The room is filled with a gathering of people. The entrepreneurs who are
representing their countries, the crowd of journalists from across the
continent, the Tony Elumelu Foundation(TEF) alumni and recipients, Business
Directors, SWAT teams ensuring the safety of President Macron is in place and
the representatives of African media spreading and telling the stories of
monumental moments like this.
Between the white china serving hot coffee and the plates of mince pies
and salmon sandwiches, it was quite a bustling build-up to the interactive
session between Tony Elumelu, Group Chairman, UBA and Founder of TEF, and the
president of the French Republic, Mr Emmanuel Macron. This session was being
hosted by the Tony Elumelu Foundation for the French President and young
African entrepreneurs. Mr. Macron had prior to this moment, enjoyed the rich
heritage of our African culture at an evening at the Afrika Shrine, seeing our
creativity, savouring our culture and mingling with the people. He was
particularly proud of Femi Kuti. This time though, is go-time, now is when we
ask the questions:
‘The what if’s for businesses
The How-to’s for Africans …
But most importantly, what his vision and plans are for the millions of
African entrepreneurs who want to make a change on this planet, starting right
here in this room in the heart of Lagos.
To say, you have met Emmanuel Macron, is not one of those overwhelming
shindigs. He is average in stature, fine chin line, distinct sense of humour
and an excellent articulation of the message he intends to pass across. When he
walked into the room, people weren’t prepared for this journey he was about to
lead them on.
As Tony Elumelu introduces the 1st citizen of France, we are
eager to hear what his memorandum is.
‘’I am excited to be here, I don’t intend to talk much, but I want to
build through entrepreneurship, a new narrative for Africa’
His opening preface, is a compelling truth, because UBA Group Chairman,
Tony Elumelu through his foundation has affected over 4,000 lives, trained,
mentored and educated them. The video we saw before Macron’s entrance was a
preliminary confirmation of Macron’s vision. Highlights of mentees and mentors
at the 2017, TEF forum. UBA staff were there reminding them that the bank was
one that cared about small stories that carry huge messages. We are interested
in their investments and financial choices in changing the face of Africa to
the world.
Macron said today, that there is no gap for innovation, it is simply
how  to create and destroy past activities that do not make sense. Doing
it as it is, is what the young people should effect now in Africa. He was taken
by the intelligent and obviously important questions posed to him. Migration,
cross globalization and education are on the top of his priority for African
narratives as he responded to questions throughout the room. Young enthusiastic
entrepreneurs, public sector holders and media personnel asked honestly and
Macron a man of flawless eloquence responded, informed and provided rhetoric.
He describes the Digital Initiative for Africa as a development project adopted
to assist with providing solutions offered by the entrepreneurs of Africa by
Africa. The  eco style designed bag representative of the project,
was quite an accessory when the chairman of UBA, Tony Elumelu  carried it
on his shoulder, during Macron’s description of what the project is, how it
will affect millions and what he hopes will be carried on through it. – Two men
with style and a vision can’t go wrong, if you ask me.
His humour still trailing the room, steadily reminding us that ‘There is
no advise’’, well technically it’s not advise but it is a directive. Inclusive
businesses, businesses that are conscious of the social hemisphere and just as
Tony Elumelu believes, the future of Education and the female child
development, are all Macron’s priority. Safe to say, those who dream together,
see together.
As we wound up on this beautiful Wednesday encounter with a young
investment banker who never really wanted to be a President, but who did it
because they said –you can’t, President Macron reiterates that 1billion Euros
have been proposed to serve the private sector in Africa through the French
government and that they would be willing to work with as many that dare to
dream, those who have the zeal, the scalability and the solutions to Africa.
Before the 2 visionaries depart the stage, the French President
announces that TEF will sign a partnership agreement with the French
Development Agency (AFD). This partnership agreement is great for Entrepreneurs
across the continent. It involves mentoring and research. UBA will continue to
support SMEs on the continent through loans.
We didn’t all get selfies with Macron, but he is revving the status quo
of business, he is challenging young people out there to believe in more than
just the society that they find themselves but to also remember, no one knows
African markets better than us, so dealing with our situation is a
responsibility that relies directly on us. Trade wars in Europe, anxiety of
middle class and mistakes of the European globalisation tactics were short
changed but the voice of Africa through business giants will definitely put
Africans where they belong, blazing the trail.
UBA Is excited to be part of the organizations helping young businesses
and individuals take on aspirational goals and our presence in our 20 African
countries further solidifies the spirit of unity for the voices of Africa. We
are united for change and applaud the European community, France but most
especially President Macron for taking a step in the direction of Africa.
Thanks to the Chairman of UBA Group who had the vision to engage the
French President in this super exciting interactive session, the highlight of
the visit of the first French President to come to Nigeria in recent times.

By Ibinabo Otonjo



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