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TONY ELUMELU: Undisputed King of empowerment

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Chairman, United Bank for Africa,   Heirs Holdings and Transcorp, Tony Elumelu, has over the years contributed immensely to socio- economic development of Africa through his foundation. The Tony Elumelu Foundation promotes entrepreneurship in Africa and no fewer than 15, 000 Africans have benefited incalculably from the foundation from its inception.

As a successful businessman, he has travelled across the globe and would ordinarily be expected to name countries like the United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany among other developed countries as his second home after Nigeria, his country of birth. But that is not the case for the astute economist, and philanthropist.

For him, Cameroon  serves as his second home after Nigeria. Not only does Cameroon serve as his second home, it also does for his United Bank for Africa, a leading bank in the African continent. Out of the more than 5000 entrepreneurs who were empowered with an amount of US$500 in 54 African States in 2021, 213 Cameroonians benefited from the programme.

“Cameroon is like a second home to me,” he said without mincing words.  “Cameroon is like a second home to the UBA Group. That is why the TEF supported about 700 Cameroonian young men and women. Each of the 678 getting the non-refundable circa 5,000 dollars. Each of them being trained, we call it the 12-week MBA. Each of them being appointed mentors to help mentor them to do good business. We do this because we see Cameroon and the young generation as holding a strong future for our continent. So, talking about investment, we are already investing in Cameroon. At the business level, UBA has over 20 branches in Cameroon and we are still expanding.”

To demonstrate how dear Cameroon is to him and the UBA, he noted during his recent visit during the AFCON 21 that he discussed having a regional head office here.

“I love football, and I love to see the unifying force for all Africans, especially our younger ones, and that’s football, Elumelu said during his visit to AFCON.

“I was happy, to see Cameroon hosting AFCON and UBA (United Bank for Africa), participating or supporting the government of Cameroon in building a great stadium. It was an exciting moment to see the stadium, to watch the beautiful game, and also to identify once again with the good people of Cameroon.”

TONY ELUMELU

“United Bank for Africa likes to support small and medium scale enterprises, likes to support government to provide infrastructure for social and economic development of the countries. And since we operate in Cameroon as one of our 20 countries in Africa, I thought it’ll be a good time of the year to come, sit down with the presidency, and see what more UBA can do to help the country drive its economic and social agenda and, of course, find out the Tony Elumelu Foundation. It helps to connect the dot. I like to see young entrepreneurs; I like to sit down with government and push for the enabling environment and conditions that will help younger entrepreneurs to do well.

 “One of the conversations I had at the presidency was about the issue of a regional head office. A regional head office for Central Africa here in Cameroon. We are waiting on the necessary authorisation to commence construction. We want to further explore tourism opportunities here, and of course the whole world has been talking about energy transmission. We also think that Cameroon, just like Nigeria, has some potential. We need to see how we can work together to realise these projects. There are areas of future investment and business collaboration.”

Within the seven years that The Tony Elumelu Foundation has been in existence, the amiable banker said the foundation has empowered over 15, 000 African entrepreneurs. The figure, according to him, is over 5, 000 above the 10, 000 the foundation committed itself to empower.

His words: “First, it is our commitment to empower 10,000 young African entrepreneurs. We have surpassed that already. This is the seventh year and we have surpassed that. We have empowered over 15,000 young African entrepreneurs. But we did not do this alone. We also have global partners, that is people who come to realise that in the 21st century, Africa needs a different kind of intervention. That it is not just about aid, it is by investing in young Africans who will help take Africa to the next level. And that is what we do at the Tony Elumelu Foundation. We believe in giving people the opportunity to make their dreams come true. So, we have the United Nations Development Programme, the International Red Cross, the African Development Bank and in 2021, the European Union provided 25 million dollars for this programme just for one year to support the training of over 3,000 young African women.”

The programme, Elumelu said is growing and “we want to see more. For us, it is a call on successful African business people to show interest in our young ones. It is a call to the friends of Africa, development partners and agencies across the world that we need to train the young to be fishermen and not just eaters of fish.”

On his next plan, he said: “We want to see more of our people benefit from the programme. And when I say our people, I am talking of Cameroonians, Nigerians, Ghanaians, Egyptians, Algerians, in fact, all across Africa. As you know, the Foundation supports young African across all 54 African countries.”

