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Another chance to join Elumelu’s army

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The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) will start accepting applications for the 2020 Entrepreneurship Programme on January 1, 2020. ROBERT EGBE looks at the programme’s success stories and what to expect in the next phase.

It is a good way to start a new year. Applicants will next January 1, be able to access the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Connect to be part of the 2020 Entrepreneurship Programme. TEFConnect is the foundation’s digital networking hub for the African entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The foundation said entrepreneurs from across Africa, either with new startup ideas or existing businesses of less than three years existence, can participate. Successful applicants, the statement added, will join the over 9,000 current beneficiaries from 54 African countries to receive business training, mentoring, a non-refundable $5,000 seed capital and global networking opportunities.

The foundation received about 216,000 applications for 2019. Forty-two per cent of the applications came from women entrepreneurs from every country on the continent.

The opportunity to join TEF’s growing army of entrepreneurs is open to all, irrespective of religion or physical ability.

A past beneficiary, Caroline Denekombaye, is a seamstress who is hearing-impaired. Denekombaye said she heard about the Tony Elumelu Foundation when a technical partner of the deaf organisations of Moundou introduced her to the TEF-UNDP Youth Entrepreneurship Programme.

“I was initially worried that I would not be considered but I eventually went ahead to apply,” she said.

She got the $5,000 seed grant, which, she said, she would use to rent a space for the training, recruit a reasonable number of young and deaf women, recruit two trainers, buy training materials, and  support a part of the accommodation and feeding costs of the trainees.

“Once trained and resettled in their localities, these young women can have proper jobs or businesses: sewing school uniforms, working with church movements, grassroots community organisations, etc. The people living in those localities will no longer have to travel long distances to the townships in order to have their clothes made. This saves time, strength and money to do other useful things,” she said.

Another of TEF-UNDP Entrepreneurship Programme is Noubadoum Mayengar, who is visually-impaired. He is from Chad. He is a craftsman specialising in weaving.

“I heard about the Tony Elumelu Foundation for the first time from an Alumni who had benefited from the foundation and now runs an Incubator; Agro-Business Chad Incubator. Earlier this year, I attended one of the coaching sessions he organised,” Mayengar said.

On his company, he said: “The idea of creating our company ‘Best King’ to offer training to young people living with disabilities (visually impaired, deaf, physically disabled) and people of all social categories and genders was born out of a critical gap identified. Chad has about 13 million people, including a significant number of people with disabilities. Unfortunately, there is only one policy and no laws catering to these members of society.  This leaves them abandoned to their sad fate.

“We are not only determined to be economically self-sufficient but to also contribute to the socio-economic development of our country.”

He said the seed capital of $ 5,000 would be used to formalise his business, secure a proper workspace, recruit sales agents and develop the marketing plan.

Another beneficiary, Princess Adeyinka Tekenah, has a mission of becoming Nigeria’s Howard Schultz.

“I love the Starbucks model, and I am determined to build a coffee narrative particular to Nigeria,” she said in an interview published on TEF’s website.

In 2015, with seed capital of $5,000 Tekenah started Happy Coffee, a local coffee franchise.

“I wanted to find a way to provide more local coffee to the average Nigerian. Why shouldn’t someone have access to a decent cup of Nigerian coffee?

“We are an instant coffee country, so we need to move beyond that to create major awareness about locally grown coffee in order to impact the coffee industry as a whole.”

Happy Coffee sells roughly 1,000 cups for N500 each and 200 packets of 100 grammes of coffee for N1,400 each month.

For another beneficiary, Andrew Paul, who is the founder/CEO of Agroangeal, the TEF has changed his fortunes.

“My name is Andrew Paul from Benue state, Nigeria. My mother was a hairstylist and an entrepreneur, she traded in foodstuff. My father was first a soldier who became a farmer after retirement. I grew up in a family with 7 siblings.

“For the first few years of my life, I worked part-time on my father’s farm while getting my education. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was 15years old, so I had to get a job to support my family. I started working on a building construction site to make ends meet. That marked my introduction to construction and property development.

“As a young person, I got involved in a lot of activities that helped me develop myself as a well-rounded individual. My passion for my faith led me to join the Fellowship of Christian Students, I also like working with people so I joined several social clubs in school and later on an NGO named Reproductive Health Initiative and Support Association (RHISA) where we sensitise people about HIV. Working with RHISA exposed me to training from Action Aid International and Society for Family Health. Taking learning from these experiences, my friends and I formed a (CBO) community base organisation named (STAHAA) Save Tudun – Wada Against HIV/AIDS Association, I became the first chairperson of STAHAA and served in that capacity for three years,” he said.

On his driving force, Paul said: “When I look back from where I am coming from, the son of a village farmer and a foodstuff seller, the burning issue for me was “How can smallholder farmers in rural areas thrive beyond their immediate communities?

“The Agricultural value chains need services to be complete. Beyond production, there is a need for processing and distribution. Which then feeds back into increased production? While I still don’t play in the processing bit, I provide the distribution framework through the infusion of ICT that allows smallholder farmers from their local village market can participate in a modern and competitive marketplace.”

He came in contact with the Foundation while searching for funding to kick off his business. A simple google search led him to TEF.

“The role and benefits of the foundation to my entrepreneurship journey have been immense, I can only summarise it like this; wealth and knowledge are like flowing streams. Before I became a TEF Alumni, I used to go to the stream with a little rusty container. When I encountered TEF, I was given a pipe. I no longer had to go to the stream, the stream flows to me through the system that TEF has helped me to set up.

“I founded A.P.T Abah International Limited a building construction company and Agroangeal Limited an online farmers market that serves as the bridge for smallholder farmers to connect to the wider market. This was made possible with the help of the Tony Elumelu foundation in 2018.”

TEF is the brainchild of the chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Heirs Holdings, Mr Tony Elumelu. It was created in 2010, as a private-sector-led philanthropy empowering African entrepreneurs and championing African entrepreneurship on the continent.

The programme is a 10-year, $100 million commitment to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 young African entrepreneurs.  The goal is to create millions of jobs and the revenue required for the sustainable development of the continent and implementing the philosophy of Africapitalism.

According to the Foundation’s 2018 Impact Report, 70 per cent of the businesses in its alumni network were still operational two years after benefitting from the Programme.  The report also identified an increase of 189 per cent revenue generated and 197 per cent increase in the number of additional jobs created by beneficiaries post-graduation from the Programme, as well as a 100 per cent commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.

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