W/Africa’s future millionaires ‘ll emerge from startups- experts

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By Mark Longyen

Some West African stakeholders are upbeat about the prospects of business startups growing up to become big companies owned by business moguls, complementing today’s major industry players as employers of labour.

They expressed this optimism in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at a preparatory meeting ahead of the second West African startup awards scheduled to hold later in the year.

“Startups are supposed to be unicorns and they’ve dovetailed into becoming future employers of businesses, huge ones.

“They’re not SME’s, but businesses that will have both continental and regional impact.

“We’re trying to build up young ones so that they can go into complementing the current business moguls.

“Those business moguls, who are even the ones to mentor them now, so that they also grow up to do the same things that the big ones are doing.

“So, for me, I think it’s a step in the right direction to create businesses,” ECOWAS Ag.Director, Private Sector, Anthony Elumelu said.

According to Guinea Bissau’s Cesaltina Tavares,  Communications Officer, ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) Lomé, Togo, the sky is the limit for the growth of startups.

Tavares said that explained why EBID was prepared to give tremendous financial support to select startups, to enable them to achieve their dreams and boost the ECOWAS private sector.

“My take in this event is that the startups really need institutions like us to improve the work they are doing already.

“They are not just businesses. Startups for private sector is a dream.

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“So, on this note, we are here to support them with all our financial power.

“So that we can improve the ECOWAS private sector. I believe that this is just the way forward,” Tavares said.

Also speaking, Chinenye Akandu, Partnerships Executive of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, said that it was in realisation of the great potentials of startups that the foundation came to their rescue.

She disclosed that the foundation had doled out a whooping $100 million  to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 young african entrepreneurs over a period of ten years.

“In terms of the collaboration between ECOWAS and other organisations in support of startups and entrepreneurs in West Africa.

“I believe entrepreneurship and startups are like the life wire, the lifelong economic growth and development on the continent.

“We at the Tony Elumelu Fondation are at the forefront in terms of supporting these young African entrepreneurs.

“We believe that private sectors have a huge role to play in terms of economic development and social welfare across the continent. So entrepreneurship to us is the baby.

“We believe that they have a crucial role to play on the continent and everything in terms of economic growth and development, entrepreneurship is the number one.

“They are the live wire. They are the live blood. They are the seeds that you plant, and they are the seeds that will germinate and bring forth growth and development on the continent.

“So, first of all, we started with $100 million commitment to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 young African entrepreneurs over a period of ten years.

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“And we are actually in our 10th year of the program, the 10th cycle, and we’ve been able to empower and fund over 20,000 young African entrepreneurs,” she said.

Michael Oyeyiola, Ecobank Manager, FCT and Northern Nigeria, said that buoyed by the potential of startups to boost West Africa’s economy, the bank had helped the ecosystem by way of their mentoring and capacity building.

“We were deeply involved in the first part of this program, where we supported the ecosystem in terms of executing this program, financially and otherwise.

“A significant role we actually played was also in terms of the mentoring and capacity development of those people.

“Resourcing is one, but also helping those individuals to be able to navigate necessary partnerships, is necessary,” he said.(NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

Edited the by Isaac Aregbesola

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