In spite of his busy schedule, Elumelu is an ardent football lover and that was one of his reasons for visiting during the AFCON tournament. “ I am here for two reasons; first because I love football. I love to see a unifying force for all of Africa, especially our young ones. I was happy to see Cameroon host AFCON and the United Bank of Africa participated and supported the government of Cameroon in the construction of the stadium.

“Another reason is that UBA likes to support small and medium scale enterprises, and government to provide infrastructure for social and economic development of countries. Since we operate in Cameroon as one of our 20 countries in Africa, I thought it will be a good time of the year to come, sit down with the presidency and see what UBA can do more to help the country drive its economic and social agenda.”

Elumelu was born in Jos, Plateau, Nigeria, on 22 March 1963, to Suzanne and Dominic Elumelu from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State. He studied Economics at the Bendel State University (now Ambrose Alli University) obtaining a BSc and a Master of Science degree in Economics from the University of Lagos.

TONY ELUMELU

“Deciding to study Economics at university is all about learning about the business world. Growing up around my parents and the other influences around us, I always felt that I would end up in the business world – what we call entrepreneurship today,” he said.

Elumelu hinted that his mother was a big influence in his career. “She owned a restaurant and during the holidays I would stay there and help. I used to think, imagine if she did this at a larger scale, she could get more customers and make more profits, so in essence I was becoming more aware of how the world of commerce worked. But these were not overriding thoughts at the time.

At that age, my aim was to finish my first degree in economics, do my masters and work in a bank. I wanted to dress like the power dressers in the banking sector – wear suspenders, brogue shoes, the whole outfit. I liked the lifestyle!

“In Nigeria, before you start work, you are required to join the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). I was posted to the country’s northern region where I found myself reading a weekly magazine column which explored business ideas such as bakeries or fish ponds.

“I started wondering how much setting up a bakery or any other enterprise would cost, how to manage it, how to make a profit and so on. I vaguely thought that perhaps one day, I would like to start a business myself. So, although I was more focused on becoming a banker and wearing my suspenders, my mind was subconsciously shaping and crystallising ideas that eventually led to where we are today.

Advising young entrepreneurs, Elumelu said: “My advice to budding young entrepreneurs when I interact with them is to be hardworking, don’t be scared to dream but know that dreaming is less than 1%; the 99% is about translating your dream into action, translating your dream to reality. That is what makes the difference.

“Also, I cannot repeat this often enough: that process of translating to action requires a lot of hard work, discipline, staying focused and making sacrifices for a better tomorrow. The Tony Elumelu you see today has not always had everything. In the past, for example, I have decided not to buy a car and planned instead to use the money to make investments and wait for the proceeds of that investment to help me buy the car, and that happened!

 “When I say sacrifices, I mean you have to learn to defer consumption. You need to think long term. It is when you visualise success that you can make the sacrifices, then you can apply the rigour and energy that will lead you to success. I think those are the values we need in our young ones and that we foster at the Tony Elumelu Foundation today. You can get there by taking that first step, the journey of one mile starts with one step. So start, count the steps consistently, and stay focused.”

In his early career, Elumelu acquired and turned Standard Trust Bank into a top-five player in Nigeria. In 2005 he led the acquisition of United Bank for Africa (UBA), later transforming it from a single-country bank to a pan-African institution with more than seven million customers in 19 African countries.

Following his retirement from UBA in 2010, Elumelu founded Heirs Holdings, which invests in the financial services, energy, real estate and hospitality, agribusiness, and healthcare sectors. In the same year, he established the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an Africa-based and African-funded philanthropic organisation.

In 2011, Heirs Holdings acquired a controlling interest in the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp), a publicly quoted conglomerate that has business interests in the agribusiness, energy, and hospitality sectors. Elumelu was subsequently appointed the chairman of the corporation.

Elumelu serves as an advisor to the USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa (PCGA) Partners Forum. He sits on the Nigerian President’s Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council (ATIC). He is also vice-chairman of the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN), whose formation he was a key driver in, and serves as Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute Dialogue Series on Global Food Security.

He additionally chairs the Ministerial Committee to establish world-class hospitals and diagnostic centres across Nigeria, at the invitation of the Federal Government and the Presidential Jobs Board, engineered to create 3 million jobs in one year. He also serves as a member of the Global Advisory Board of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4ALL) and USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa Partners Forum.

He was one of the co-chairs of the 26th World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, from 11 to 13 May 2016.

