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:
Paramount to the success of TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, is our continuous engagement with the entrepreneurs who have successfully completed the programme because we are building a lasting legacy. We maintain contact with the entrepreneurs both online and offline.
We have built Africa’s largest online network of African entrepreneurs for cross border business growth, skills, and knowledge sharing on TEFConnect; the go to destination for TEF Alumni. On TEFConnect, our value-added partners provide ongoing products, business information, advisory services, innovation capital, market access, skills & training, and supply chain integration for TEF Alumni. Additionally, we also promote the emerging entrepreneurship networks across Africa and globally, important for business opportunities, building cross country networks and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship. TEFConnect will aid these entrepreneurs in knowledge exchange, help solve common problems, learn useful tips and form virtual networks across the continent to drive business growth.
We are strengthening and building the local entrepreneurial ecosystems by facilitating our programme Alumni to set up TEF Regional & Country Hubs across the 54 African countries. In 2018, 59 Alumni were appointed TEF Hub Leads, 7 of which are Nigerian Regional Hub Leads, to serve as representatives of the Foundation in their countries and help to drive deeper engagements.
In 2017, we launched the TEF Entrepreneurship Awards to recognise the achievements of TEF entrepreneurs across the 54 African countries to raise their profiles and inspire investors and policy-makers to recognise and support these African entrepreneurs.
In 2017, we also launched the TEF Forum Pitch, a platform for the Foundation to promote select Alumni via a pitch competition. We have also added a Market Place to the TEF Forum where TEF Entrepreneurs can showcase and sell their products and services to a diverse and inclusive Pan-African gathering.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation continues to live up to its mission of empowering African Entrepreneurs. First, we launched the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme to empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs over a period of 10 years with seed capital, mentorship and training. Next, we convened the full entrepreneurial ecosystem at the TEF Forum to foster engagement and deliberate discussions. Now, we are scaling our impact by connecting African entrepreneurs all over the world together on a single platform thereby increasing trade opportunities.
Access to finance remains one of the biggest challenges for African start-ups and SMEs. To facilitate TEF entrepreneurs access to capital, we have formed a range of diverse partnerships with financial services providers and investors to mobilize both early stage and growth stage financing. We have signed a partnership with Agence Française De Développement (AFD) to provide a risk guarantee scheme with United Bank for Africa (UBA).
Contrary to the perception that African start-ups are risky investments, we have ample evidence that shows they are bankable provided they are given the right business development support as proven by our entrepreneurship development programme. Based on this, we have encouraged commercial banks to embrace SMEs and to set up SME help desks as part of their services.
In 2018, we further diversified and deepened the partnerships between financial service providers and investors with the TEF entrepreneurs. Through our engagement with African start-ups, we are aware that financial literacy is the weak link and we have enhanced our financial management modules to support them. We are also aware that the finance sector also needs to be educated to better serve start-ups. Hence, we are working with angel networks, promoting public private grants and technical assistance, venture capital, private equity, and financial institutions to facilitate networking and exchange. Furthermore, TEFConnect will build an investor network on the digital platform.
The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme started in 2015 with 20,000 applicants and by 2018 this figure had grown to 151,692. Given the rapid increase in the number of African start-ups applying, in 2017, we began to look for ways to scale up the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme with strategic partners who can support the selection of additional entrepreneurs who applied to the programme.
In 2018, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sponsored 200 entrepreneurs in the post-conflict areas of Nigeria with a commitment of $1million in seed capital. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also provided $200,000 to support 40 Pan-African entrepreneurs with $5,000 in seed capital funding while TEF provided the training and mentorship for their businesses. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), a German development agency committed €1million to empower 210 additional young male and female tech entrepreneurs in selected East and West African countries. Furthermore, a private sector company, Indorama Corporation, pledged $50,000 to support 20 Nigerian entrepreneurs with $5,000 seed capital funding.
Agence Française de Développement (AFD) is providing a risk-sharing guarantee framework for loans to enable Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs access loans from UBA. They have also committed finance for joint research to track the impact of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme.
Other partnerships include Microsoft, Sage One and General Electric (GE) for ongoing business development support services and access to markets for the TEF Alumni.
They serve as blueprint for others to follow as we actively encourage the participation and contribution of organisations to support sponsorship of additional entrepreneurs as our value adding partners.
The Foundation is fully funded by its Founder, Mr Tony O. Elumelu CON. Since we launched the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme in 2015, we have invested over $30 million in the support of 4000 entrepreneurs.
Of this, $20 million has been used for direct seed capital investments to the entrepreneurs while $10 million has been deployed to build the programmes infrastructure including the scalable proprietary technology platforms, learning content, the TEF Entrepreneurship Forums, meetups and events, Pan-African marketing and programme administration. Our international partners’—AFD, ICRC, UNDP, GIZ—financial support goes directly to sponsor additional entrepreneurs with seed capital.