The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), a philanthropy committed to empowering young African entrepreneurs, has announced a partnership with the European Union to identify, train, mentor and fund 2,500 young African women entrepreneurs in 2021.
The partnership will disburse €20 million in financial and technical support for women-owned businesses, across all 54 African countries, in addition to providing increased access to market linkages, supply chains and venture capital investments.
The joint initiative will significantly strengthen and deepen the EU-Africa partnership, builds on the platform and experience of the $100 million TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, and forms part of the EU External Investment Plan to support women economic empowerment within the EU Gender Action Plan (GAP III).
Commenting on the partnership, Tony Elumelu, Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, said: “We are delighted to partner with the European Union, sharing our unique ability to identify, train, mentor and fund young entrepreneurs across Africa. This joint effort will prioritise and provide economic opportunities for African women, whom for too long have endured systemic obstacles to starting, growing and sustaining their businesses. Our partnership will alleviate the funding, knowledge and market constraints threatening the livelihoods of women entrepreneurs on the continent, to create more income, jobs, growth and scale for women-owned businesses.”
The EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said: “This partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation will help women participants in economic development, realise their full potential and accelerate economic inclusion. Empowering women entrepreneurs is a key driver for sustainable jobs and growth, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and in line with the objectives of our African Strategy. Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and they deserve equal opportunities.”
The Tony Elumelu Foundation, which marks 10 years of impact this year, is empowering a new generation of African entrepreneurs, catalysing economic growth, driving poverty eradication and ensuring job creation across all 54 African countries.
The Foundation said it has trained, mentored and funded nearly 10,000 young African entrepreneurs from 54 African countries, and continues to provide capacity-building support, advisory and market linkages to over 1 million Africans through its digital networking platform, TEFConnect.
TEF’s female success stories, it was gathered, include Joyce Awojoodu, from Nigeria, who launched a luxury botanically based product line and spa clinic in Lagos, in 2015. The brand ORÍKÌ, caters to both men and women, and strictly uses raw materials and natural ingredients from Africa.
Awojoodu’s favourite element of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme was the mentorship, which she described as “phenomenal”’ and “invaluable” for ORÍKÌ.
In her own words, “each Tef Entrepreneur was assigned a mentor and I could not have asked for a better one. TEF connected us. Now the mentorship continues, and I know I will always have an ear to share my thoughts about the business with a person who can also offer advice”.
Mavis Mduchwa, an agribusiness entrepreneur from Botswana, founded Chabana Farms, a poultry farm providing training and work for unemployed young people. Even though agriculture accounts for 32% of Africa’s gross domestic product, land ownership and access to land remains a significant challenge for many farmers, especially women.
According to Mduchwa, “in Botswana, about 80% of people survive on agriculture, and many of them are women. But, if as a woman you want to turn it into a business, you have a challenge of finding land.” Mduchwa has used the seed capital and training from TEF to significantly expand her operations.
The programme co-funded by the European Union, the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific State (OACPS), and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), will further scale the Foundation’s efforts in directly addressing some of the most endemic challenges to African start-ups – skills and capacity gaps, financial constraints and lack of access to mentoring, networks and market linkages.
Following completion of the programme, the entrepreneurs will stay connected to partners and to each other through their lifetime membership on TEFConnect. TEF has set up Country Chapters in 54 African countries to support the entrepreneurs as they grow and expand their businesses.