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SOUTH WEST TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS CHALLENGED TO SUPPORT GOVERNMENT’S DRIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT

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Cameroon International Tourism Fair 2022

The representative of the Minister of Tourism and Leisure, The Secretary General at the South West Governor’s Office, Acha Gilbert Nkwenti has challenged tourism stakeholders to collaborate with the government to develop the tourism industry.

He made this clarion call on Thursday November 3, 2022 during the official opening ceremony of the Second Edition of Cameroon International Tourism Fair taking place at the Limbe Botanic Garden in the seaside resort town of Limbe.

The three-day event which will run till Saturday November 5, 2022 is tagged, « Ecotourism and Sociocultural Development: Harnessing and Valorizing Potentials for Sustainable Future. »

“I am leaving here very satisfied with the exhibition that South West has offered through the window of Cameroon International Tourism Trade Fair. We all know where we have come from, so it’s indeed a source of joy for us to see the entire population of South West Region exhibiting to the whole world.” Acha Gilbert said.

He added that Cameroon is not only Africa in miniature, but the South West Region is Cameroon in miniature.

Nkwenti opined that the event is a platform geared to assist stakeholders, enable them promote and enhance the Cameroonian culture, mind, feeling, aspirations and natural endowment such that Cameroon should be seen from all angles.

Welcoming the representative of the Minister of Tourism and Leisure, the Limbe City Mayor, Paul Efome L.M Ngale applauded the organizers for the lovable initiative, and the population of Limbe Municipality for their friendship nature.

He encouraged the population to support their own, while using the opportunity to call on tourism sector private actors to emulate the example of Flora Travel and Tours to partner with Limbe City Council to drive the development of the Limbe Municipality forward especially in the structural touristic transformation.

In his keynote address, HRM Nfon Mukete IV Ekoko, Nfon of the Kumba and Paramount Chief of the Bafaw people, said the event showcased what Cameroon has to offer in the sector to generate revenue and create employment.

He affirmed government’s activeness to ensure the development of tourism sector and encouraged actors to valorize Cameroon’s potentials.

“The Tourism industry is a major employer in African continent supporting millIons of job directly and indirectly, despite the few challenges affecting the growth and expansion of the sector”, HRM Nfon Mukete said.

He added that the Tourism Fair will encourage more tourists in Cameroon and more investors for the socio-economic growth of the country.

On her part, the vision bearer and CEO of Flora Travel and Tours Agatha Iyok said; « It’s interesting to note that some of our unemployment issues can find solutions in the tourism industry if we understand the value tourism has to offer and harness the strength of its various sectors.”

She opined that many will be inspired this weekend to explore Cameroon’s rich tourism sites and will invite others. Mrs. Iyok revealed that the event will be an annual event together with her partners.

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President Buhari Calls For Co-Operation Among African Nations

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President Muhammadu Buhari has called for more neighborliness and mutual understanding between African states in order to enhance trade, security and promote development of the continent.

The President, represented by the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, at the inauguration ceremony of the Nigeria/Cameroon Joint Border Post and Bridge at Mfum Cross River State, said the 1.5km project would enhance the interconnectivity of “our people and communities, improve living standards, reduce barriers to inter-regional trade and strengthen border security.’’

“It is with great sense of satisfaction that we are witnessing the official Joint inauguration of the Mfum/Ekok 1.5km Bridge and Joint Border Post (JBP).

“Let me begin with commending the Leaderships of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and the Government of the Republic of Cameroon that worked closely to realize this project, as well as the African Development Bank (ADB) that provided funding for the execution and completion of this 1.5km Joint Border Project,’’ he said.

President Buhari noted that the project would deepen the inextricably linked cultural and traditional fraternal bonds that already exist between Nigerians and Cameroonians living around the border communities.

“Let me also underscore that in order to maximise the benefits of these projects, the Nigerian and Cameroonian officials that would be saddled with the responsibility of manning the Joint Border Post, in particular, must act in the most professional manner, as well as in line with the global best practices, effective from today,’’ he stated.

President Buhari affirmed that the completion of the project had made both Nigerians and Cameroonians living around the area jubilant.

“Such excitement symbolises the resolve of our People and Governments to remain connected in spite of our seemingly artificial boundaries.

“The completion and commissioning of this project could not have come at a more auspicious time than when Nigeria has signed and ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.

