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Harvard Business School Launches Tony Elumelu Foundation Case Study

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Spotlights Role of African Philanthropy in Transforming the Development Agenda in Africa

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At a time of renewed geopolitical interest in Africa, and an increasing questioning of traditional development finance models, Harvard Business School today released a case study examining the role and impact of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), and its unique approach to catalysing entrepreneurship in Africa.

The Foundation, Africa’s leading funder of young entrepreneurs, has pioneered an innovative approach to seeding, capacitising and networking young entrepreneurs across Africa. Drawing directly from Tony Elumelu’s entrepreneurial journey, his acknowledgement that luck and chance played an important role in his success, the Foundation democratises luck, spreads opportunity, in a sector agnostic approach, and has developed a bespoke infrastructure that reaches every country in Africa. The Foundation is a direct expression of Elumelu’s philosophy of Africapitalism, that the private sector must play a pivotal role in Africa’s development, and that investment must seek social, as well as economic returns.

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The case study, the first of its kind focused on African philanthropy, was launched today, Thursday, February 29, 2024, before a class of graduate students at Harvard Business School and explored the Foundation’s unique approaches and transformative initiatives, showcasing how the strategic philanthropy offered by TEF, is driving positive change and elevating countries and communities.

The case study recognises challenges the Foundation faces, and its responses, as it developed its mission, since founding in 2010. The track record is impressive, with over 20,000 entrepreneurs funded, over a million connected digitally and the development of an impact assessment capacity. TEF has disbursed over USD$100 million, reaching every African country. The Foundation is increasingly developing a partnership-based approach, working with institutions such as the EU, US agencies, the UNDP, the ICRC, the Ikea Foundation, and others to develop bespoke programmes focused on fragile states, female entrepreneurs and sustainability initiatives.

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Tony Elumelu, who spoke at Harvard said, “TEF is creating economic hope and opportunity for African entrepreneurs. We know that entrepreneurship is the solution to youth unemployment and insecurity. Through the intervention of the Foundation, we are transforming our young people, giving them hope. Collectively, all of us can resolve the challenges that we have on the continent.

It is wonderful to have had the opportunity to work with HBS, to spotlight our successes, acknowledge the challenges that we have at times faced, and provide the opportunity to spread our experience, for the benefit of others.”

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The Harvard Business School session provided an opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion on the role of philanthropy in shaping sustainable and inclusive economies. As the world grapples with complex challenges around demographics, climate and sustainability, the Tony Elumelu Foundation model offers a fascinating model of how strategic philanthropy can be a driving force for positive change.

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