It’s the second day of the fifth edition of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum holding at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.
Five African presidents, as well as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, are expected to grace today’s event.
Themed ‘Empowering African Entrepreneurs,’ the forum is arguably the largest gathering of entrepreneurs, policymakers, and business leaders across the continent.
The event kicks off at exactly 10.20 a.m. with a rendition of the Nigerian national anthem
Followed by Rwandan, then Senegalese, and the Democratic Republic of Congo: in that order.
Those in attendance include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Felix Tshisekedi of the DRC, and Akinwunmi Adesina, the president of the African Development Bank.
Others include Isa Jibril, a senator representing the Senate President; Alhassan Doguwa, Majority Leader, House of Representatives, representing the Speaker; and the Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita.
The governors of Niger, Ekiti, Kwara, and Kebbi states are also in attendance.
A minute silence is observed for the late Tunisian president, Beji Caid Essebsi.
The CEO of The Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, in her opening remarks says the event is the beginning of the rise of African entrepreneurship.
She says the movement is creating jobs and generating revenues in their millions.
She says $5 billion will create one million entrepreneurs who will, in turn, create 25 million jobs.
The first plenary for the day will be moderated by Fareed Zakaria, CNN anchor.
Members of the panel include Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation; Akinwunmi Adesina, AfDB President; Benedict Oramah, Director-General, AFREXIM Bank; Sidi Tar, DG, BADEA; Koen Doens, the Deputy DG of the EU Commission; Gilles Carbonnier, VP ICRC; and Mr Elumelu
Mr Zakaria tells the panellist to speak from the heart and do away with cliches.
The first speaker, Mr Adesina, says Africa is no longer arising but “has risen.”
Mr Adesina says 12-13 million people enter the market every year and cannot find jobs.
He says Africa will have about 800 young people in 2050 and a billion people by 2060.
“We can’t keep postponing our liabilities into the future.”
He proposes that African leaders should begin to change from youth empowerment to youth investment.
He says it’s time for African leaders to create youth entrepreneurship and investment banks for African youth.
Mr Tah says microfinance has been instrumental to BADEA’s success in Africa.
He says they are working to develop capacities across Africa
Our vision is to scale up our intervention with all our stakeholders. We are also in the process of creating new financial institutions to cater to those who don’t have access to formal banking systems.”
Mr Doens says they want to show that beyond the issue of illegal migration that there is a continent booming.
He says most of the jobs in Europes have been created by small and medium scale firms and there is no reason why African entrepreneurs cannot do the same.
Mr Carbonnier of the Red Cross says the problem is not always the lack of capital but difficulties in finding bankable projects.
Mr says when he was running an African magazine, they struggled to put a correspondent in one African country because of the difficulties in connecting between the countries.
“It was easier to position a correspondent in London or Paris than anywhere in Africa.”
In his response, Mr Oramah says Africans need to be daring, to take risks.
“If we don’t take our future in our own hands, we won’t be able to take the opportunities that exist in Africa.”
He suggests to TEF to also test the orientation of their beneficiaries before giving them the grants.
Mr Elumelu says the AfDB supported 1,000 entrepreneurs in 2019, and AFREXIM is planning to get on board.
He says it is important to have an opportunity to try ideas.
He says the Red Cross was the first international partners his foundation had.
“The way to support African entrepreneurs must change.”
He says the Red Cross was known for responding to emergencies but now they have started supporting entrepreneurs.
The second session opens – the presidential session – with a keynote speech by Mr Osinbajo.
The vice president begins by telling inspiring stories of some entrepreneurs who are making a difference across Africa.
He says the stories are just a fraction of what is happening across the continent.
He says school curriculums must also emphasise entrepreneurship and not just science, technology and maths that is currently done.
He says those that always talk about the good old days are probably suffering from memory loss.
“Today the smartphones in the hands of our young people have more power than all the computers in the Apollo that landed the first man on the moon.”
Speaking about the impressive ease of doing business in Rwanda, Mr Kagame says his country looked for ways of doing things differently from what people were used to.
“Development is what we must do, prosperity is what we must achieve.”
He says they were aware of where they were coming from and that helped in entrenching good governance.
Mr Kagame is asked if he would be able to create a political legacy that outlasts him.
Mr Kagame says the “legacy is not me, it’s that belief behind me.”
He says they have managed the mindset of the people and united the country.
He says Rwandans working for themselves and for the country is his greatest legacy.
Mr Sall of Senegal says if Agriculture is modernised, it would engage a lot of African youth.
He says the public sector in Senegal is doing reforms to help fight corruption so there would be an enabling environment for people to come and invest.
Mr Tshisekedi of the DRC says there is a similar initiative in his country and invited Mr Elumelu to participate.
He says he is very proud of the “two sons of Nigeria,”
On the issue of corruption in government in Africa, he says it is a big scourge on the continent.
He says before coming to power, he had been at the forefront of the fight against corruption in his country.
“Corruption is something we fight against in all its ramifications, small and big corruption small corruption is at the level of individuals while big corruption is at the level of institutions.”
He says corruption is slowing down Africa’s economy.
“I am very sure that corruption is one of the ills eating down our place and we have to do everything possible to eradicate it.”
Mr Rugunda, the Ugandan PM, says the programme is laudable because it is promoting pan-Africanism.
On women entrepreneurs, he admitted that women are disadvantaged because of the culture of ownership of land and property.
The experience in Uganda, although women are at a disadvantage, when it comes to business they have excelled over the men.”
He says women entrepreneurs should be given more support to overcome property ownership impediments.
He calls on leaders to be innovative and work with young people.