Therefore, we expect that the commissioning of this Joint Border Bridge and Post will not only strengthen the existing cordial relations between Nigeria and Cameroon, but also enhance cooperation between the ECOWAS and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

“Under the AfCFTA, this project has the potential to enhancing the volume of economic activities in our regions, and facilitate the free movement of persons, goods and services within the countries, along the corridor.

It would also serve as a vital link between the West and the Central African regions.

”The Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also expects that this Joint Border Post and Bridge will enhance security patrol and facilitate effective cooperation in this part of our border with the Republic of Cameroon. While expressing our confidence that this project would accomplish the set targets, it is also our hope that it would complement the current efforts of the Governments of Nigeria and Cameroon to combat the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism in our region.

“This is important because the activities of violent extremists have continued to present major challenges to the development of our countries and regions,’’ he said.

The President said the menace of insecurity had continued to threaten economies, impede the maximisation of the strategic potentials of our countries and cause political upheavals and menace in the sub-regions.

“Hence, it is our hope that the commissioning of this project will accelerate the efforts of our gallant security personnel who are already doing very well in securing our territories.

“We also pray that this project would enhance the interconnectivity of our people and communities, improve living standards, reduce barriers to inter-regional trade and strengthen border security. We are certain that these projects will deepen the inextricably linked cultural and traditional fraternal bonds that already exist between Nigerians and Cameroonians living around the border communities,’’ the President stated.

He noted that the project, which was part of the on-going Nigeria/Cameroon Multinational Highway and Transport Facilitation Programme (NCMH&TFP), would remain a visible testament to the continuing cooperation and good neighbourliness between both countries, and Regional Economic Communities.

“This bridge, and Joint Border Post, are proofs that when African countries work with African Institutions, outstanding and people-centred cross-regional developmental projects can be achieved in record time,’’ he said.

The President thanked all the Institutions and Agencies that made the project possible.

“I recall in this regard, that the Government of the Republic of Cameroon cooperated with us in granting joint waiver to the Expatriates that were employed by the construction company that handled the project, despite the global COVID-19 lockdown. The cooperation and support of H.E. President Paul Biya, as well as the Government and people of Cameroon, ensured that this project was completed on schedule.

“Let me also extend the gratitude of the Government and people of Nigeria to the African Development Bank for the role it played in financing these projects. Under the leadership of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the Bank has become, by all standards, a reliable beacon of support in all matters relating to Africa’s development. Indeed, we are very proud of the performance of the current Management of our continental Bank which has confirmed that we truly have African solutions to African problems ».

“Let me also commend the leadership and staff of the ECOWAS and ECCAS for their untiring efforts in ensuring the timely completion of this project. It is necessary to underscore that visible projects such as these, as well as other critical and life changing infrastructure are the type of projects that the citizens of our sub-region have been yearning to see. It is the hope that under the leadership of Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, ECOWAS will continue to deliver on the expectations of our citizens.

“Finally, let me conclude by extending our deepest appreciation to the contractors, CGCOC, that have shown uncommon commitment to the execution and delivery of this high quality project, within a reasonable period. To all of you who have contributed in one way or the other to this epoch–making and memorable occasion, I convey my warm appreciation,’’ President Buhari said.

The Minster of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the value of the new bridge transcended connection between Nigeria and Cameroon, boosting the larger effort of connecting Africa.

He said efforts would be sustained to improve networking among Africans, which ECOWAS and the African Union had been pursuing over many years, with earlier plans dating back to 1969.

Improve Relations

Fashola said consistency in building roads and bridges would improve relations among Africa countries, where people can drive from Lagos to Mombasa.

The Cameroonian Minister of Public Works, Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi, who represented President Paul Biya, appreciated the contributions of various stakeholders to the project, assuring that the Nigeria/Cameroon relations will explore more possibilities for partnership.

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DARK DAY FOR DAVIDO AS SON DROWNS IN SWIMMING POOL.

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Music star, Davido and his partner, Chioma have lost their three-year-old son, Ifeanyi.
According to reports, Ifeanyi drowned in a swimming pool at his residence in Banana Island, Lagos State.

Ifeanyi who was born in 2019 was said to have been underwater for a very long time before being spotted and rushed to a hospital in the Lekki area of the state, he was, however, confirmed dead on arrival.
May his soul rest in peace and pray the Almighty God give his parents the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.

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