How TEF Entrepreneurs Are Creating Jobs of Tomorrow, Through Trade

The World Export Development Forum

The 18th edition of the International Trade Centre (ITC) flagship event, the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) 2018, held in Lusaka, Zambia, on 11th – 12th September. The event was co-hosted with the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry of the Republic of Zambia, and featured high-level plenaries, B2B meetings and a series of accompanying side events, including the national launch of the SheTrades initiative to bring one million women entrepreneurs to market by 2020, a regional sustainable packaging event, and a Zambia-China investment meeting.

Tony Elumelu Foundation joined a panel of eminent speakers from the public and private sector to discuss ‘Jobs of Tomorrow, Through Trade’. Regional Franchise Manager, Ms. Phillipine Mtikitiki of Coca-Cola, shared their story of empowering 5 million women entrepreneurs in 64 countries worldwide by 2020. The franchise programme has enabled women at the bottom of the pyramid to generate revenues for their families and impact their communities.

Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Diego Gutierrez of Vodacom Group, spoke about their programme called ‘What will you be’, which gives young people across 18 African countries digital skills to get jobs. Chairperson and Chief Executive Ms. Indira Malwatte of Export Development Board, Sri Lanka told the audience how her government is delivering on jobs through trade and the impact of the National Export Strategy launched in partnership with the private sector.

Director General, Mr. Likando Mukumbuta of Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission with long experience in investing in MSMEs in Zambia spoke about the initiatives to create an enabling environment for SMEs in Zambia.

The session was moderated by the dynamic journalist Ramah Nyang who opened the session with a question to the Tony Elumelu Foundation: “Your Foundation is young and had grown fast in reputation and impact, just like the young entrepreneurs that you are nurturing. What is the secret of success of your foundation in developing quality programme”?

TEF: The Business of Job Creation

The secret of our success lies in the wholistic and structured approach we have taken to identifying and developing African entrepreneurs through training, mentoring, seed capital investment and building an entrepreneurship ecosystem. Through the 7 Pillars of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, now in its fourth year, we have invested in 4260 entrepreneurs: 4000 TEF and 260 through our Partners: ICRC 200; UNDP 40; Indorama 20. Our programme is sector agnostic, multilingual, pan-African and open to entrepreneurs from an idea to a 3-year-old business.

In 2018, we embarked on tracking the impact of our investment on the 3010 TEF entrepreneurs from 2015-2107 who have graduated from the programme. From the1474 who responded to the survey, the statistics show that a total of 11,971 jobs had been created which marks a 172% increase from 4,031 which was the total number of jobs they created at the time they joined the TEF Programme between 2015-2017. While 5% of the entrepreneurs surveyed employ at least 20 people, 51% of them create between 01 -05 jobs.

The finding that 95% of them create less than 20 jobs strongly align with the African Development Bank’s (AFDB) 2017 African Economic Outlook which states that firms with less than 20 employees provide the most jobs in Africa’s formal sector. The same entrepreneurs generated USD 53,000,000 million between 2015-2017.

A good example of the significant increase in job creation by our entrepreneurs is shown by Exportunity founded by TEF 2015 entrepreneur from Benin, Vital Sounouvou. Today, Exportunity employs 32 people, a 540% increase from the 5 people the company employed at the time of joining the TEF programme.

We also tracked the impact of the 7 Pillars of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme on the entrepreneurs to effectively run and grow a business post-graduation. Often compared to a mini MBA, the Start-up Enterprise Tool Kit is an intensive 12-week programme designed to provide entrepreneurs with the foundational knowledge and skills needed to set up and manage a successful business. Guided by a business mentor, each module provokes critical thinking on a given topic and forces entrepreneurs to make needed changes to their business model.

We evaluated the entrepreneurs experience of the programme and found that both the 12-week start-up enterprise tool kit and mentorship received over 70% high impact rating while over 64% said that TEF provided them with the first seed capital for their business. TEF will publish the full impact report next month.

