Why I give: Tony Elumelu

2012-10-27 17:29

Tony Elumelu, Nigeria: retired banker, founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation

What is your net worth and how much do you give to your philanthropic activities?

As a policy, I do not talk about my net worth nor the volume of my giving. I see my philanthropic contribution as being more than just funding. I also give of my time, my experience, and my influence.

You make a distinction between “giving” and “investing”. Could you give us an example?
The Tony Elumelu Foundation is bridging philanthropy (“giving”) and investment (“investing”) to produce a new development model called impact investing.

Our inaugural impact investment was made with Mtanga Farms of Tanzania. In May this year, Mtanga Farms, in partnership with the Tanzanian government, announced the registration of four new potato varieties – the first varieties to be released in Tanzania in 30 years.

With access to clean seed material, Tanzanian farmers for whom potatoes are a major cash and nutrient source will be able to increase yields by up to three times, thereby creating a pathway out of poverty for a large number of farmers.

Did you have a mentor who has informed the way you give?

At The Tony Elumelu Foundation we want to help to identify, groom and encourage young African entrepreneurs to realise their full potential.

I was privileged to have mentors when I started out early in my career such as my boss at the time, Chief Ebitimi Banigo, and I would like to do the same for hopefully thousands of young Africans.

Many young Africans today are in dire need of role models, and I would like them to realise that you don’t have to have been born with a silver spoon or go to a foreign school in order to achieve your goals.

Does giving make you happy?
Nothing makes me happier than seeing entrepreneurs and business leaders taking charge of their destinies and achieving “impossible” dreams which in turn help to create both economic prosperity and social wealth.

What has been your best giving moment?

I conduct a Q&A session every first Saturday of the month on Twitter (@TonyOElumelu) and it gives me great pleasure to answer many of the business or entrepreneurship questions that followers ask me. Giving of my time and experience is more enjoyable even than giving of my funds.

What, in your view, is the most burning question informing African philanthropy now?

Why more of Africa’s high net worth individuals have not yet organised their giving in an institutional manner. I believe that without such organisation and setting a high standard for philanthropic delivery, the potential for home-grown African philanthropy to set the agenda for Africa’s development will not be achieved.

Where do you live?
I live in Lagos, Nigeria. I have lived in Africa all my life. I was born here, went to school here, started my career here, and have achieved a level of success here in Africa. This is why the Foundation is headquartered in Lagos, and why we have a pan-African vision.

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