President Muhammadu Buhari was joined by his colleagues across the world yesterday in commending impact of foremost entrepreneur and Chairman of United Bank for Africa Plc, Tony Elumelu, on the African economy, as the icon marked 60th birthday.
Among those who sent goodwill messages to Elumelu, the promoter of Africapitalism, were Nigeria’s President-elect, Bola Tinubu; French President, Emmanuel Macron; Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana; Namibia’s Hage Geingob; President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix-Antoine Tshilombo and his Liberian counterpart, George Weah.
Tributes also poured from Nigeria’s former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan alongside erstwhile President Bill Clinton of America, as well as Tony Blair, ex-British Prime Minister.
Clinton, who joined the symposium held in honour of the retired banker in Lagos, via a video call, described Elumelu as one of the most successful Nigerian entrepreneurs, noting that Africa, indeed, has found a true pan-Africanist in him.
Corporate leaders, who have shared the challenges Elumelu confronted and triumphed to achieve success, including Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group, Femi Otedola and Abdul Samad Rabiu, also sent messages or participated at the symposium to extol the virtues and audacity exemplified by the sexagenarian.
Elumelu also had to relish commendations from international development institution leaders such as President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina; Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and President of African Export-Import Bank, Prof. Okey Oramah.
Buhari recalled the Delta State native’s philanthropy, which has seen many struggling Africans emerging as successful entrepreneurs, noting that his contribution to Nigeria’s banking sector has helped to strengthen the economy.
Tinubu described him as “a class above the rest” and hailed his simplicity and generosity, which he said could not be quantified.
“Tony’s business acumen is a gift to Nigeria… I have no doubt that his foundation continues to be one of the factors that contribute to the development of youth potential and businesses across our great nation, Nigeria,” he stated.
From Kenya to Nigeria and The Gambia to Angola, beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s (TEF) yearly entrepreneurship grant gathered in Lagos to share their success stories and the impacts the Nigerian banker is making across the continent.
About 18,000 Africans have benefited from the foundation since its inception, with over $100 million in seed capital disbursed. The foundation said over 400,000 direct jobs have been created with 58 per cent going to females.
Elumelu joined the defunct Allstates Trust Bank at 27 years, and grew to the position of a branch manager in 12 months, the youngest to hold such position, in those days. Alongside other young bankers, he took over the struggling Crystal Bank years after.
At 34, he become bank’s Chief Executive Officer after rebranding it Standard Trust Bank, which would later merge with the legacy United Bank for Africa and pioneer modern Nigeria’s financial system.