Tekedia Report Card on Tony Elumelu Foundation, A Leading African Institution

Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) is evolving as a leading non-profit institution out of Africa. Founded by the former legendary and iconic leader of United Bank for Africa, Tony Elumelu, this institution is redefining NGO and opening new vistas of opportunities in Africa.

The Tony Elumelu Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit institution dedicated to the promotion and celebration of excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa. They ientify and groom African business leaders and entrepreneurs to achieve the  objective of meaningfully affecting Africa’s prosperity.

Established in 2010, the foundation works to spur economic prosperity in Africa by working to foster and impact Africa’s business leaders and entrepreneurs. In its African perspective, it strives to help nurture the next generation of African leaders that will play at the highest level, globally. It started by gathering a team of accomplished people like its CEO, Dr. Wiebe Boer, formerly of Mckinsey, in its leadership. The Advisory Board is also solid and parades a heavyweight like Teresa Clarke, a former MD of Goldman Sachs. Generally, this Foundation is skewed towards business and finance and most of the key guys are from those backgrounds.

As I have written many times, NGOs in Africa must morph into a quasi social and business institution to be sustainable. This does not apply to the TEF because they have a lot of greenback. I am particularly happy they have not started by giving people awards. You know it is common these days to call a gala night to recognize people that have achieved things in life. Nothing bad about that. Personally, I cherish those that focus on helping more people to achieve by investing in the future. That is what the TEF domain seems to be.

It wants to help to raise the stars. To do that, it launched the The Tony Elumelu Foundation  African Markets Internship Programme. The program is  designed to improve the competitiveness of innovative SMEs in Africa, while  providing African perspectives to the participants, interns. With our continent a key part of the global economy, anyone that knows Africa is well positioned to lead, internationally.

Africa is an amalgam of culture. Few weeks ago as a member of a global expert network that retains “bright” (??, not sure about that) people and connects them to CEO clients for outside insight on business, I had an encounter. I focus on technology and Sub Saharan Africa and sometimes made money talking to people. That day, I had the duty to explain to one Fortune 500 CEO that plans to enter Nigeria on the business geography of the nation. I told him that his penetration model must understand that Nigeria is not one culture (the business has a cultural dimension). We zap the structure and I told him that he has no Northern Nigeria strategy.  What did I sell? Knowledge of Nigeria and its business ecosystem. So, imagine if these interns come over and have that understanding, they can do better in the global arena.

 “Our 10-week internship program is a win-win opportunity for both interns and African firms. It will build the institutional capacity of African-owned and operated companies, and leverages global talent to increase the firms’ competitiveness, while providing on-the-job training for interns.”, Tony O. Elumelu

AMIP interns were drawn from  such business schools as Yale, UPenn, London Business School, Spain’s IESE business school, Lagos Business School, Ghana’s GIMPA, and the Strathmore Business School in Kenya. The companies that made the list to host the interns included, from Nigeria, Alitheia Capital, Doreo Partners, and Verod Capital. Kachifo Books,  NN24, and  AACE Foods completed the Nigerian list. From Kenya, we have  Craft Silicon, Pamoja Media,  KenCall, POS vendor Paystream, and online content aggregator A24. And in Ghana, we have  Oasis Capital and  Injaro Investments.

Technically, Mr. Elumelu is a billionaire!  Oh yes, there is a high level of opaquity in Africa to know what these bank moguls worth, but I am confident that if he owns a sizable portion of UBA and other clusters of businesses, he seats on a more formidable foundation in that league than the folks that depend on oil fluctuations to make the Forbes’ list. Right, it feels good that an African has money to spend to actually improve Africa. So, be rest assured that TEF got it and we will see more of these interns into Africa, yearly.

What will this NGO achieve in this decade? It is safe to write that TEF will emerge to become a highly respected institution with footprints in all the major areas in African governance and business leadership .By teaming up with The Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), TEF seeks  to develop governments’ capacity to stimulate private-sector growth.

 The Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) and The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) are pleased to announce the signing ceremony of the Blair Elumelu Fellowship Programme, supporting transformational governments to advance the economic development of Africa. The goal of this three-year programme is to strengthen the private sector’s role in the economic transformation of select African countries – starting with Liberia and Sierra Leone — by developing the capacity of their governments to enhance competitiveness and attract and nurture private investment and move beyond aid.


Over the last few years, I have worked with the United Nations as an expert to help them ramp up necessary developmental projects in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. I have had the opportunity of advising some of their leaders and attending numerous summits even in dangerous places to give lectures.But let me say this: I enjoy UN helicopters; there is nothing hell in those helicopters. Last time, I was with the Canadian Ambassador to the UN and we all became simpletons as the noise thundered. The guys that built Freetown airport in that Island got a lot of fun for visitors!

On yes, we develop roadmaps in these countries. So knowing that TEF is moving into Liberia and Sierra Leone, one will hope they will have the support to execute some of them. The challenge is to ensure that these nations get access not just to ideas but resources. In Sierra Leone, they have more than 70% youth unemployment and there seems to be no way of reducing that because a generation did not attend school due to wars.

In summary, I noticed that TEF is supporting Nigeria Leadership Initiative, which was founded by Mr. O. Aganga who ran the Nigerian Ministry of Finance not long ago. (Look at the bottom of that website page, you will notice the TEF logo).  Indeed, TEF is moving and making progress at a fast rate. I will give it A so far for its execution in getting its projects out as quickly as possible (notice that A is not the highest score!). They are rolling and we commend them. Of course, we must give a big commendation to the CEO who has executed flawlessly at a very short time. Nigeria needs more TEFs and let the “big” men dip into their Swiss bank accounts and re-invest their doles into the people and society.





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