CHAIRMAN OF Heirs
Holdings, Tony Elumelu has
condemned the pervasive
stereotypes in the media
around Africa and the resulting
negative narrative as “Africa’s
greatest challenge.”
Elumelu spoke at a gathering
of senior policymakers and
development experts hosted
by UK’s leading foreign policy
institute on a panel alongside
United Kingdom Minister
of State, Department for
International Development,
DFID, Rory Stewart.
According to him: “I believe
that the greatest challenge
Africa has as a continent when it
comes to attracting investment
is in the way it is portrayed.
Information presented about
Africa is neither holistic nor
properly contextualized, and
has led to the kind of narrative
that we have had for so long on
Africa. As an investor, when all
you have heard about Africa
is corruption, how would you
pass a positive investment
decision to go and invest
in the continent? The result
is that the vicious cycle of
neglect continues and is even
reinforced.”
The chairman of Heirs
Holdings, a pan-African
investment firm with interests
in financial services, power and
oil & gas, called for an urgent
“reset of mindset” to attract the
level of global private capital
that would drive job creation
and reduce poverty on the
continent.
“We must reset the way we
see and discuss Africa. People
do business with people they
are comfortable with. Investors
who repeatedly hear horrible
things about our people
and the continent will never
invest here. We will continue
to host national gatherings
and seminars to discuss
unemployment, poverty and
income inequality if we do not
fix the existing information
asymmetry, the poor quality of
information that is put out.”
The founder of the Tony
Elumelu Foundation also
rallied public and private
sector stakeholders and
the development world to
increase support to African
SMEs, describing them as “the
lifeblood of our economy.”
Elumelu, who has committed
$100million to African
entrepreneurs, emphasised
the critical importance of
mentoring and funding for the
survival of small businesses.
In a continent where only
700 companies generate over
$500million in annual revenue,
half the number in other
regions, Elumelu called for
targeted support to grow these
small businesses into scalable
companies capable of becoming
big corporates in the future.
According to Elumelu, SMEs
are known to be the largest
job creators and should be
prioritized because of the
inverse relationship between
security and prosperity – “when
there is prosperity, security is
not an issue, but when there
are fewer jobs, insecurity
heightens.”
Elumelu, whose Transcorp
Power Plc has invested
$2.5billion in President
Barak Obama’s Power Africa
Initiative and is also currently
the largest thermal generator of
electricity in the country, called
on local and foreign investors
to invest in electricity, stating
that this more than any other
investment “will encourage
the creation and growth of
businesses of scale in Africa.”
According to him, “Long
term private investment in
electricity infrastructure will
create an enabling environment
for business growth.”
Also at the event, a new
Chatham House report,
‘Developing Businesses of Scale
in Sub-Saharan Africa,’ which
referenced Elumelu’s economic
philosophy of ‘Africapitalism,’
was launched.
Africapitalism calls on the
private sector to invest in
strategic sectors for the long
term to transform the continent.
The report outlined the
policy issues Africa must
address to support the private
sector to enhance job creation,
encourage innovation and
drive industrialisation.
Rounding up his address,
Elumelu charged multilateral
institutions and developed
nations in the West to rethink
the effectiveness of sanctions
and other policies meant to
serve as a deterrent to certain
leaders but instead harm
innocent lives.
“Developed nations
must look at the efficacy of
sanctions and who truly bears
the brunt of these policies.
You will find that the masses
are the ones who suffer most,”
he posited.

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