Changing the Narrative on Africa in a Changing Administration-Tony O. Elumelu

Tony O. Elumelu, CON,
Africa Conference
Delaware, USA
Friday, September
16, 2016


 Senator Christopher
Former State
Representative Don Blakey;
Distinguished speakers and guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to be
with you this morning for the fifth ‘Opportunity Africa Conference.
 I want to start by
thanking Senator Chris Coons and his wonderful staff for inviting me to his
home state to speak with his constituents.
I’ve met with Senator Coons in Washington but nothing speaks more warmly
of friendship than an invitation to one’s home.
 I also want to thank
you, Senator for your commitment to the continent and people of Africa.
I will start by
saying that on the surface, Senator Coons and I appear very different.
He was born and
raised in the United States, and I, in Nigeria.
He has spent many years as a public sector leader, while I have focused
my career almost exclusively in the private sector.  And we have both achieved much success in our
chosen endeavours.
However, if you look
more closely, we are not so different.
We were both born in
And we share a deep
belief in the inherent value and dignity of the African people and a commitment
unlocking the potential of the continent.
The Senator’s
interest in Africa, began as a student when he wrote critically about the Apartheid
government in South Africa and the unfortunate U.S. foreign policy of “Constructive
with this racist government and through his experiences, living
in Kenya.
Both of these
experiences influenced how he approached the concept of governance including in
the United States itself, and caused him to change his political affiliation.
So, Africa CHANGED YOU, Senator, in
a very fundamental way
, and now you are giving back by using your platform
in the U.S. Senate to help CHANGE AFRICA and to CHANGE THE
So, in a word, a key
theme in the Senator’s life has been “CHANGE.” In my life, the key theme, in a
word is “MADE.”
I was born in Africa, educated in Africa and have spent
my whole career working in Africa.  You
might say, I was MADE IN AFRICA and I MADE IT IN AFRICA!
And like the good Senator, I seek to CHANGE THE
For too long and for
too many people the continent “Africa,” evokes images of poverty, disease, hunger
and backwardness.  Even worse these
images conjure a sense of hopelessness!
People believed
similar things about China, Brazil and India not too long ago, but now that these
countries are economic powerhouses, the narrative has changed.
Senator Coons and I,
and I believe everyone here, want the same for Africa’s 54 countries.
And yet it is true
that, today, Africa is home to:

Two thirds of the world’s HIV/AIDs infected persons
and 90% of its orphans;

90 million kids who are out of school;

Over a dozen undemocratic or insufficiently
democratic governments;

Millions of people who are caught in civil
conflicts and vulnerable to starvation.
Wanting change should not blind us
to the current realities; indeed these facts should make us all ever more
committed to achieving change.
But that is not the whole
story about Africa.

Africa is the cradle of mankind and ancient

it is home to amazing cultures, that have
touched the world in music, art and literature;

it gave us the extraordinary example of
Nelson Mandela;

