The Tony Elumelu Foundation will promote excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa, says founder and chairman of Heirs Holding, Mr. Tony Elumelu.
The Foundation was formally launched in Lagos, Nigeria on Friday, October 29, 2010, to a gathering of business and political leaders, including the former Ghanaian President Mr. John Kufuor, and with messages of support arriving from Mrs Graça Machel Mandela, Mr. Tony Blair and Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Elumelu said the establishment of the Foundation was driven by his desire to give back to society and the need to address the leadership question in Africa.
“Leadership is central to both the challenges and opportunities that Africa offers. We need to have the right leadership, in the private and the public sectors – this Foundation’s objective is to catalyse that leadership”.
The Foundation will focus on promoting and celebrating excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa. In doing this, Mr. Elumelu said “it will contribute to the economic transformation of the African continent by fostering and impacting Africa’s business leaders and entrepreneurs at key stages in their development”.
As someone whose career has been dedicated to building a pan African institution, Elumelu has always maintained Africa at the centre of his ambition, driven by a belief in the economic possibilities Africa offers and that now is the time for Africans to take control of their destiny — stating that nobody will develop Africa except Africans.
He reiterated that there is the need to harness the enormous resources that abound within the African continent for its development and that the private sector must show the way.
“We need to encourage entrepreneurship and by so doing begin to crystallise entrepreneurial development in the African continent. Africa is endowed with so many resources; Africa has come of age and has the intellectual capacity to develop itself” he stated.
The CEO of the Foundation, Dr. Wiebe Boer, who was born and raised in Jos, Nigeria, in outlining the execution of the Founder’s vision, highlighted the two main focuses of the Foundation: business leadership and entrepreneurship. He explained that learning from the lessons of great historical foundations such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, the Tony Elumelu Foundation would be structured to represent innovative 21st century philanthropy, achieving the right balance of charity and sustainability by appropriately combining grant making, with impact investment – investments that have double bottom line effects – adopting private sector approaches to social issues. The objective was to create an institution that would be recognised in time as a peer to institutions such as Rockefeller and Carnegie.
“The Tony Elumelu Foundation will be a pioneering global foundation where all aspects of the Foundation – from grants to impact investments to endowment investments – are focused on the social mission. All of this will be executed through an approach that is transparent, accountable, results focused and based on partnerships with other like-minded institutions as well as the private and public sector” he explained. The inaugural CEO added, “The Tony Elumelu Foundation will be structured as an innovative 21st century philanthropic initiative, showing the way forward not just in Africa, but globally, in its approach to directly and sustainably advancing the business environment in Africa.”
Boer believes that the Foundation will play an important role in this pivotal moment in which Africa’s economic transformation is becoming a reality. “This is the moment we want to harness to make sure the next decades continue where this one has ended – with long term sustainable economic growth in Africa, driven by Africa’s business leaders and entrepreneurs” he enthused.
Immediate past President of Ghana, Mr. John Kufuor, reiterated the importance of leadership and entrepreneurship as critical factors to the development of the African continent. While commending the efforts of Tony Elumelu in setting up the Foundation, he called on governments to develop the political framework that will bring the desired changes needed on the continent.
A number of messages from friends and supporters of the Foundation were read at the occasion, including words from the former British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair; the former First Lady of Mozambique and South Africa Mrs. Graça Machel Mandela; renowned Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter; and the Chairman, UBA Board of Directors, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba. In his message, Tony Blair concluded by writing, “The Tony Elumelu Foundation will make a vital contribution to the next stage of Africa’s development, and I very much look forward to working with him and offering him my full support.” In her contribution, Mrs Graça Machel Mandela wrote, “It is encouraging to see an African business leader like Tony Elumelu take on what to most would seem like an insurmountable challenge. Through this ambitious effort the African youth have gained a formidable advocate.”