Economic Opportunity is the other side of the development coin - @TonyOElumelu - Biztorials

Economic Opportunity is the other side of the development coin – @TonyOElumelu

Earlier this week I travelled to Washington DC at the invitation of the White House to speak at an event hosted by President Obama to promote global entrepreneurship. I was also invited to deliver a keynote address on Entrepreneur Led Development: A New Model For Africa- at the prestigious Georgetown University. It was rewarding for me to see how my campaign for a development approach that includes the economic opportunity side of the development coin, and not just the social impact side, is taking root even at the highest levels of current and future global political authority.

During my trip to the US, there were some key messages that I shared with the two audiences that I wish to impart on you all now.

I, like most of us believe in the importance of helping people, but it is the methods we adopt in order to do this that will determine how much sustainable impact can be made. When it comes to development in Africa, and from the African perspective, one must remember:

  • Development is a matter of realising our potential and making the progress that we know is humanly possible because others have gotten there;
  • It’s a matter of dignity and self-reliance;
  • It’s a matter of creating the opportunities that will empower individuals and communities; and
  • Of course, it means the beginning of the end of aid.

The beginning of the end of aid doesn’t imply that aid is negative. Instead, I prescribe looking at models such as entrepreneurship that create a level of self-sufficiency that aid cannot. We must not homogenise the needs of Africans. Instead of focusing on saving lives, for example, aid should focus on investing in and empowering Africans who can save their own lives.

Statistics have shown that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa has overtaken Overseas Development Assistance (ODA). However, a significant portion of the FDI is from the African private sector investing in Africa. Further, African companies such as the United Bank for Africa, MTN and the Dangote Group are investing and growing across Africa, driving increased intra-African trade and bringing the continent closer together economically.
These companies are empowering Africans through creating tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, providing economic opportunities and social development at the same time. I call this Africapitalism, where the African private sector plays the leading role in the economic and social development of the continent while governments, donor countries and philanthropic organisations play supporting roles to create an enabling environment.

I count myself among those who believe that five entrepreneurs built and transformed the US into what it is today – John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan. Similarly, I believe we must recognise entrepreneurs as key drivers of development in Africa and prioritise them in African policy and philanthropy.

Supporting entrepreneurship means creating policies that improve the enabling environment for millions of potential job creators to succeed and create the millions of jobs Africa needs in the coming years. My contributions in this area are through The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) which will identify 1,000 African entrepreneurs every year for the next 10 years and provide them with the seed capital, training, mentoring and networks they need to actualise their business idea. The 2015 class of 1,000 entrepreneurs were chosen with the assistance of Accenture and a Selection Committee from a pool of over 20,000 applicants from 54 African countries and territories. They are currently receiving additional online business training and will attend a two day boot camp in Lagos in July to prepare them for the challenges of business and allow them to network with their peers across Africa.

The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme is an act of faith in our entrepreneurs to transform our continent. Because business isn’t just about money. It’s about vision. It’s about value, plans and community.
And It’s about development!

This is a summary highlight of Keypoints of the Address delivered by Mr. Tony O. Elumelu, CON at a White House event hosted by President Obama to promote global entrepreneurship and also at Georgetown University. The post first appeared here.