The Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) and the Chairman of the United Bank of Africa (UBA) Plc, Mr. Tony Elumelu, has challenged the government of Japan to invest five per cent of its $50 billion commitment to Africa, in empowering African entrepreneurs.
Elumelu, who is also the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, made the call in a keynote speech he delivered before global leaders, at the ongoing seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama, Japan.
“At TICAD 2016 in Kenya, Japan pledged $30 billion for Africa. This year you have generously increased this to $50 billion. If we invested just five per cent in Africa’s new generation of entrepreneurs, following my Foundation’s robust, proven model of getting capital directly to those best placed to catalyse growth and create real impact, we could touch 500,000 lives, across the 54 African countries, broadening markets, facilitating job creation, improving income per capita, and laying the key foundation for political and economic stability,” Elumelu said.
Elumelu’s statement captured his vision of a relationship between Japan and Africa, which prioritises economic and shared prosperity. He outlined the three key pillars of a bold and transformative structure to include: investment in infrastructure, partnership with the African private sector, and investment in Africa’s youth.
He urged Japan to learn from the example of the TEF, which champions empowering African entrepreneurs, as the most sustainable means of accelerating the development of Africa.
The TEF in just five years has assisted over 7,500 African entrepreneurs across Africa, with seed capital, capacity building, mentorship and networking opportunities through its $100 million Entrepreneurship Programme.
“Africa is one of the world’s viable destinations for investment. Our huge population, of nearly 1.3 billion people, creates one of the most attractive markets anywhere in the world. The world is paying close attention to Africa, but is Japan at the centre of this conversation or is it on the sidelines?” he queried.
Also speaking at the event, President of South Africa and Co-Chair, TICAD, Cyril Ramaphosa corroborated Elumelu’s stance, saying: “If you want really good returns, as Mr. Tony Elumelu said, come to Africa. Africa presents risk-adjusted returns and is a market in which investments are flowing at a hundred billion dollars – that is the new profile of Africa that is being presented to the world.”
UNDP’s Administrator, Achim Steiner, praised Elumelu’s private-sector led approach to development in Africa.
He said: “I want to refer to my dear friend and colleague Tony Elumelu because he alluded to the vital role that business can also play in investing in the future of the youth. These are the kinds of partnership that will drive business and development agenda to very different heights in the future”.
Speaking on the potential of the African continent, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe of Japan said: “In Africa, some countries have joined top nations in the ranking on ease of doing business. The scale of the market continues to expand. We can envision a day when the entire continent of Africa becomes an enormous economic zone.”