Remarks by Tony O. Elumelu at the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable delivered on Monday, March 21, 2016 in Abuja FCT.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki;


Tony Elumelu, Chairman, UBA Plc 

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dogara Yakubu;
Honorable Ministers
of the Cabinet present;
Members of the Senate;
Honorable Members
of the House;
As Vice-Chairman of
the Competitiveness Council of Nigeria, Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF),
and a Nigerian citizen, I am extremely proud to be here today. 
This meeting and
effort is a humble acknowledgement by our leaders that:
1.   Our laws are not perfect, that we need to
review, amend and enhance many of them, and that there is much work to be done
to pass new legislation to improve the lives of our people.
2.   The proper role of government, is not to
provide employment for everyone, but to create, sustain and secure an enabling
environment for citizens to independently create their own jobs and their
success, using their own talents; and
3.   That the private sector is the engine for
economic growth in Nigeria, and indeed anywhere else.
On behalf of my
colleagues in the private sector- the established big corporates, the small
enterprises and the budding entrepreneurs- I thank Senate-President Bukola
Saraki and the National Assembly for taking a thorough, systematic and
transparent approach to this review, and for understanding that, for the best
results, the public, particularly the private sector must participate in the
process of identifying and debating laws meant to increase their numbers,
productivity and success.
I also want to
recognize and thank the National Economic Summit Group, who have been pushing
for several years for a comprehensive revamping of our laws relating to the
private sector.  I also want to thank
John Smith International, DFID and your other partners for the excellent work
done with the MSMEs survey and report that form the basis of today’s
discussions. The Tony Elumelu Foundation has also made a submission based on
our survey of applicants to the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.
I am a proponent of
Africapitalism, which advocates for the private sector to acknowledge and
embrace its critical role in Africa’s development.
Through the $100
million Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program, over the next 10 years, we will
seek to identify nurture and seed 10,000 African businesses based purely on the
merit of their ideas, and tomorrow we will announce the second 1,000 who will
make up the Class of 2016. I can tell you from real data that the thirst and
talent for entrepreneurship is highest in Nigeria. So far, with 498
beneficiaries (selectees) Nigerian entrepreneurs represent 50% of TEF
entrepreneurs because they represent 50% of the best ideas submitted for
I can also tell you that the enabling business environment is a
real challenge everywhere on the continent. From long registration processes
and obstacles, lack of access to finance, weak infrastructure, multiple and
very complicated tax liabilities, to visa requirements, we have a million ways
to extinguish businesses and partnerships before they begin.
The hard truth is
we are a continent that depends on our export commodities and the resilience of
our entrepreneurs and that makes us extremely economically vulnerable. Now that
the commodity market has drastically let us down, we need to assure our
economic recovery and continued growth by lifting our entrepreneurs up.  In particular, we need to empower and enable
the job creators and future job creators, by which I mean the start-ups and
small businesses who can create millions and millions of jobs by simply
employing one person. They are our salvation and our elevation.
We’ve heard some
wonderful statements from our legislative leaders today.  As you will probably understand, a lot of
talking has been done over the years around the issue of improving the enabling
environment for business.  The prayer of
the private sector is that we move from talking to doing. If we make these
changes, we can unlock countless jobs and opportunities in the country.  I will remind you that, without spending any
money, over a decade ago the federal government started issuing GSM
This revolutionized a sector
that in turn unleashed countless direct and tangential jobs.  I believe we can achieve something similar by
passing other pieces of legislation like land use reform, to enable people
sitting on valuable land asset, to own, monetize and collateralize it to get
access to capital to start or grow their business. So, let us go about the
business of doing, so that our entrepreneurs can go about their own business.

In closing, I want
to say, that what we do in Nigeria will set the example for other African
nations and the National Assembly is off to a great start with this
comprehensive review of our business environment. I thank you again for this
initiative to unleash Nigeria’s entrepreneurs. I assure you that the private
sector will be your partner in this worthy cause to pass the necessary measures
to help assure the survival and success of start-ups, SMEs and major corporates
in Nigeria.


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