By Adebisi Oladele
Law School, Lagos was agog at the weekend as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and top business leaders in Nigeria gathered to identify paths to success for younger entrepreneurs in Africa.
It was the third annual Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Forum which drew 1,000 young outstanding entrepreneurs from 54 African countries who are enjoying tutelage of successful business leaders under the platform of the foundation. They are also being supported with finances for their business ideas by the foundation.
Addressing the huge gathering of key private sector players, Osinbajo promised that the Federal Government would streamline intervention policies for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to enable more people benefit.
He said that the government would continue to embrace policies that would encourage start-ups to thrive.
The Vice President commended the Founder of the foundation, Mr Tony Elumelu, for the initiative, which he noted had been result-oriented.
Speaking on “Tyranny of the Past or History”, Osinbajo called on Africans to stop remembering the past with apprehension.
He said that dwelling on the past could cripple one’s hope and vision.
He revealed that African countries were already defeating hunger and famine with new farming tools, discovery of cure for diseases and eradicating most causes of infant mortality.
He called on the TEF participants to take advantage of the initiative for the growth and development of their countries instead of relying on the past.
“The great days have come, everyone that has succeeded has his or her own failures,” Osinbajo said.
In his own address, the President, Dangote Group, Alh. Aliko Dangote, listed infrastructure gap, corruption, policy inconsistency, low inter-trade rate and scarcity of finance as some challenges of entrepreneurship development in Africa.
Dangote, however, said that a resilient investor would overcome the challenges..
He said SMEs should avoid waste, build strong teams and ensure cost efficiency to survive.
Dangote said that Africa’s potential was enormous, hoping that the continent would experience a boom with enhanced agriculture.
Zamfara State Gov. Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari said that public and private sectors should work together for industries to survive.
Kastina State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, called for wider access to loans by SMEs at lower interest rates.
The Chairman, Honeywell Plc, Oba Otudeko, said that government and private sectors’ cooperation was important for Africa’s development.
Otudeko pointed out that entrepreneurship is not easy, emphasizing that entrepreneurs need to conceive unique ideas to succeed.
“Empires of the future are empires of the mind”, Otudeko said.
He added that African leaders should implement policies that would improve logistics and intra-African communications.
Referring to some of the steps being taken by the Federal Government to encourage investments and business, Osinbajo revealed that the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council has completed a 60-day national action plan with 70 per cent of success and has started the second 60-day national action plan.
He stated that the government had a lot of benchmarks and very aggressive timelines on what it wanted to do.
“We are seeing a lot of progress on ease of doing business but it is an evolving work; but there has been a great deal of success.
“We think the ease of doing business is entirely strategic to the successes of businesses and of cause the success of our own economy; so it is priority for us,’’ he said.
The Vice President observed that the only way to avoid lack of consistency in the agenda was to have governments that were serious in what it was doing.
“As far as the government of Nigeria is concerned today we are very serious and committed to the programmes being implemented.
“We have ensured that we have timelines, we have thresholds and set all types of the right parameters for doing what we need to do and we are doing it consistently.”
The initiator of the forum, Mr Tony Elumelu, noted that the African continent was surrounded by poverty while the youth needed jobs to have economic hope.
“There are so many uncertainties about the future and the continent has not made much progress in entrepreneurship.’’
Elumelu said that between 2006 and 2016 capital inflows into the continent was nearly half a trillion dollars but did not change the basic human development index.
He stated that the youth escaped to Europe in search of greener pastures through dangerous routes and some got drowned in the Mediterranean while the survivors were subjected to inhuman treatments.
He urged the youth to take the initiatives to liberate and develop the continent.
“Africa remains underdeveloped and a new development model is needed,’’ he said, adding that it informed the creation of the foundation with seed capital of $100 million for 10 years to assist entrepreneurs.