The European Union and the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), the leading champion of entrepreneurship in Africa, are joining forces to support more than 2,500 African women entrepreneurs, thanks to a partnership announced today. They will support the economic empowerment of women across Africa through increased access to finance and venture capital investment with a contribution of €20 million.
“This partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation will help women participate in economic development, realise their full potential and accelerate economic inclusion. Empowering women entrepreneurs is a key driver for sustainable jobs and growth, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and in line with the objectives of our Africa Strategy. Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and they deserve equal opportunities”, said Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships.
“At the Tony Elumelu Foundation, we are pleased to partner with the European Union, sharing our unique ability to identify, train, mentor and fund young entrepreneurs across Africa. This joint effort will prioritise and provide economic opportunities for African women, whom for too long have endured systemic obstacles to starting, growing and sustaining their businesses. Our partnership aims to alleviate the funding, knowledge and market constraints threatening the livelihoods of women entrepreneurs on the continent, to create more income, jobs, growth and scale for women-owned businesses,” said Tony Elumelu, Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
The COVID-19 pandemic is more than a global health crisis, impacting labour markets and creating a social and economic crisis. Women, who often hold the dual role of breadwinners and carers, are among the hardest hit. Women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs, and are more likely to be employed in the informal economy, with less access to social protection. The EU and its partners are now increasing their effort to build back better and ensure women are at the centre of the recovery. This new programme builds on the experience of the EU External Investment Plan to support gender focused lending, as well as the EU initiatives to support women economic empowerment within the EU Gender Action Plan (GAP III).
The European Commission is proud to partner with the Tony Elumelu Foundation to unlock the women’s potential, directly boosting Africa’s economic growth. TEF is one of the key organisations committed to contributing meaningfully to Africa’s prosperity and social development. Through this partnership, the two organisations will support more than 2,500 women entrepreneurs, providing gender sensitive entrepreneurship training, as well as seed capital for African female businesses to navigate through the start-up and early growth phases.
The European Commission values the key experience of TEF and its 10 years of leadership having trained, mentored and funded nearly 10,000 young African entrepreneurs across 54 African countries, through its Entrepreneurship Programmes. It has also provided capacity-building support, advisory and market linkages to over 1 million Africans through its digital networking platform, TEFConnect.
Some of TEF’s women success stories include Joyce Awojoodu, from Nigeria, who launched a luxury botanically based product line and spa clinic in Lagos, in 2015. The brand, ORÍKÌ, caters to both men and women, and strictly uses raw materials and natural ingredients from Africa. Awojoodu’s favourite part of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme was the mentorship, which she described as “phenomenal” and “invaluable in an area of need for ORÍKÌ”. In her own words, “each TEF Entrepreneur was assigned a mentor and I could not have asked for a better one. TEF connected us. Now the mentorship continues and I know I will always have an ear to share my thoughts about the business with a person who can also offer advice.”
Mavis Mduchwa, an agribusiness entrepreneur from Botswana, founded Chabana Farms, a poultry farm that provides training and work for unemployed young people. Even though agriculture accounts for 32% of Africa’s gross domestic product, landownership and access to land remains a significant challenge for many farmers, especially women. According to Mduchwa, “in Botswana, about 80% of people survive on agriculture, and many of them are women. But, if as a woman you want to turn it into a business, you have a challenge of finding land.” Mduchwa has used the seed capital and training from the TEF to find new ways to grow her operations.
This programme is jointly co-funded by the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific State (OACPS), together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It is implemented by the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).
The EU’s Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 sets out key actions for the next five years and commits to ensure an equality perspective in all EU policy areas. The EU Gender Action Plan (GAP III) in external relations (2021-2025) identifies women’s economic empowerment as a central pillar of the EU’s strategy to close the gender gap and for the successful achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Since 2015, the Tony Elumelu Foundation has launched the most comprehensive entrepreneurial programme in Africa, with a financial commitment of US$100 million. Successful applicants selected as TEF Entrepreneurs on an annual basis complete a rigorous online business management training supported by designated mentors, participate in the global TEF Entrepreneurship forum, and receive US$ 5,000 in seed capital.
The programme directly addresses some of the most endemic challenges to African start-ups – skills and capacity gaps, financial constraints and lack of access to mentoring, networks and market linkages. Following completion of the programme, the entrepreneurs stay connected to the Foundation and to each other through their lifetime membership on TEFConnect. TEF has also set up Country Chapters in 54 African countries to support the entrepreneurs as they grow and expand their businesses.