AFRICA: UNLOCKING OUR POTENTIAL, SECURING OUR FUTURE

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By Tony Elumelu

1. Introduction

*Good morning All,

*The Primate of all Nigeria, His Grace, The Most Reverend Henry Ndukuba;

*The representative of the host Governor for the youth conference, Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency, Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi;

*The representative of the Governor of Delta State, His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa;

*The Vice Chancellor of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Professor Charles Arizechukwu Igwe;

*The eminent dignitaries from the Church of Nigeria gathered here today;

*And to the thousands of young ones gathered here at the University of Nsukka for the Joshua Generation International Youth Conference, all twenty-one thousand of you, I say well done for participating at this important event coming immediately after Easter

*I must begin by thanking the Primate of all Nigeria, The Most Reverend Henry Ndukuba, for several reasons:

*First, for his organising this timely and important event, and for ensuring its great success. Looking at the crowd present here as I have been following the programme online.

*The youth are our greatest force on the African continent, and events like this that prioritise our youth must be commended.

*So thank you Big brother, thank you great man of God.

*I also thank the Primate for his warm invitation to me and indeed your consistency in following up with me to ensure that  I deliver the opening keynote of this conference.

*Thank you also for the apt choice for the topic and theme of this event: ‘Africa: unlocking our potential, securing our future’.

*Let me introduce myself, I am Tony Elumelu, Chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc.

*UBA operates in 20 African countries and this is a wonderful opportunity to talk with the youth of Africa.

*In Nigeria, UBA operates close to 700 branches in every part of the country, we serve 25 million customers and most of them are young ones across Africa.

*Our young Africans are proud customers of UBA, they use our platforms, cards and digital bot Leo for their transactions.

*When I got this invitation, I thought what a wonderful way to speak to these young ones.

*I am also the Chairman of the Heirs Holdings Group. And most importantly to me, I am the Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

*And because of this session, I will speak briefly about what we do at the Foundation

*The kind speaker that introduced me spoke about more people to signing up to the Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme on tefconnect.com.

*And I firmly believe that applying to the Tony Elumelu Foundation is one of the ways to be empowered as youth, and I want to encourage everyone here to apply.

*Take advantage, visit TEFConnect.com and be guided on how to apply.

*Apply for the non-refundable $5000, which is our own commitment to actually empowering young Africans which we believe at TEF at the future of the continent.

2. Context

*Let me therefore to set some useful context to guide our discussion today:

*Africa is the world’s youngest continent.

*Almost 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25.

*In Nigeria, youths of 35 years and under are estimated to constitute 70% of the population of the country.

*However, the jobless rate in Nigeria has now risen to about 30% in March 2021.

*Some states have as high as 56% of all their youth population as unemployed.

*In Africa, the situation is not much different:

*We have 65% of all Africans below the age of 35 and many of these people are not gainfully employed.

*The Covid pandemic and resulting lockdowns have exposed the vulnerabilities in our population structure.

*We now have, as a continent, the largest young generation in history – this youthful population is Africa’s hope, it is our pride and it is our potential.

*The urgency and need to unlock the potential of this generation is imperative for the security of our collective future.

*This is why I commend all of you and the Primate for choosing this topic.

*What should we do? How do we unlock the potential of African youth to catalyse the socio-economic development of the continent.

                                                *Youth Restiveness is a ticking timebomb and we continue to face issues daily around:

*Extremism

*Banditry

*Robbery

*Senseless killing

*Kidnapping

*Political thuggery, to mention just a few

*The question becomes: what are we doing to stem this?

*What are we doing to secure our own future?

*First, there must be a high sense of urgency.

*A dissatisfaction to what is happening, a commitment to improving things.

*We must accept that we face a crucial period in our history where youth issues must be the main and central issue of our time.

*Millions of our young people are entering the job market every year;

*20 million jobs are needed to be created annually to absorb new entrants in the labour market.

*Only about 3 million formal jobs are being created annually across Africa and this was even before the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

*The estimated annual growth of labour force is 5% whilst employment growth rate is less than 2% across Africa.

*There is huge and shocking deficit.

*How do we unlock the power of our youth? How do we harness their energy for good instead of wasting it?

The Power of Entrepreneurship

*For me and my colleagues at UBA, at TEF and the across the HH Group, we have come to believe that entrepreneurship-the power of entrepreneurship- is key to harnessing the potential of these young Africans

*By so doing, we secure our own future.

*This comes from our own experience, first as entrepreneurs ourselves

*And secondly as people that have committed a lot of resources at TEF (capital, time, personnel) tin helping create a new generation of African entrepreneurs

*We are helping to give economic hope and opportunities to young Africans

*And we speak not just as people that do this in Nigeria but in all 54 African countries, the TEF intervention cuts across all sectors and gender across the 54 African countries

*Because we believe that prosperity should be shared as much as possible across board and that poverty anywhere is a threat to us all everywhere

*The enormous potential of our youth, we must prioritise our support for small-scale businesses.

*Corporate organisations do well in employing people but there is a limit on how much corporates can do in employing the huge numbers of our unemployed youths

*Therefore, capacitising and supporting small businesses, empowering our young ones and their businesses, in our own view is the most powerful means to reduce unemployment on the continent.

*It is the most impactful way to reduce the ills such as banditry, thuggery etc.

*Because people with economic hope, do not want to take the lives of others unnecessarily

*People that have hope will preach peace and security

*People that do not have economic hope, will begin to question the essence of their existence

*We saw during the pandemic how young people showed us with their actions that yes, life is important, but livelihood is more important

*This is why we must embrace entrepreneurship and work together to fix the issues we live with today

*We need to improve access to electricity if we must empower our people

*I also wear another hat as the Chairman of Transcorp Group and as the last speaker said, we have invested massively in the power sector in Nigeria.

