 34 African journalists at the UBA House.

At that short event he reaffirmed the bank’s task of extending operations to 25 African countries “in the near to medium-term” from the existing 19 countries is on course.

The UBA in May, last year held its inaugural Senior Leadership Forum which reflected the strategic importance and growth potential of the Group’s pan-African business.

UBA subsidiaries according to Mr Uzoka operate in 19 African countries and now contribute more than 25 percent to Group operating revenue.

UBA is increasingly recognised as a strong pan-African brand, hailed for democratising banking in its countries of operation while participating in leading financial transactions, he told the visiting journalists.

Later in the evening of that same day, Mr Tony Elumelu held a media mixer at UBA House where we had a cocktail reception with UBA Group board members and other senior executives of the bank.

The reception afforded the journalists the unparalleled ample opportunity to interact with Mr Elumelu and the board members in a casual manner. Majority of the journalists took memorable ‘selfies’ with Mr Elumelu.

The last day

It was the much awaited moment as some entrepreneurs and other participants were ready to interact with MrElumelu for the first time.

The last day featured a high-level panel discussion dedicated to identifying policies to strengthen the enabling environment for entrepreneurs. The round table panel discussion was moderated by BBC’s anchor, Lerato Mbele, with panelists including His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, President Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria, Former Prime Minister of Benin Republic Lionel Zinsou, and Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Honourable Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture.

While the private sector speakers of the event included: Kennedy Uzoka, Group CEO of United Bank for Africa (UBA) Mrs. Folorunso Alakija, Vice Chair of Famfa Oil Segun Awolowo, CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council Clem Ugorji, Public Affairs & Communications Director, Coca-Cola West Africa Emeke Iweriebor, Regional CEO of UBA Africa (Francophone) Matthew Pearson, Head of Africa Equity Sales at ICBC Standard Bank Sam Nwanze, Chief Investment Officer at Heirs Holdings.

TEF CEO Parminder Vir OBE said: “We are proud to have established a unique platform for African entrepreneurs to forge relationships and business partnerships. In doing so, we are creating an ecosystem that fosters innovation and collaboration, on a scale few believed possible.”

Finally, Mr Tony Elumelu was called on stage, welcomed with loud cheers and smiles on all the faces of the young African entrepreneurs who saw him as their only source of hope.

Mr Elumelu congratulated all the entrepreneurs who made it for that year programme and his unflinching pledged support for their personal and business developments.

He used the occasion to challenge all stakeholders from the public and private sectors, civil society, multilateral organizations and all individuals invested in Africa’s economic development to join hands with the Foundation to support the wider African entrepreneurial community.

During the same night, the Foundation treated all the guests  to scintillating  performances from P-Square.  There was also a surprise performance of rising stars in Nigeria.

Then it was time to return to our various countries after the short, but fruitful stay in Lagos. On the following day morning, around 9:30 am was shuttled to the airport to fly to Accra, Ghana.

But the memories are still fresh in my mind especially the proverbial hospitality of Nigerians and their zeal to succeed at all cost.

Returning to Lagos with fresh expectation

Fortunately, I have been awarded another travel fellowship to cover the 3rd annual TEF Entrepreneurship Forum which will take place on October 13-14 in Lagos, Nigeria.

This is the first year that invitation to the Forum is extended beyond the 1,000 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs from the 2017 cohort, to include selected SMEs, media, hubs, incubators, academia and investors from diverse nations across Africa; from Mauritius to Cape Verde to Kenya and more. Assembled SMEs will build networks, share knowledge, connect with investors and link with corporate supply chains.

“Since launching the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme – and committing $100 million to empowering 10,000 African entrepreneurs in a decade – we have unleashed our continent’s most potent development force, its entrepreneurs,” said TEF Founder Tony O. Elumelu, CON.

“In just 3 years, our first 3,000 entrepreneurs have created tens of thousands of jobs and generated considerable wealth.  On October 13 and 14, the global entrepreneurship community will gather in Lagos to build a New Africa, a thriving, self-reliant continent capable of replicating the results of our ground-breaking Programme.”

The two-day Forum will feature plenary panels, masterclasses, sector specific networking opportunities and policy-led forums focused on enabling African business growth.

I hope that my expectation of witnessing another eventful event will be met.

Source: Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh || African Eye Report

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