Since the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) began the Entrepreneurship Programme back in 2015, people have asked numerous questions about the goals, work and impact of the programme so far. Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions:

  1. 2019 marks the start of the 5th Round of the 10-year TEF Entrepreneurship Programme. What has been the impact of TEF so far, especially looking back at past beneficiaries and their businesses?


The best way to answer this question is to let the entrepreneurs speak about the impact the programme has had on them and their businesses. I invite you to watch Empowering African Entrepreneurs…..A Story of Impact a short documentary, featuring 12 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs from the 4,470 who have passed through the ground-breaking exercise.


In just four years, we have directly impacted 4,470 entrepreneurs and we are beginning to see the results: they are creating jobs, generating revenue and making a social impact through their businesses.  We can see that the African economic well-being is being driven by entrepreneurs: Female and male, large and small – they are the engine of the continent’s transformation.


In 2018, we began the process of tracking the progress of the 3010 entrepreneurs who graduated between 2015 – 2017. Based on the responses from 1472 entrepreneurs who responded to our survey, the data shows they have generated USD 52million in revenue after completion of the programme compared to USD 18 million generated prior to selection.  In terms of job creation, the same 1472 entrepreneurs have created 11, 9971 jobs compared to 4034 created prior to their selection for the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme. Furthermore, our study shows that upon completing the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, 62% of these businesses are now fully operational while 29% have now become partly operational.


We have also closed the gender gap with a significant increase in the number of African women business owners who have applied to the programme with amazing business ideas. This is reflected in a recorded spike from 24% to 35% in 2018. In 2019, we are confident this number will increase further as with each successive year, we feature the profiles of successful female entrepreneurs on the programme across all our advertising campaigns. Female alumni of the programme have also taken this a step further by organizing workshops and trainings to assist new applicants with their application.


  1. Given African growth need and peculiarities, do you give priority to certain sectors of the economy and why?

The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme is and will remain sector agnostic. We have over 30 sectors represented on the programme across the 54 African countries. The Agriculture sector has consistently accounted for more of the selected entrepreneurs on the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme since its launch in 2015, without any deliberate effort by the Foundation to attract entrepreneurs from this sector. This reflects a rising interest in young Africans who seek to operate in different facets of the agriculture value chain utilising the availability of modern technology and innovations which their predecessors lacked.

The recent rise of Start-ups in the ICT sector around the continent continues to illustrate the increasing significance of technology across the continent and they account for an average of 11% of applicants annually. Besides the development of core IT software and applications, ICT entrepreneurs are creating solutions that are relevant to a plethora of industries. Given that the world is rapidly moving into the fourth industrial revolution, the relevance of this sector in ensuring that Africa is not left behind cannot be overstated.

Manufacturing has also emerged as one of the popular sectors among the TEF entrepreneurs, accounting for an average of 7% of applicants annually. According to a 2016 Industrial policy paper by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), manufacturing is seen as the engine of economic development because of its ability to create productive input for other sectors of the economy. Therefore, changes in the manufacturing sector often have significant implications for other sectors in the economy.

Stepping into fifth year of the 10-year programme, it is evident that African start-ups and SMEs will find the gaps in the market and develop innovative solutions to meeting these gaps with their products and services.


  1. Since the launch of the programme in 2015, what have the challenges been?

The biggest challenge has been managing success! We never imagined the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme would grow so rapidly: In 2015 we received over 20,000 applications from 50 African countries; in 2016 it was over 45,000 from all 54 African countries; 2017 saw this number increase to 93,000 and in 2018 we had 151,692 applications from 54 African countries. Every year, we select 1,000 unique entrepreneurs onto the programme. The challenge is managing the expectations, dreams and hopes of those who are not selected. They remain part of the TEF Network and we share information and value adding opportunities with the over 300,000 entrepreneurs from across the African continent through out technology platforms.

  1. You have in a way covered over one-third of the decade-long programme, what will you point at as the most significant highlight so far?

Four years into the programme, our biggest achievements have to be the implementation of Africa’s largest entrepreneurship programme through which we have empowered over 1000 entrepreneurs every year and connected the African continent through entrepreneurship.

The second achievement is building Africa’s largest entrepreneur network who graduate from the programme and join the TEF Alumni Network. They continue to maintain the relationships they have built both online and offline, develop cross border business partnerships and share local market information for their businesses.

The third is the convening of Africa’s largest gathering of entrepreneurs and the wider ecosystem at the annual TEF Entrepreneurship Forum.

Finally, in 2018, we built and launched TEFConnect: Africa largest digital platform, connecting African entrepreneurs globally. More about this in Part 2.

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