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Elumelu Urges US To Shift Focus From Aid To Empowering Africa’s Youth

The Chairman United Bank for Africa, UBA, and philanthropists, Mr Tony Elumelu has called on the United States Government to shift emphasis and focus from providing aid to governments in Africa to supporting institutions that help empower a burgeoning population of youths through businesses and job creation.

Elumelu, who is the Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), has also identified a strong private sector as a critical driver of peace, stability, and development on the continent.

He made these remarks recently during the fireside conversation co-hosted by the US Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC. 

Elumelu challenged the US authorities to re-image its approach to African development.

Speaking at the forum, Elumelu said promoting business formation “is no substitute for strengthening Africa’s weak infrastructure, governance and institutions, neither are challenging business conditions a reason to delay unleashing the entrepreneurial energies of African youth.”

Elumelu, whose foundation trains, supports and provides seed capital to would-be entrepreneurs across the continent, called for a re-imagined US relationship with Africa.

“Washington needs to shift its focus from aid that inevitably encourages dependency to support for institutions that help empower a burgeoning population through businesses and the jobs they support.

“Entrepreneurship, peace, and conflict are linked one way or the other. Young people, who are engaged in bettering their own lives and their communities will reject the lures of extremism and crime,” he said at the forum held at USIP’s head office.

Asked what the US can do to improve Africa’s governance, Elumelu said people “are beginning to wonder if the US is still there for Africa because of the foray into Africa by other world powers.”

Elumelu, who committed $100 million to raise African entrepreneurs for 10 years, said the US “remains admired and respected in Africa. But a critical step will be to make sure aid makes it past the last mile to its intended recipients and purposes.”

He observed that another step “will be supporting institutional infrastructure that helps address sustainability. The US policymakers and financial institutions should impress on African leaders how their own political goals and private sector success are linked.

“Overall, there needs to be a reimagining of what Africa needs, a necessity demonstrated by a dangerous level of youth unemployment that is not improving,” UBA’s chairman explained.

UBA’s chairman pointed to a partnership with Google as a good example of the relationship, which he believed could promote entrepreneurship among young Africans.

He explained that the tech giant “has committed a team to expand the training capacity of the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s digital network, which already includes about a million active and aspiring entrepreneurs.

“As the foundation’s programme can only accept up to 2,000 students from 350,000 applicants, Google is helping develop a training platform with unlimited reach keyed to African conditions.

“That digital partnership is such critical support for Africa. Our Internet connectivity? Not so great. Available bandwidth? Not so great. 

Yet, this young African is connected to the rest of the world. That is an area we know we need to focus on.”

Elumelu cited his own story as a hopeful example of what African entrepreneurs could achieve and the impact they could have on the continent.

The Chairman United Bank for Africa, UBA, and philanthropists, Mr Tony Elumelu has called on the United States Government to shift emphasis and focus from providing aid to governments in Africa to supporting institutions that help empower a burgeoning population of youths through businesses and job creation.

Elumelu, who is the Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), has also identified a strong private sector as a critical driver of peace, stability, and development on the continent.

He made these remarks recently during the fireside conversation co-hosted by the US Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC. 

Elumelu challenged the US authorities to re-image its approach to African development.

Speaking at the forum, Elumelu said promoting business formation “is no substitute for strengthening Africa’s weak infrastructure, governance and institutions, neither are challenging business conditions a reason to delay unleashing the entrepreneurial energies of African youth.”

Elumelu, whose foundation trains, supports and provides seed capital to would-be entrepreneurs across the continent, called for a re-imagined US relationship with Africa.

“Washington needs to shift its focus from aid that inevitably encourages dependency to support for institutions that help empower a burgeoning population through businesses and the jobs they support.

“Entrepreneurship, peace, and conflict are linked one way or the other. Young people, who are engaged in bettering their own lives and their communities will reject the lures of extremism and crime,” he said at the forum held at USIP’s head office.

Asked what the US can do to improve Africa’s governance, Elumelu said people “are beginning to wonder if the US is still there for Africa because of the foray into Africa by other world powers.”

Elumelu, who committed $100 million to raise African entrepreneurs for 10 years, said the US “remains admired and respected in Africa. But a critical step will be to make sure aid makes it past the last mile to its intended recipients and purposes.”

He observed that another step “will be supporting institutional infrastructure that helps address sustainability. The US policymakers and financial institutions should impress on African leaders how their own political goals and private sector success are linked.

“Overall, there needs to be a reimagining of what Africa needs, a necessity demonstrated by a dangerous level of youth unemployment that is not improving,” UBA’s chairman explained.

UBA’s chairman pointed to a partnership with Google as a good example of the relationship, which he believed could promote entrepreneurship among young Africans.

He explained that the tech giant “has committed a team to expand the training capacity of the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s digital network, which already includes about a million active and aspiring entrepreneurs.

“As the foundation’s programme can only accept up to 2,000 students from 350,000 applicants, Google is helping develop a training platform with unlimited reach keyed to African conditions.

“That digital partnership is such critical support for Africa. Our Internet connectivity? Not so great. Available bandwidth? Not so great. 

Yet, this young African is connected to the rest of the world. That is an area we know we need to focus on.”

Elumelu cited his own story as a hopeful example of what African entrepreneurs could achieve and the impact they could have on the continent.

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