TONY ELUMELU TAKES INVESTING IN AFRICA TO ANOTHER LEVEL
By Ada Anioji
To some, it is no longer news that the African Export-Import Bank, Afreximbank, one of Africa’s leading development finance institutions commited to financing and promoting intra- and extra-African trade, had in the course of its 24th Annual General meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda recently, signed a $100million MOU with Tony Elumelu, Chairman, Heirs Holdings Limited, United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
However, analysts say it is important to underscore the era in which this intervention is taking place. It is at a time when issues of continental integration and the promotion of intra-African cross-border trade are on the top burner. For example, at the just concluded Summit of African Heads of States, fresh emphasis was put on the need to remove all obstacles in the way of the Continental Free Trade Area that is due to come into effect at the close of the year. This is in addition to the Common African Passport initiative, whose phased implementation is already underway.
This point was itself not lost on Elumelu as he alluded to it at the event. While speaking on “Cross-Border Investments as a Driver of Intra-African Trade and Industrialisation: Reflections from a Continental Business Leader,” Elumelu said, that the bank’s mission is a further evidence of Africa’ s own ability to provide long-term, strategic financing for the continent’s economic and social development. He also noted that the bank championed the agenda of the private sector, as the key contributor to Africa’s ability to attract and implement sustainable investment.
According to him, the $100 million facility will support Heirs holdings limited cross-border investment programme across 20 African countries, in key sectors of the African economy comprising energy, financial services, real estate and hospitality. This is progress, impact in action, and I commend Afrexim and its President, Dr. Oramah.
The signing ceremony was in the view of some however most symbolic as it was a clear affirmation of my call-to-action to African development institutions, earlier in the day, during my keynote remarks. I challenged Development Institutions to invest in a manner that catalyses trade and industrialisation and not just to achieve triple A ratings. I urged them to support African businesses in a strategic way to build homegrown corporates and SMEs that contribute to job creation, economic growth and sustainable development Elumelu emphasised.
Elumelu also shared the story of UBA Group, and how he and his team grew the bank from a single country operation to a thriving 19 country operation with 1000 branches, employing 25,000 staff, improving payment facilities, funding infrastructure development and facilitating intra-African trade.
But that is not everything as the consumate businessman was not done. ‘With our non-for-profit side, the Tony Elumelu Foundation, we are investing in African Entrepreneurs – the lifeblood of the African economy – across all 54 countries on the continent. Our commitment is to empower 10,000 entrepreneurs who will create 1 million jobs. But that’s not all. We have also invested in a commodity exchange facilitating regional trade with local farmers called the East Africa Exchange and a thriving potato business called Mtanga farm.
My development mantra is “Africans Investing in Africa”. As the African private sector, we must capitalise on the ripe opportunities on the continent to create economic prosperity and social wealth while giving our young people economic hope by empowering them either as entrepreneurs, or employing them as staff.’
And in restating his overall message on what he considers to be the critical demand of the hour for leaders of all sorts across the continent, Elumelu affirmed: ‘It is our responsibility to build the future we desire for ourselves, one investment at a time.’
Mr. Tony O. Elumelu