At the backdrop of frustrations with funding entrepreneurship and economic development in Africa, the Tony Elumelu Foundation is now engaging the International Finance Corporation, IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank for the purpose of degrading environmental and other risks inherent in lending to young entrepreneurs as well as overall development finance in Africa.
The founder of the Foundation, Mr Tony Elumelu, who disclosed this at the on-going World Bank Group Spring Meetings in Washington DC, United States of America, said has held meetings with IFC on this adding that the outcome would pave way for more fund inflows to the continent. He said that other development institutions are also being engaged for similar purposes.
Elumelu, therefore, challenged African leaders in the public and private sector to galvanize the opportunities in the continent to drive a private sector led economic development. He argued that this would catalyze youth entrepreneurship which he said is already very fertile with opportunities, prospects and population advantages.
He stated: “The truth is that the population of Africa presents opportunities. We have 60 per cent of our working population at the age of 30 and we have 65 per cent of our economy in the informal sector.”
Elumelu who was on discussion set with the president of World Bank, Mr Jim Yong Kim and the Chief Executive of LinkedIn, Mr Jeff Weiner, on the theme, ‘Digital Economy for Africa’, said “these numbers present quite interesting opportunities for digital economy.
He stated: “In my interactions with young Africans, I have seen people who are determined, energetic, hungry to succeed and make a difference and are extremely intelligent, but the environment makes it difficult for them to succeed.
“You can’t talk about digital economy in Africa without fixing critical infrastructure. Digital connectivity is a major issue in Africa and you can’t fix it if you don’t have reliable access to electricity. So, if we want to truly address the issue of digital economy in Africa, these challenges have to be fixed.
“Secondly is the issue of governance. Governments need to understand that if we prioritise the young ones and make the operating environment conducive, they would be able to optimise the required intellects, they would do well and we would be able to solve some of the problems in the continent.
“So, regulation is major, intellectual property is very important, incentivising investors are all factors that will help us address these issues. For the entrepreneurs in Africa, I will say let’s not look at the challenges, but the opportunities. There are lots of opportunities in the continent and we need to look at these opportunities. Let’s fix policy issues and all these issues I have identified and investors will come to Africa.”