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Africa’s Entrepreneurs Get Boost With Elumelu 'Boot Camp'

  • Kim Lewis

FILE - Tony Elumelu of Heir Holdings wants to give away millions to young entrepreneurs. He spoke in Abuja last April.

FILE - Tony Elumelu of Heir Holdings wants to give away millions to young entrepreneurs. He spoke in Abuja last April.

The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneuriship Program (TEEP) recently launched its first "boot camp." In attendance were 1,000 African entrepreneurs who were selected to engage with business people from around the world.

The gathering of emerging business owners, leaders, and role models was the largest gathering of its kind. The event took place in Ota, Nigeria from July 10-12 and was part of a $100,000 pan-African entrepreneurship initiative created by the Tony Elumelu Foundation. It was also a build-up to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that U.S. President Obama attended during his July 2015 visit to Nairobi, Kenya.

Nigeria-born Elumelu is an economist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He has been named one of the “100 most influential people in Africa,” by New African magazine and one of “Africa’s 20 Most Powerful People,”by Forbes.

In 2010 he founded the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) to show that Africa has what it takes to sustain itself, through development of its people.

Foundation CEO Parminder Vir said the boot camp is part of a 10-year program to help a total of 10,000 Africans develop into entrepreneurs.

She said the selection process for the first 1,000 participants started last January.

“We received over 20,000 applications from 52 African countries. The application process closed on the first of March. We then engaged essential development partners to basically help us select the applications based against a criteria,” said Vir.

Applications came from all sectors including agriculture, education and training, fashion, media and entertainment, waste management, physical businesses and technology businesses.

“So we went through a very vigorous process of selecting the 1,000, and we announced the selected Tony Elumelu entrepreneurs on the 23 of January. Once selected the entrepreneurs embarked on what we call the seven pillars of the TEEP program,” she said.

Vir said the first of those pillars was a 12-week online skills training program that allowed the entrepreneurs to develop their ideas into viable business plans. In addition, over 400 mentors from around the world made themselves available to help support the new business participants.

“The boot camp was the continuation of that online training - a face to face interactive, immersive experience where we flew the 1,000 from the [52] countries to Lagos for the three-day boot camp,” she said.

The sessions included motivational support, access and finance, and a chance to hear from Elumelu himself who inspired the participants with his own success story.

“We also had speed dating, and really enabling and facilitating …to build networks. Entrepreneurs from Rwanda got to meet entrepreneurs from Ghana [and] Nigeria," Vir said. "I think above all they recognized that they were not the only ones having some of the challenges that they had in their own respected businesses or in their own countries.”

Vir said above all else, the boot camp allowed the entrepreneurs the opportunity to build relationships as well as trading opportunities that they would not otherwise have been able to experience.

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