We Must Encourage Entrepreneurship In Africa –Tony Elumelu

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The Chairman, Heirs Holdings and Philanthropist, Mr. Tony Elumelu was at the International Economic Conference, “Investir au Cameroun as a guest speaker. He was invited by the President of Cameroun, His Excellency, President Paul Biya. The focus of the conference is on attracting and deepening investment in the Republic of Cameroon.

In his speech at the conference, Elumelu said the Government of Cameroon showed incredible foresight in hosting this conference during the good times, at a time of impressive economic growth (5.5% growth rate), in contrast to some of Africa’s largest economies. He also stressed the need to encourage entrepreneurship in Africa.

Here is his speech reads in parts;

‘I commend President Biya for hosting a platform that involved private sector stakeholders in the conversation around growth and development. As an Africapitalist, I believe that the private sector has an important role in advancing Africa’s transformation. We – all of us private sector leaders – must embrace this responsibility by making long-term investments in strategic sectors which deliver economic and social wealth. One of the other speakers, former Prime Minister of Korea, Dr. Chung UN-CHAN, labelled this concept as “shared growth”, while World Bank President Jim Yong Kim calls this “shared prosperity”. I call it Africapitalism because no one but us will develop Africa’.

‘To attract such local and global investments, governments must create a conducive environment. While there is a lot of global private capital looking for the right destination, in order to attract and retain such capital, sustained improvements to the operating environment must be made. While good policies help a lot, it is important that there is consistency, continuity and stability. Inconsistencies in policy don’t help to attract investments to the continent. If we address this, it will help to bring more investments to the continent’.

‘If you want to attract investors, then promote local entrepreneurs. Let the charity begin at home. The truth is, investors want to go to economies or countries where there is a vibrant local entrepreneurship ecosystem and vibrant local entrepreneurs, because it is a telling factor. If the local entrepreneurs are doing well, it tells an investor that 1) the market is good, and 2) there is an enabling environment that supports businesses to grow. So, if we want to attract investment into the continent, we must build our entrepreneurs’.

‘We must also encourage entrepreneurship in Africa because governments and big corporations alone cannot provide enough jobs for the more than 200 million young Africans entering the workforce by 2030. Africa can become the engine of global economic growth – or a global economic growth reserve – but we need to make sure that we invest in our young people. We must empower Africa’s entrepreneurs to ensure that our demographic dividend does not become a demographic disaster’.

‘If we get these two things right – creating a conducive policy climate for investments, and supporting local entrepreneurship – I have no doubt all 54 African countries will have no problem stimulating investments from within and welcoming investors from outside’.

‘My dream is that someday, one of these entrepreneurs that we have supported through the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme will stand in my shoes on global stages, to tell the world his/her story. In conclusion, governments and leading private sector players must begin to work together to prioritize investments and inclusive growth on the continent’.

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