It’s not every day that you come across someone who truly embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship, but Tony Elumelu is one such individual. His commitment to African business and entrepreneurship has made him one of the continent’s most prominent and successful businessmen. From founding one of Nigeria’s most successful banks to spearheading a pan-African entrepreneurship program, Elumelu has been instrumental in driving Africa’s economic growth.
Born in 1963 in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, Tony Elumelu’s early years were shaped by a love for education and a passion for business. After completing his secondary education at the Federal Government College, Jos, he went on to study economics at the Ambrose Alli University in Ekpoma, Edo State, Nigeria. It was during this time that Elumelu’s entrepreneurial instincts began to take shape, and he started exploring various business opportunities.
Elumelu’s first major business venture was the founding of the Standard Trust Bank (STB) in 1990. Under his leadership, STB grew to become one of Nigeria’s leading banks, with a focus on retail banking and customer service. After a series of mergers and acquisitions, STB was eventually acquired by the United Bank for Africa (UBA) in 2005, and Elumelu was appointed as the CEO of UBA in 2010.
In 2014, Elumelu made headlines again when he launched the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), an entrepreneurship program aimed at empowering African entrepreneurs. The program provides funding, mentorship, and training to thousands of entrepreneurs across Africa, with a focus on sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, and technology. The goal of the program is to create 10,000 startups and 1 million jobs by 2030, and it has already had a significant impact on the African entrepreneurship landscape.
One of the TEF program’s success stories is the story of Mubarak Muyika, a Kenyan entrepreneur who received funding from the program and went on to launch HypeCentury Technologies, a software development company that has since become one of Kenya’s fastest-growing startups. Muyika credits the TEF program with providing him with the funding and support he needed to turn his business idea into a reality.
Aside from his work with the TEF program, Elumelu has also been a champion for African entrepreneurship on the global stage. In 2015, he was appointed as the Co-Chair of the US-Africa Business Forum, where he worked to promote trade and investment between the US and Africa. He has also been a vocal advocate for the role of the private sector in driving Africa’s economic growth, and has called for greater investment in African businesses and entrepreneurs.
Elumelu’s commitment to African entrepreneurship has not gone unnoticed. In 2018, he was awarded the National Productivity Order of Merit by the Nigerian government in recognition of his contributions to the country’s economic growth. He has also been recognized by a number of international organizations, including the United Nations Development Programme and the African Development Bank, for his work in promoting entrepreneurship and economic development in Africa.
Despite all his achievements, Elumelu remains committed to his vision of empowering African entrepreneurs. In 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he launched the TEF Entrepreneurship Program COVID-19 Recovery Plan, which provided funding and support to African entrepreneurs who were affected by the pandemic. The program provided a lifeline to many entrepreneurs who were struggling to keep their businesses afloat during the pandemic, and helped to ensure that the African entrepreneurship ecosystem remained resilient.