The Chairman of Heirs Holdings and United Bank for Africa Plc has identified three key policy actions that will turn the tide of young African entrepreneurs.
He told CNN’s Richard Quest in an interview monitored by THE PIPER that young African entrepreneurs are smart and need opportunities like their peers in the developed world.
On Tuesday, the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) signed an agreement to support youth entrepreneurship in Africa at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.
The funding agreement is aimed in particular at young Africans in poorer African countries.
Least developed countries (LDCs) are expected to face demographic challenges as their population doubles to 1.7 billion by 2050.
The LDC youth population aged 15-24 is projected to reach 300 million by 2050.
In Africa, young entrepreneurs are facing severe structural setbacks that have hampered their growth.
Elumelu said in his interview that African youth need a favorable environment, cheap capital and mentoring to be successful.
He also revealed his concerns as inflation affects interest rates in developed markets and its impact on emerging markets like Africa.
The Nigerian philanthropist said: “I’m very concerned (about the impact of high interest rates in developed markets on emerging markets) but you know the glass is half full. What I see in emerging markets is that while there is inflation, interest rates are rising and creating more problems, we also see a lot of opportunity in the continent and in most emerging markets.
“I think prioritizing young people investing in their future will help us ultimately create sustainable economic prosperity for all.
“So from what I’m seeing, I’m not seeing desperation, I’m seeing opportunity for us to do more so we can create the kind of prosperity that will push the world towards more booms instead of fearing a recession.”
According to Elumelu, in order to solve the problem of poverty in Africa, entrepreneurs and governments must solve the problems that hinder the potential of entrepreneurs on the continent.
He said: “We need three things to unleash the potential of the youngsters. First, we need the conducive environment. That our government creates an enabling environment that enables young people to thrive. Access to electricity is so difficult in Africa and without electricity you can’t do much as an entrepreneur. So you need to fix that.
“Second, young entrepreneurs in Africa need access to capital – affordable capital to help them prove their case and that is why we are providing seed capital at the Tony Elumelu Foundation. A non-refundable seed capital of $5,000. Not because we have much, but because we want to give young Africans the opportunity to prove their ideas, so that together we can develop Africa and help Africa to prosper economically.
“And thirdly, they need commercial training and mentoring. They need successful African business leaders so that we can set an example for them. So that we accept their thoughts; that we can show them how to walk the path and also use them in our supply chain so we can help them.
“We are all where we are today because at some point in our business development and entrepreneurship journey we were given a helping hand with opportunity. We have a platform that supports us. So these three things will help young African entrepreneurs succeed.”