Doing Business in Africa:Tony Elumelu Calls For Deepened Ties With France

The Nigerian entrepreneur was guest at the recent MEDEF Summer University Forum in Paris France on August 31.


The Chairman, Heirs Holdings and UBA Plc and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Nigerian-born Tony Elumelu has called for strengthened trade ties between France and Africa, based on mutual respect and interest, owing to the opportunities the continent offers. The entrepreneur was speaking in Paris, France on August 31, 2016 during the MEDEDF Summer University Forum where he was quest.

The advocate for the African private sector and champion of African entrepreneurship said; “When we as Africans look at France, we see a long standing friend of Africa. Looking forward, France and Africa must continue to partner in a manner that brings about positive change.” He urged France to look beyond its traditional relationships with Francophone countries, important as they are, and to embrace Anglophone and Lusophone Africa. He stated that; “There is a reason MEDEF has a new economic interest in Africa. Africa is home to the largest and fastest growing consumer population globally. It is a huge opportunity for both international and domestic businesses – and African businesses are increasingly competing successfully. What we all want to see is Africa growing its own value adding industries; the days of commodity extraction are over.” 

Tony Elumelu called on small and large businesses in France and in Africa to seek ways of collaborating in order to deepen economic ties.  “France has very strong links with Francophone Africa, and we would like to see you engage more commercially with the Anglophone countries; creating a new form of economic and commercial partnership between France and the whole of Africa,” he said, advising governments to support the private sector, in order to create more value in the society. He said; “What was good for the private sector was also good for society. The private sector is best placed to assist government achieve its mandate. If the private sector succeeds, it creates more jobs, enhances security, and improves living standards”. Pierre Gattaz said in response that; “Full employment should be on the agenda of any political programme that is worth any value or worth its name. This should take up 70% of any political agenda moving forward. We must encourage and trust those who bring enterprise and create jobs”. 

Tony Elumelu is the proponent of Africapitalism, the philosophy that Africa’s private sector can and should drive economic change on the continent. Fundamental to this is the role of entrepreneurship, which creates wealth and jobs on the scale needed in Africa. Mr. Elumelu stated that the solutions to issues of social exclusion are enterprise and entrepreneurship. 

The MEDEDF Summer University Forum is one of France’s leading gatherings, bringing together over 7,500 business and opinion leaders, including Heads of State, government officials, political and business leaders, academia and over 450 French and international journalists. Elumelu was one of the select representatives from Africa, and he contributed to the opening panel debate, ‘The World is Watching Us’.  Moderated by Frédéric Ferrer, journalist, consultant and professor at ESCP Europe, other participants were the President of MEDEF, Pierre Gattaz; Gary Coombe, President of Proctor &Gamble Europe; and Oudet Souvannavong, Executive Vice-President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and President of Lao Hotel & Restaurant Association. 

Elumelu has an extraordinary track record of job creation, including creating the UBA Group, which now employs over 20,000 people in 19 African countries. And he is giving back, through the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s $100 million commitment to support 10,000 entrepreneurs over a period of 10 years. Mr Elumelu encouraged entrepreneurs present at the forum to reach for their dreams. “Entrepreneurs are able to bring their ideas to fruition through the support we give them. This is helping them not just to dream, but to turn their ideas into successful ventures – and create the foundation for broad based and meaningful change in Africa”. 

Frederic Ferrer tagged the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s entrepreneurship programme to France saying; « Your ideas can transform France too and not just Africa! »


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