Field report: Nigeria
With a vision to economically empower Africa’s youth, the Tony Elumelu Enterprise Programme (TEEP) was set up in 2012. Beneficiaries are developing innovative agri-products and services and building more solid business structures with the knowledge acquired through the programme.
The TEEP programme of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) is a 10 year-long programme to reach 10,000 African entrepreneurs with an endowment of €92 million from Nigerian businessman – Tony Elumelu. Each year, since the launch of the programme in 2015, 1,000 entrepreneurs have been selected through a business plan competition for Africans. After successful selection, awardees are mentored on entrepreneurship, provided with seed funding (around €4,570) and continuous business management support; over 30% of its awardees have become agripreneurs.
One Nigerian TEEP supported agripreneur, Tolulope Ajose, is founder of ‘Natural and Sazzy’, a small manufacturer of natural food spices, herbal soaps and creams. “One major lesson I learnt from the TEF training is resilience, that when there are difficult issues in business, it is time to grow. With a resolve to succeed and get results, one will surely overcome the challenges,” she says. She employs four people to support her growing business and uses social media and the radio to promote her products. Ajose adds, “With the TEF training, I have increased my product lines and sales by about 50%. I see my products becoming a household name in Africa.”
Ajose is also passing on her skills through her training firm, SkillAlert Concept. Adapting the innovation of the TEF online mentorship programme, she is using the lessons she has learnt to teach entrepreneurship, and the rudiments of manufacturing natural products, to people within and outside Nigeria using Whatsapp and other ICT applications. For instance, she uses the online video conferencing facility GoToMeeting to conduct her training.
Another TEF awardee, Babatunde Lawal, a farmer and founder of Siyon-Jay Premium Company has developed GARRIMAX – a nutrient-enhanced garri. Made from cassava, garri is eaten by at least two-thirds of the estimated 180 million people in Nigeria. Lawal says, “We deemed it fit to fortify such a widely consumed food product with essential vitamins and minerals, such as iodine and iron, to help combat malnutrition in the country and beyond.”
On benefits of the TEF programme, Lawal says, “It has exposed me to the secrets of building a transgenerational business, with vision and structures and on how to create innovative systems and processes around agribusinesses in order to produce more healthy foods, curb post-harvest losses and employ more people across Africa. My business is 1 year old but it already employs over seven people directly and indirectly and I expect this figure to triple within the next 6 months. The foundation has taught me the art of pitching and raising funds – I recently raised around €36,800 for my business through the Federal Government of Nigeria’s GEM-AVDD entrepreneurship project.” Lawal also plans to establish the Siyon-Jay Cassava Outgrowers Scheme, which will support smallholder cassava farmers with inputs, including improved varieties, fertilisers and machinery .
For Aderonke Aderinoye, her selection as a Tony Elumelu entrepreneur helped her transition into agriculture as a full time business, having previous been employed in a commercial bank in Lagos. Aderinoye says, “The 12 weeks online entrepreneurship training in 2016 ensured I looked through my business model and had all the bases covered before launching out. It also provided the seed funding I needed to start out. I was able to carry out a lot of market research, going into villages, meeting farmers and finding out solutions to certain challenges. My business, AgriHub, now runs an incubator programme to train young people on how to farm and grow food. I have 13 staff, three full time and 10 part time, and I expect this to grow exponentially in the coming years.” Apart from being taught good farming practices, students learn how to structure a farming business; market produce through social media, and connect with potential investors. Her first set of 15 students started in February 2017 and will undertake training for 15 months.
By focusing on capacity development, seed capital, mentoring and netoworking for entrepreneurs, TEF seeks to catalyse economic and social development in Africa. But long-term private sector investments and a supportive policy environment will also be vital to unlocking Africa’s economic potential.