*Collectively over $1bn has been invested in the power sector because of our belief that the economic transformation of Nigeria and Africa will rest on the availability of power

*We cannot have our SMEs spend their profits on buying power for their businesses, we need large scale infrastructural support to provide sustainable and constant power for our people

*One of the major complaints we get from our TEF entrepreneurs is about a lack of access to electricity and how it takes a lot of their capital.

*We cannot make progress, if we do not fix power.

*Let us provide electricity for our young ones and they will do great things before our very eyes.

*We need to create hubs and zones in every LGA starting from Nigeria to be able to empower our young ones

*If the government, and when we say government here, we refer to the LGA, were to create small business hubs where people can go in with their ideas and have a platform to convert their ideas to real life, it can make the difference

*We need tax friendly policies that encourage our entrepreneurs, we need to reduce taxes for SMEs, and one must commend the Federal government, it has done good work in this area in terms of tax waivers for Micro-businesses, but still, much more is required but good work has been done and the government should be commended

*We must create access to, access to finance is crucial, young people have the ideas, what they lack is the training and financing needed for their businesses to take off.

*At the TEF, we provide non-refundable seed capital, but that alone is not an end.

*We have long realised that for you all to succeed, mentoring and business education is required. And this is why we have the 12-week training programme and I want you all to take advantage of this

*Go to TEFConnect.com to sign up so you are trained, the knowledge you get from there will help you in becoming entrepreneurs and for those that are entrepreneurs already, the training will help scale your business to the next level

*We must create economic ecosystems and platforms to support small businesses.

*There are government policies needed for our young ones to prosper;

*Low tax rate regimes,

*training,

*and mentoring support to entrepreneurs.

*It is a source of pride to my colleagues and I that entrepreneurship is one way to realise the potential of young Africans

*We must create the right environment, we must commend the Primate for the foresight and ingenuity in the framing of this conference the way he and his colleagues have done

*The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) which my family and I founded in 2010 is the leading African philanthropy empowering young African entrepreneurs. TEF is empowering a new generation of African entrepreneurs, catalysing economic growth, driving poverty eradication, and driving job creation across all 54 African countries.

§  Since inception, the Foundation has funded about 10,000 young men and women and created a digital ecosystem of over one million Africans, as part of our ten year, US$100m commitment through our TEF Entrepreneurship Programme.

§  You can and must apply today at tefconnect.com to access this life transforming opportunity.

§  The $5000 non-refundable seed capital, the business training and mentoring is part of our holistic approach to build the long-term capacity of our young ones.

§  The importance of the training is vital as young entrepreneurs need to know the principles of business in order to scale their enterprises and increase the impact felt in their communities.

§  So that when success eventually comes, and it will come, you will know how to manage success and not let success manage you.

§  We need more functional and Vocational Training programmes as the second way of making Africa realise the full potential of our young ones.

§  We need more vocational training programmes, we are not just being prescriptive, I spent a bit of time explaining wat TEF does so the opportunity is available to all 21,000 here and also those of you watching.

§  We want to catalyse other endowed Africans to look into the area of entrepreneurship, we all have a role to play in making a difference in Africa.

§  Some labour is imported in Africa, doing things that we can have Africans do. By getting them employed, we are giving them a sense of self-dignity as they work and earn a living and by so doing, improving their families, the communities and contributing in their own way to the economic prosperity of the continent

§  I daresay that our young people want to be counted, they want to be part of the solution.

§  Let us help created functional and vocational training programmes

A third solution is the Moral Rejuvenation and reorientation of our young ones:

§  We need our young ones to embrace hard work, be disciplined, to believe that success comes from commitment, hard work and making sacrifices.

§  My late dad told me that if you earn 1 naira and you don’t save, if you earn 1 billion naira, you still will not save!

§  We need to change the way our young ones see life.

§  We need to give them economic hope, they need to know that you don’t have to turn commit fraud to succeed.

§  We need to have our:

o   Our Religious leaders,

o   Community leaders

o   Teachers,

o   Lecturers,

*Traditional Leaders,

*Governments,

*Role models and mentors lead this crusade of changing the mindset of our young ones.

*They must know that the key to success is hard work, commitment, and being laser focused on what you consider important.

*Our young ones must learn about perseverance, patience and must think long-term, they must know that quick gains/wins can create more problems later on in life.

*I believe that a combination of some of this,

*The right moral foundation

*A reorientation of our value system

*Training and adjusting our education system to be more functional

*Above all, all the things earlier mentioned on entrepreneurship

*If these are well planned and sequenced, it can help to a large extent to change the future trajectory of our continent.

*Across board, we need to have a moral rejuvenation of our people.

*This cuts across all segments, spheres, and demographics of our society.

*All concerned stakeholders must come together to play their role and ensure this collective reorientation.

Conclusion

*In conclusion, I would like to reiterate my message:

*When do we nurture and prioritise our youth?

*The answer is now, there is not better time than now to bring our youth to the forefront

*Any further delays will be extremely catastrophic

*We cannot afford to waste the demographic dividend especially as we have millions of youth entering the job-market place yearly

How do we nurture them?

*The answer is entrepreneurship, functional and vocational training and moral rejuvenation/moral re-armament and a shift in our value orientation.

*Who will nurture, support and guide our youth?

*The answer is all of us working together for their greater good.

*The future of our Africa, as I say always, truly lies in the hands of these young ones but we all have a responsibility in making this happen.

*Thank you.

*Tony O. Elumelu, CON

Chairman, Heirs Holdings

Chairman, United Bank for Africa (UBA)

Founder, Tony Elumelu Foundation

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