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The Tony Elumelu Foundation is creating a ‘positive virus’ for entrepreneurial development. The goal is to replicate it across Africa


The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) brought more than 2,000 energised, ambitious and determined young people from across the continent to Abuja for its annual entrepreneurship forum.
Entrepreneurship is the issue of the day in Africa. It was clear that the continent has an exciting future, as African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, Bank colleagues and I engaged with these youthful entrepreneurs, as well as policy makers and business leaders at this high-energy event at the end of July.

One of the highlights for me was moderating the first plenary on entrepreneurship. We need to recognise that the way development has been approached in Africa hasn’t reached its full potential…yet. Impactful development needs to be about entrepreneurship, market-based solutions and harnessing the brilliance of Africa’s young people. Some of these brilliant young people were in the plenary auditorium – and they were eager to engage.

To kick off this first plenary, the TEF assembled an impressive and gender-balanced mix of government, development and private sector representatives, as well as two young entrepreneurs already on their path to success, thanks in part to the TEF’s support.

The panel and audience members brought unique and often personal experiences to the discussion. We heard about the challenges entrepreneurs and “agripreneurs” face, like getting access to finance, simplifying agricultural product delivery logistics – and this popular sentiment: how to break the investment barrier to grow from small to established business.

We heard success stories, too, like TEF programme alumna Dr. Vèna Ahouansou, who described how seed money from the foundation helped her scale up her digital health start–up, which now enables 1,500

 health workers to provide better-informed medical care to approximately 150,000 patients in Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We shared ideas, programmes and solutions to connect aspiring entrepreneurs with experienced mentors, and discussed how to de-risk perceived high-risk investments and bring millions of women entrepreneurs into global markets.

The TEF Forum has managed to create a positive virus to foster entrepreneurship  and this is a good thing that should be replicated. The African Development Bank has placed job creation at the centre of its strategy, working across many areas to harness the great power of this new generation of entrepreneurs for the benefit of all Africans.

You can check out the #TEF2019 entrepreneurship plenary conversation. The link, courtesy of the Foundation, follows:

Watch Vice President Blanke and panelists in the Tony Elumelu Foundation plenary panel discussion, in full, by clicking on the above image.

African Development Bank Delegation at TEF 2019
-Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President
-Dr. Jennifer Blanke, Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development
-Mr. Ebrima Faal, Senior Director, Nigeria Country Department
-Dr. Victor Oladokun, Director Communications and External Relations Department
-Mr. Lamin Barrow, Director, Joint Secretariat Support Office for the African Development Bank, African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa
-Ms. Oley Dibba-Wadda, Director, Human Capital, Youth and Skills Development Department
-Mr. Tapera Muzira, Coordinator, Jobs for Youth Africa Strategy


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