A Personal Note to African Entrepreneurs

Dear African Entrepreneur,

We all did it…. We made it through 2021. Another year of the global pandemic, uncertainty, challenge, but also opportunity.

As we enter 2022, I wanted to write personally, as we plan for the future and create new goals.  I want to share a little of my own story and what I call the #TOEWAY and the core values that guide me.  These values have helped me personally and professionally, and are incredibly important for every young African entrepreneur to imbibe, learn, thrive, and grow from.

The first is Execution.

Execution demands that we focus on results. It gives us a sense of urgency.  A commitment to our objectives. We must be meticulous. There is a discipline of getting things done.  There is a temptation to put things off – we should shun excuses, and needless explanations. Remain driven and committed to that goal. Committed to going that extra mile.  Be known for your dependability, and be consistent in delivering results.

The second is Excellence.

To achieve excellence, there must be a sense of professionalism across everything you do. You cannot be guided by the short term or emotional sentiments. Strive to be fair and objective at all times. Lead with integrity. Be exceptional, stand out for your disciplined and rigor. Prioritize your customers and give them the best experience that you can offer. Be respectful of your peers, subordinates and leaders.

Our final value is on Enterprise.

What is enterprise?  It is about doing things differently – to seek out new ways. Not change for changes sake, but because our increasingly complex world demands new answers to new challenges.  It is the essence of entrepreneurship.  It is what can set you apart, raise you up, change your life – and those around you.

As my wife, Dr. Elumelu stated in a recent interview, your generation, in addition to being smart and technology savvy, is entrepreneurial.  You have refused to follow the traditional paths that we took in our day, where a lawyer was just a lawyer, who gradually and patiently climbed the career ladder, or a doctor was just a doctor or an engineer just an engineer.  This generation is entrepreneurial and solutions-driven and so, are applying their academic knowledge along with digital savvy to solve endemic social and economic issues.  Your businesses have improved the ease of cross-border payments, intra-Africa logistics, and even improved representation in new tech-driven sectors – it knows no boundaries.

I was born in Africa, raised in Africa, studied in Africa, worked in Africa, and have achieved success in Africa.  Beyond business success, one must always look for ways not only to give back, but also to empower the generation coming behind us so that they can go even further than we have.  That is how we can enact this social and economic change that we are all seeking in our continent and in our world today. As a parent, one’s desire is for your children to do better and so we strive to provide the resources and materials that they need to ensure that they go far in life. Similarly, at the Foundation, we are equipping the next generation with the tools they need to succeed.

Indeed, we are committed to your future. I am invested in your success. Your success is our success. In 2021, the Tony Elumelu Foundation received 406,257 applications from all 54 African countries and provided training to 206,550 – more than 50% of applicants. In 2021 alone, we disbursed USD$24.75m to 5,000 African entrepreneurs, demonstrating our mission to catalyse economic growth, drive poverty eradication and ensure job creation on the continent.

This is why on this first day of 2022, we are opening the 2022 Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme Application portal on TEFConnect.net! Entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries can apply for the opportunity of a lifetime to receive $5,000 non-refundable seed capital, world-class business management training, mentorship, and access to key networks and markets.

I am a product of luck and hard work and know first-hand that these factors are inextricable if you want to succeed.  If you wonder how you can achieve your goals, as I have said earlier, know that the first step is to be disciplined. Choose discipline as your daily practice. Nurture the mindset of longevity in all areas of your thinking. Embrace challenges; there is no success without sacrifices.  Whether it is in your business, personal life or relationships, a new year is a clean slate.  It is a chance to set goals, commit to them, and prepare your mind for the discipline that is required for growth and success.

For many young people, beginnings can be scary and uncertain, charged with many decisions to make and ambitions to fulfil.  You know that you are increasingly ambitious.  Take advantage of this opportunity of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme to drive change in your life, in that of your family, your local community!

As we usher in the 3rd year of living through a pandemic, do not to lose hope. Entrepreneurship is years of hard work, long hours, and unquantifiable sacrifices.  Your capacity to thrive and remain committed despite temporary setbacks, will have significant impact in realising your dreams.

Let us all look forward to a productive year ahead of achieving all of our goals.

To those who have not yet been awarded, do not forget to apply on TEFConnect.net, and please share with a friend!


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