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Resilience is key in entrepreneurship journey- UBA’s Elumelu

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | Tony Elumelu is the founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, which is currently running a 10 year –The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme–worth US$100 million. The Independent’s Julius Businge captured some of the responses to the key issues raised during a public lecture on Africapitalism and Entrepreneurship at Makerere University on April 11.

What is the current status of the ongoing Entrepreneurship Programme under TEF?

The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) supports 1,000 African youths prospecting entrepreneurs every year across the 54 African countries.  And out of these, we already have 300 that operate in Uganda. We train and mentor successful applicants for a minimum of 12 weeks and thereafter, each youth receive US$5,000 as seed capital. When we were unveiling this programme in 2015, we didn’t expect a high level of interest. But during the same year, we received about 20,000 applications. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, we received about 45, 000, 98, 000 and 151,000 applications, respectively. Though we have been supporting 1,000 youths annually, we have added 250 this year.

How can one become a successful entrepreneur, and how can banks support?

Entrepreneurship as a journey is a hard one.  There are many things that one needs to do, starting with the most important one – the idea. Capital is another important factor but can only work when one has ideas and knows what he or she wants to be in the future. This is because capital can be got from families and friends. Banks can also provide the funds to scale the business but will not give ideas. At the same time, banks also need collateral to be able to lend money because they are heavily regulated.

Could there be a chance that low saving culture is to blame for the low level of entrepreneurship in Africa?

Saving is very important to individuals and to countries. It supports investments and so is entrepreneurship. If one wants to be a successful entrepreneur, then, he or she needs to have a culture and discipline of saving. Entrepreneurship is a long term journey. You don’t make money today, spend everything and think that you will reach your destination. As you make more money, you must save at initial stages. Government agencies and Foundations like ours can support you with what you have saved. Training and mentoring, book keeping are also important.

Where do you place the role of government in this entrepreneurship journey?

We are happy to see young people growing businesses and I am told that the President (Yoweri Museveni) has visited some of these businesses that we have supported. That is a good thing. The good news is that African leaders have realised that what is good for entrepreneurs is good for all citizens.Once entrepreneurs succeed, the country succeeds. We want to see African leaders develop a mechanism of supporting young entrepreneurs. When that happens, entrepreneurs can pay bigger taxes.

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