However, most importantly for me, Africa is
a continent of a generation of entrepreneurs.
Home probably to the largest group of entrepreneurs on this planet.
Africa is also the
home of a young and growing middle-class that has strong purchasing power.  A middle-class that likes baseball caps,
iPhones, Kias, CNN and Beyonce.  In other
words, in Africa lies a huge growing market for American products.
Clearly, over the last
two decades, something has been happening in Africa!
SUCCESS is happening
in Africa!
Opportunity is
happening in Africa.
And I am living
proof of this!
 I’ve enjoyed success
in banking, but also in growing agricultural products for our people, providing
healthcare, investing in power to drive our economy, resources that can bring
value to our continent.
And ALL in Africa!
I have been very
successful in these sectors using an economic philosophy I developed called
advocates long-term investment in strategic sectors that generate both economic
dividends for investors
and social dividends for society.
So, I am a
successful Africapitalist today, but I started out just like one of those young
men and women in the clip you just saw of the beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu
Foundation’s $100 million Entrepreneurship Program.
The continent of
Africa has given me so much!
And I understand and embrace the responsibility
to GIVE BACK to the continent by PAYING IT FORWARD and creating more Tony Elumelus
to help transform Africa.
Through the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s $100 million
Entrepreneurship Program, we seek to INSTITUTIONALISE LUCK and DEMOCRATISE
OPPORTUNITY by giving every budding or aspiring African entrepreneur the chance
to benefit from it.  It is open to all
African citizens, regardless of age, gender, nationality or commercial sector.
We are training,
mentoring and seeding 10,000 African business over the 10 years, creating 1
million new jobs and $10 billion in additional revenue across Africa in an
effort to ignite the economic transformation of Africa.
These entrepreneurs
will achieve financial success while creating home-grown solutions to local
problems in core areas such as food, education, health, water and sanitation etc.,
delivering African solutions to African problems.  Or, in other words helping, to implement the
Sustainable Development Goals from the private sector.
This is the story I
want to tell about Africa.  This is the
new narrative of Africa.
I travel all over
the world, preaching that Africa is “OPPORTUNITY.”
And if I am the
opportunity preacher then Senator Coons is the Choir Master because for the last
5 years, he has been organizing this conference that could not be more aptly
named and reflective of what is happening on the continent “OPPORTUNITY
He is not only
bringing that message to Delaware, he is taking it to Washington DC.  And he is demonstrating it through concrete
policy actions.
 U.S. policy towards
Africa has largely and steadily been improving since the late 1990s.  It’s not been perfect but it’s gotten better with
each successive President since William Jefferson Clinton.
Looking back, from
the 1960’s through most of the 1980s, U.S. Foreign policy towards Africa
focused on supporting despots in the Cold War alliances and then, following the
collapse of the Soviet empire, wrote Africa off completely in the 1990s.
However, during his
second term in the late 90s, President Clinton began to engage with the
continent and even came on a state visit to sub-Saharan Africa, something no
U.S. President had done in almost two decades.
It was also in the final
year of the Clinton presidency that the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act was
passed, which helped to lay the foundation for a new US-Africa relationship;
one based not on
humanitarian assistance, but on partnership for mutual economic benefit – and
one that allows entrepreneurship to be the engine of social development.
President George W.
Bush built on this with the AGOA renewals and enhancements and the creation of
the Millennium Challenge Account which was a multi-billion dollar programme
to incentivise African countries to embrace democratic reforms and govern
justly, in return for US assistance to develop their infrastructure and
commercial sectors.
President Bush must also
be credited for the multi-billion global AIDS program that has helped to keep
millions of HIV-infected persons healthy and by extension Africa’s workforce and
economies healthy.
President Barack Obama
upheld the previous initiatives and created the Feed the Future Global Food
Security programme to boost agriculture in 20 countries, a sector that delivers
3 times the development gains as any other investment in development and of
course, he created the Power Africa initiative, which seeks to expand
access to electricity for the 600 million African who lack access to power
today, through public and private sector partnerships, an agenda that Senator
Coons championed to preserve, through passage of the Electrify Africa Act in
the U.S. Senate.
And it had leveraged
nearly $150 billion in private capital to address this critical development
That is what I call
“Shared Purpose,” a key characteristic of Africapitalism.
And I know that if
we get power right in Africa
, it will unlock millions of new jobs and
economic growth in multiple sectors by reducing the cost of doing business and
attracting new investments.
So, U.S. policy
towards Africa over the last two decades has been improving, regardless of
which party has held the presidency.
As you go into your
presidential elections this year, I urge Americans to ensure that the
candidates and new Administration seek to build on this progress.
Both candidates are
promising change in key policy areas, especially in the foreign policy arena.
But I want to say to
What they need is to
be expanded and scaled up.
In other words, we
need MORE U.S. engagement in Africa through mutually beneficial trade and
 Incidentally, that
is exactly what I, and 200 other US and African political and business leaders,
will be discussing next week at the US-Africa Business Forum in New York – how
to strengthen mutually beneficial economic ties between the African and
American peoples.
We also need more
security cooperation that protects both Americans and Africans from the undesirable
elements of this world – and where the root cause of poverty, that I believe
can only be truly fought by giving people the economic tools to better
 And, very
importantly, we need to work in “Shared Purpose” on complex solutions to
complex challenges in Africa.
So when you meet,
write, call and email your political candidates and representatives, of all
races, and the elected President in November, tell them that when it comes to
Africa, you want “More.”
By “More”, I mean
more engagement, more positively impactful policies and more development and
commercial investment in Africa.
In closing, I want
to thank you all for coming out today to EXPLORE AND FURTHER OPPORTUNITY IN
I am an unashamed
optimist and I believe that working together, in “Shared Purpose” we can
help usher in economic transformation that will catapult Africa into a strong regional
player in the 21st century global economy.
And going back to the defining themes that illustrate
the impact that Africa has had on Senator Coons and myself, I believe that we will
collectively be able to look back, in 2030, and know that while Africa “MADE
US” or “CHANGED US,” we have together “MADE CHANGE”
happen in Africa and for Africans, through a virtuous cycle of opportunity and
Tony O. Elumelu, CON
Heirs Holdings & Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation
@TonyOElumelu and Instagram @TonyOElumelu
@Heirs_Holdings and Instagram: @HeirsHoldings


@TonyElumeluFDN and Instagram: @TonyElumeluFoundation


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