The ECOWAS Commission and the Tony Elumelu Foundation partnered under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to drive the growth of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) as well as promoting entrepreneurship and wealth creation.
The MOU is for a period of two years and allows both organizations to leverage their respective capacities and sharpen their focus on entrepreneurship as a tool of development.
Specifically the collaboration will help to:
Formalize and instill competitiveness in the West-African entrepreneurship ecosystem by developing and implementing a Regional Strategy and Charter to promote best practices in MSME governance, better access to finance, access to regional and international markets, and capacity building.
Advocate for improvement in the enabling business environment for SMEsthrough joint organization of workshops along sectoral lines to promote business and investments, and harmonize policies and fiscal issues that create an enabling business environment.
Spread and strengthen the philosophy of Africapitalism by socializing it with key stakeholders.
Provide research opportunities in data analysis and gathering on the state of West African SME landscapeTeach Entrepreneurship in the ECOWAS region, including Africapitalism as a study in the national education curriculum (starting from primary school) of ECOWAS member states.
Speaking at the MOU signing ceremony in Abuja, an elated President of the ECOWAS Commission His Excellency Marcel De Souza remarked that ECOWAS sees itself as partners of TEF since both parties share core values on the all-important issue of youth empowerment and poverty reduction in the region.
He lauded the TEF initiative which is improving the lives of the younger generation employing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement and helping to create a model which would not only uplift the youth of the present generation but the larger population of Africa and bringing a collective good to the continent in the process.
The Founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr. Tony O. Elumelu thanked the ECOWAS Commission for creating the partnership platform, stressing that, the provision of seed capital to young entrepreneurs is something that must continuously be encouraged if Africa is to escape the unemployment and poverty conundrum. “I am convinced by the fact that collectively, caring Africans can help deal with the challenges of unemployment and poverty by helping our young ones to develop their ideas, realize their dreams and be like the Mark Zuckerbergs of this world” he stated.
According to him it is even more important to support business ideas at infancy stages so that they can even grow to attract more attention and patronage, citing the example of Co-Creation Hub; a technology hub in and around Lagos, established to co-create new solutions to the many social problems in Nigeria. “Today they have grown very big and only a few days ago brought Zuckerberg to Nigeria. It gladdens my heart that we encouraged and supported them at infancy, years ago”
Through his eponymous Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme – the largest African philanthropic initiative devoted to entrepreneurship- represents a 10-year, $100 million commitment, to identify and empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs, create a million jobs and add $10 billion in revenues to Africa’s economy.
President De Souza called on other well-meaning citizens of the Ecowas region to emulate and replicate the TEF in their chosen fields.
The ECOWAS President, HEM De Souza, was supported at the ceremony by senior officials of the Commission including the Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion Mr. Kalilou Traore who expatiated on the President’s submission noting that partnership between ECOWAS and The Tony Elumelu Foundation was only natural as the Ecowas Treaty had recognized the role of the private sector for the promotion of human development, leading the Commission to create a full-fledged Directorate for Private Sector Promotion in 2007.
According to Commissioner Traore, ECOWAS has since come up with several projects and programmes geared towards improving the business environment. He cited some of the programmes to include the Common investment code as well as the regional charter of SMEs which seeks to create special attention for MSMEs in the region especially in matters concerning access to finance and capacity building.
Also on hand at the MOU ceremony were the Chief Operating Officer of Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mrs. Abimbola Adebakin, Vice President of the Commission Edward Singhatey, the ECOWAS Financial Controller Dr. Sani Bello, and the Commissioner, General Administration and Conference Mr. Mr. Stephen Naarte Nartey, commissioner for trade, commissioner of social affairs, commissioner of agriculture and many directors.