Tony Elumelu’s name surely rings a bell across the marketplaces of Africa. Born on the 22nd of March 1963 in Jos, Plateau State to Mr. Dominic and Mrs. Suzanne Elumelu, he is a serially successful entrepreneur, strategic investor, respected business mogul and philanthropist. He has his footprints in several financial institutions including MTN Nigeria, and Transcorp where he owns a controlling stake.
In 1997, Tony Elumelu turned milk into butter when he led a ground of small investors into taking over a shaky commercial bank in Nigeria. Within a couple of years, that bank became profitable and merged with the United Bank for Africa (UBA) in 2005. With him at the helm, the UBA’s tentacles spread across Nigeria and now the financial institution has subsidiaries in the UK, US and over 20 African countries. Little wonder that his country Nigeria bestowed on him the national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
After his retirement from heading UBA, Tony Elumelu founded Heirs Holdings, a family owned investment company committed to improving lives with portfolios that cuts across power, financial services, oil and gas, hospitality, real estate and health care sector. The company operates in twenty-three countries worldwide. A self-made businessman, he reminds some of the American Industrialist Andrew Carnegie of the 19th century.
A simple man yet with an overflowing commitment towards the future of Africa, Tony Elumelu founded The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) which is a leading philanthropic initiative in Africa that champions entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs across the continent. Seeing through the harsh socioeconomic environment of Africa, Tony Elumelu believes that the common enemy of Africa is poverty, but that with enough ideas in place, job creation becomes easier and the future grows greener. The Tony Elumelu foundation is giving the African business scene a massive boost. Its framework includes education, mentor support, entrepreneurship community and startup funding.
The program was initially designed to support 10,000 entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries for over 10 years with the aim of creating 1 million jobs. But at an event which took place at Brussels in 2019, Tony Elumelu reiterates that the Foundation would love to reach 10,000 in one year. With support from partners, its major aim is to eradicate poverty and create wealth in a sustainable way.
Whether he is signing equity-free $5,000 cheques to startup founders, being stylish in red on red sweatshirts and joggers at his office, or at other times, just simply satisfying his craving and stopping midway through traffic to buy roasted corn on the street, Tony Elumelu connects with the young people and future of Africa, inspiring and educating them. He is respected globally for his brilliant mind and passion to empower people, so much so that his friend, former US President Barack Obama invited him to speak at the inaugural Obama Foundation global summit. He was the only African to speak at the summit and was lauded as a pioneer who brings an “incredibly important perspective”. He spoke on “Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Emerging Markets” and his wise words were well received across the world.
With his charitable prowess and his vision for the future of Africa, Tony Elumelu has succeeded in creating a place for himself in history. He deserves all the accolades he can get and he is getting some. In December 2019, he was awarded the All Africa Business Leaders’ Awards (AABLA) by the CNBC. He was given the award for his exemplary and unique contributions towards the social and economic development of Africa. He was lauded specially for his outstanding moral and financial investment in Africa, and his support of young African entrepreneurs.
Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, Muammar Gaddafi and others advocated for a new Africa but couldn’t get the job done fully in their lifetimes. Tony Elumelu, with his profoundly impactful work across Africa just might be the one to get it done as he continues empowering millions of African youth.
Culled From Inaugural Edition Of TEJ