So, we have evidence that through structured training, mentoring and seed capital investment, young African entrepreneurs are creating jobs and generating revenues. They are also innovating faster than their governments who are not keeping pace. Entrepreneurs across Africa are on the move, pushing the boundaries of cross border trade. Today, we know that cross-border trade is a major feature of African economic and social climate: according to estimates made by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in an African Economic Brief publication in 2012, it contributes to the income of about 43 percent of Africa’s entire population.

Enabling Cross-Border Trade in Africa

A perfect example of the cross-border trade by our entrepreneurs is shown by Edmond Nonie, a TEF 2015 entrepreneur from Sierra Leone and Ndubisi Eze, TEF 2016 entrepreneur of AMIntegrated Aerial Nigeria Ltd from Nigeria. Two entrepreneurs in the IT sector who collaborated on a Drone Production project. To find out more: (

At WEDF2018, I shared some of the challenges of cross-border Pan-African and global trade our TEF Entrepreneurs experience:

  • Travel Visas: In 2016, the African Union (AU) announced plans to introduce a new African Union passport that would travel across the continent much easier. However, in 2018, crossing borders remains a difficult process for a majority of Africans and today, African citizens on average need a visa to travel to more than 50% of nations across the continent. This makes Business Travel between African countries a daunting process.
  • Infrastructural Challenges: Our TEF entrepreneurs consistently sight problems with transportation, telecommunication, power and access to the internet affect the cost of production of goods and services in African countries which in turn negatively affects cross border trade.
  • Multiple Taxation and unpredictable Trade Policies: A 2013 World Bank case study at the border between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) revealed that small-scale traders can pay up to 193 percent more than larger traders to clear a ton of maize through the formal channel! In addition to this, small scale producers and traders in Nigeria are heavily taxed on their produce which makes cross-border trading.

Most of the issues that African business owners face in pan-African trade are directly linked to the government policies that are currently in place. As such, for progress to be made, governments and policy makers need to make some major changes in their trade policies to include:

1)  Ensuring that the rules and regulations on trade are clear, transparent and readily accessible especially at country borders.

2)   Simplifying trade documents and requirements particularly for small scale traders. Also, making translators available for English, French and Arabic languages.

3)  Recognising the role and importance of women in cross-border trade and create policies to tackle gender related constraints in trade.

4)  Economic Integration by the African Union (AU). As a continent, we need to increase efforts towards continental economic integration and to improve connectivity through infrastructural development. Although, much has been achieved to date, the road ahead is still far.

Here are some of innovative ways in which TEF is facilitating cross-border trade:

  • Mentoring: Our online mentors give our budding entrepreneurs a credible technology-based mentorship and learning platform.
  • The Alumni Network: Comprising of all Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs who have completed the training, the network promotes collaboration across Africa as well as a healthy competition.
  • The TEF Entrepreneurship Forum: The annual Forum brings together entrepreneurs and the African and global entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lagos, Nigeria.
  • TEFConnect: In October 2018, we will launch TEFConnect, the world’s largest digital platform for African entrepreneurs, dedicated to connecting African entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurship ecosystem to global opportunities.

We welcome the opportunity to share the TEF story, empowering African entrepreneurs across the continent, with delegates gathered for WEDF 2018. We know that the TEF Entrepreneurs are developing ingenious solutions to pressing economic challenges in their communities and countries; improving lives, generating employment, and creating prosperity and wealth.

Youth Unconference & Pitching Competition

As the CEO of TEF, I was inspired to see that several TEF Entrepreneurs had been invited to share their own entrepreneurial journey as panellist including Momarr Tall, CEO, Tropingo Foods from The Gambia. On a panel titled Youth Unconference: Imagine a world with no borders, he shared his business story of doing business across borders in an AfCFTA world. I was invited to be a member of the jury for a pitching competition and imagine my surprise when I learnt that two of the five entrepreneurs pitching were TEF Alumni! Chisepo Chirwa, CEO Outsource Now from Zambia and Charles Ofori, Co-Founder, Dext Technology from Ghana, who won the $5,000 prize for his amazing Science Set, a revolutionary toolbox that solves the lack of practical science education in Africa!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *