Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme

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The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme is an entrepreneurial initiative run by the Tony Elumelu Foundation, based in Nigeria, spanning across Africa. The programme’s founder is billionaire businessman and philanthropist, Tony O. Elumelu CON and the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation is Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu. [1] [2] Former CEO Parminder Vir, OBE served from June 2015 and stepped down in March 2019.


The programme gives training, mentorship and seed capital to entrepreneurs with start-up business ideas they want to execute in Africa. By doing so, The Programme embodies Africapitalism, the economic philosophy that Elumelu coined. The programme opens up the application on January 1 every year. The application portal closes on March 1 and names of the selected entrepreneurs announced twenty-one days later on March 22.


The Programme was unveiled on 1 December 2014 [3] in Lagos, Nigeria, one month ahead of the portal opening for applicants on 1 January 2015. During the unveiling press conference, founder Tony O. Elumelu, CON, made a $100 million commitment to the programme which will run every year for a 10-year duration. [4] [5]

In the January 2015 edition of The Economist magazine, [6] Tony Elumelu predicted, “In 2015, the African entrepreneur will explode on to the global stage, as a new generation shows the world what those of us doing business in Africa have long known: that our continent is home to some of the most exciting and innovative entrepreneurial talent.”


The Programme's portal was open to applicants for 8 weeks and received over 20,000 applications. [7] On 23 March 2015, the selection of 1,000 entrepreneurs accepted into the 2015 cycle was announced. The selected entrepreneurs in the programme originate from every African region, with the highest number of applicants being from Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, Cameroon, Tanzania, Côte d'Ivoire, Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Benin, Ethiopia, Burundi and DR Congo. [8] Sectors represented include Agriculture, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), education, finance and fashion. [9]

Programme Structure

The Tony Elumelu entrepreneurs undergo a 9-month programme which includes a 12-week online business plan development training and mentoring programme, followed by a two-day Bootcamp. [10] [11] Following a successful completion of their business plan, the entrepreneurs receive a Non-returnable Seed capital investment of $5,000 for their businesses. The entrepreneurs are also entitled to second round of funding, structured as loan or equity of $5,000. On completion of the 9-month programme cycle, the Tony Elumelu entrepreneurs graduate to become TEF alumni with full access to resource centres. [12]

Application for the Programme opens every year on January 1 and closes on March 1.

Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum

Every year, African entrepreneurs gather for TEF Entrepreneurship Forum. [13] [14] The forum is an opportunity for the entrepreneurs across the continent to network and share ideas, and also connect with private and public sector leaders in one location to tackle entrepreneurship challenges on the continent.

The fifth edition held in Abuja, the Nigerian capital on 26&27 July 2019 and had in attendance Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo; Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari; President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi; President of Rwanda Paul Kagame; Macky Sall, President of Senegal; Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister of Uganda; Director-General, World Health Organisation, Tedros Ghebreyesus; and President, African Development Bank, Akinwunmi Adesina, among others. [15]

In 2018, for the first time, the TEF Entrepreneurship Forum was held in a day with 2 presidents, President of Kenya, H.E Uhuru Kenyata and President of Ghana, H.E Nana Akufo-Addo in an interactive panel with Tony O. Elumelu. At the Forum, the Foundation launched the TEFConnect, an online platform for global entrepreneurs.

Guest speakers in the past forums include: Ernest Bai Koroma, former President of Sierra Leone, Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of Nigeria; [16] Lionel Zinsou, Prime Minister of Benin Republic and Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Angelica Nwandu, Founder of The Shade Room, Governor of Kaduna State, Nigeria; Nollywood actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde; media mogul, Mo Abudu; personal finance expert, Nimi Akinkugbe; Bank of Industry CEO, Rasheed Olaoluwa; Arunma Oteh, Vice-President and Treasurer of the World Bank; amongst others. The Forum is set up to further encourage and inspire the entrepreneurs who represent every region in Africa and across multiple sectors. [17] [18] The forum is known to be the largest gathering of African entrepreneurs.

TEF Connect

TEFConnect is the Foundation's digital platform designed to enable an ecosystem for entrepreneurs to network, discuss, learn, access opportunities and trade with access to mentors and investors.

The platform was launched in 2018 by the Tony Elumelu Foundation to provide opportunities for thousands of African entrepreneurs to create their own luck and establish the trade relations they need to scale their business, despite geographical limitations. The platform provides support to the thousands of entrepreneurs who may not easily access the right business tools, funding and networks on their own.

Affiliations and Appearances

On 6 May 2015, The White House announced an event that would highlight global entrepreneurs as part of the Spark Initiative to ignite entrepreneurship in emerging markets. [19] The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme is an official partner of Spark and Tony O. Elumelu participated in an entrepreneurship panel discussion at the White House that was moderated by US. Secretary of State, Penny Pritzker.

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) invited the former CEO of the Foundation, Parminder Vir to speak to entrepreneurs at the Mandela Fellowship West Africa edition in Accra on April 27, 2015. [20]

In 2019, the Tony Elumelu Foundation signed a partnership with the African Development Bank and other organisations which saw the number of selected entrepreneurs grow from 1000 to 3050 from 216,000 who had applied. [21] [22]

Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Kenya 2015

During the Global Entrepreneurship Summit which was opened by President Barack Obama, three Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs were part of the official GES programme and gave ‘Ignite talks’ on their entrepreneurial journey to the global audience including President Obama and President Kenyatta of Kenya. [23] [24] Shadi Sabeh, CEO Brilliant Footsteps Academy, Nigeria; Tonee Ndungu, Founder, Kytabu, Kenya; and Jean Patrick Ehouman, Co-Founder and president, Akendewa, Côte d'Ivoire were the speakers representing their companies and are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. [25]

Global Footprints

To consolidate on its increasing pan-African network of entrepreneurs and foster bonding among them, the Foundation has been organizing meet-ups from Abidjan to Johannesburg, Calabar, Kampala, Nairobi and other cities across the continent.

Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs: Transforming Africa

In June 2016, Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs: Transforming Africa, a 30-minute documentary chronicling the story of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs, the vision of the Founder and its phenomenal success in just a year of operation was released. The documentary has since premiered in different cities across the world from Paris [26] to St. Gallen, Kigali, Lagos and London.

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