Elumelu Sees Impact Through Large-Scale Entrepreneurship
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Tony Elumelu, who made a meteoric rise as a banking executive before retiring last year, knows what he’d like to accomplish with his new initiatives.
“One of my greatest joys would be to look back and say I’ve helped to create ten or a hundred very successful African entrepreneurs,” the 48-year-old Nigerian said during an interview in late August at the end of an event-packed visit to East Africa.
Elumelu said his foundation encourages entrepreneurs to identify what assistance they need to create or expand businesses that can become successful, multi-national corporations. He also said African business and political leaders must support and learn from one another if they are to “establish successful trade relationships and build world-class economies.”
He struck the same theme in visits to Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya last month, promoting Africapitalism – “private sector commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through investments that generate economic and social wealth.” Last week he returned to Rwanda for a trade and investment-focused visit with a delegation of high-level Nigerian executives led by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Until last June, when a 10-year term limit adopted by the Nigerian Central Bank for chief executives brought his banking career to a close, Elumelu was Group Chief Executive at UBA. The bank rose to the top tier of Nigerian financial institutions after Elumelu engineered a 2005 merger between his Standard Bank Trust and the former United Bank for Africa. He remains a major UBA shareholder.
Currently, he is directing both an investment company, Heirs Holdings, which has purchased assets in oil and gas, hospitality and agriculture firms – and the Tony Elumelu Foundation. Its aim is to promote “excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa.”
The foundation relies primarily on “impact investing” to achieve those goals. Producing a financial return promotes entrepreneurial rigor, Elumelu said.