Speaking at the Le Club de l’Economie in Paris France on Monday, Tony O. Elumelu, Chairman of UBA Plc and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, made a call to the French business community, global stakeholders and influential Africans in the development world to embrace ‘structured philanthropy’ in support of rising entrepreneurs with great potential, as a means to achieving sustainable development in Africa.
He made this call during a live interview conducted by Serge Michel, Editor-in-Chief at Le Monde Afrique, to an audience of high level political and business leaders, including the French Development Agency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representatives of international organisations, such as the World Bank, and the IMF, as well as representatives of civil society and selected journalists. This is coming a few days before the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum, the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurs, scheduled to take place on October 28-29th in Lagos, Nigeria, to celebrate the 2016 cohort of Elumelu Entrepreneurs, selected from over 45,000 applicants in 54 African countries.
In what has become a formidable gathering featuring a series of talks on business and economic issues, this special edition of ‘Le Club de l’Economie’ was dedicated to the influence of global philanthropy on business, politics and culture, featuring the world’s most influential philanthropists, including the world’s richest man, Bill Gates. Prior to his participation at Le Monde, Mr. Elumelu paid a courtesy call to the French Development Agency (AFD), where he met with CEO Mr. Remy Rioux to discuss concrete ways in which AFD can be supported by local partners ahead of plans to increase its annual financing commitment to Africa. Mr. Elumelu was joined by Bill Gates, his co-panelist at the Le Monde Philanthropy Forum.
Elumelu explained the challenges in developing Africa. “The biggest obstacles to development in Africa are a lack of an enabling environment, infrastructure and access to electricity. Imagine a young entrepreneur having to provide power access for a growing business.”
He proffered solutions to some of the obstacles saying: “It is important that Africans increasingly embrace ‘structured giving’ because it helps us, assist worthy individuals who are not part of our families, or neighbourhoods, but who have great need and potential.”
Further expounding on the benefits of Africapitalism, Elumelu cited the achievements of the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme as a valid example of how Africans can solve their own problems via entrepreneurship and better governance.
“Better governance will solve our problems. We can’t afford to ignore entrepreneurship. We need to do both. We need government to realize that the success of entrepreneurs will lead to more success for government. Government can’t create all the employment opportunities needed in the economy. Only the private sector can do this. Government must create an enabling environment to allow businesses to thrive.”
Bill Gates also a panelist at the event buttressed this point during his session, “States can no longer fund themselves their development, by giving back, we tap into the best part of ourselves. Everything significant we’ve done was through partnerships.”
Elumelu concluded by encouraging French investors to connect with local partners, while also calling on both the public and private sector to invest back into the continent by focusing on entrepreneurship.
Le Club de L’Economie is organised by leading French newspaper, Le Monde. Other participants at the event included Bill Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs, France;
The Aga Khan, spiritual head of the Ismaili Muslim community and Remy Rioux, CEO of Agence Francaise de Development.