The Nigerian business landscape is dotted with some of Africa’s richest entrepreneurs, some with assets that could match the GDP of small African countries. While some of the high net-worth individuals are just content to continue to dominate the rich list while expanding their business interests, others are borrowing a leaf from the philanthropic culture of their counterparts in the West, like Bill Gates and Richard Branson to help lay the foundation of a prosperous continent for Africa.
Here, we profile Nigeria’s top billionaires inspiring the next generation through wide-reaching philanthropic initiatives; just as the nation gears for the next century of her existence, and the youth look for leadership and direction to actualise their potentials.
Having seen how a $5million dollar investment in a small, dying bank about two decades ago transformed into a respectable global brand, Tony Elumelu, the former CEO of UBA (the bank), is now inspiring the next generation of African entrepreneurs to actively play greater roles the development of the continent.
His reach-out channel is the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) which focuses on supporting entrepreneurs in Africa by enhancing the competitiveness of the private sector; and built on a vision it terms ‘Africapitalism’.
Elumelu often cites the UBA example which he helped build into a multinational, pan-African financial institution that has created 25,000 jobs, generated wealth in communities all across Africa, expanded finance for trade, created stronger financial infrastructure for investment and economic growth, paid taxes to national and local governments to support public services, and given millions of customers control over their financial lives.
“Imagine if we created 1000 home grown pan-African companies like UBA in Africa – now that is impact. That is what drives me and that is why we started the Foundation,” he says of his philanthropic drive.
The goal of the Foundation is to help grow 1000 leading African SMEs into pan-African and global business that employ significant numbers, pay taxes and create prosperity and wealth.
“We also plan to build a world-class business school in Nigeria in the long-term,” adds Elumelu, who is also the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, which has significant interests in the ICT, financial services, energy, real estate and hospitality, agribusiness, and healthcare sectors.
TEF supports projects like the Nigeria Fast Growth 50 to demonstrate our desire to embrace global opportunities and practices, while ensuring that as much as possible of the value adding aspects of Africa’s resource wealth stay on the African continent.
“It is my hope that the Foundation will inspire business and entrepreneurs to actively play a more role in Africa’s development. This is my vision of ‘Africapitalism,’” Elumelu concludes.
Former Nigerian Defence Minister and Chairman of South Atlantic Petroleum, Lt. General TY Danjuma (Rtd.) has set aside over $100 million into his Charity, the TY Danjuma Foundation – making it one of Africa’s largest charities, he, the nation’s biggest philanthropist.
The TY Danjuma Foundation makes grants to and partners with non-governmental organisations that champion and promote causes in education, free healthcare, policy advocacy and poverty alleviation.
TY Danjuma Foundation encourages individuals, private organizations, the civil society and government to make effective strategic investment in the development of the Nigerian youths, to secure the future of the nation.
The Foundation also celebrates the efforts of its grantees who through their laudable youth focused projects are building the capacities of Nigerian youths, like the After School Graduate Development Center (AGDC) which works with undergraduates in the University of Benin on a project titled ‘Work Intelligent Nigerian Graduate’ (WINGS).
The others include Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ) to work with young girls and women in Edo state on a project titled Young Girls/Women Leadership and Mentoring (YGWLM); and African Women and Youth Organization (AWYO) to carry out a Graduate Integration Programme (GIP) for youths in Abuja
Growing up on the dusty streets of Jos in Northern Nigeria, Rochas Okorocha had a bitter taste of poverty, but rose from grass to grace through sheer hard work, diligence, courage and determination.
He hawked groceries in Barkin Ladi, Jos, even before he reached his teens, but by age 14, he had bought his first bus. He later became a proprietor of a commercial school, made his first one million naira from a commission on sale of road construction equipment and sold fairly used cars via Cotonou in Benin Republic.
Not one to forget his humble roots, Okorocha, who today is the governor of Imo State and is a proud holder of LL.B and LL.M degrees and a PGD in Management, is helping to build credible futures for indigent children of the next generation through the Rochas Foundation.
The Rochas Foundation activities span education, health and social Responsibilities and economic empowerment; with special focus on building schools that offer free education to the underprivileged across Nigeria.
Over the years, the foundation has put smiles on many faces. Today, Rochas boasts of a roll call of 6000 children receiving free education in secondary schools across Owerri, Jos, Ibadan, Gboko and Kano. The Foundation is also planning to build a tuition-free University in Ogboko, which will be the first free university in Africa.
In an interview she granted to last year to CNN African Voices, Folorunso Alakija who is ranked by Forbes as the world’s richest black woman and Nigeria’s first female billionaire with a net worth of $2.5 billion says she wants to tell “as much of my life as I could to encourage people, to encourage others to get to where they should be, where they want to be.”
The Ikorodu indigene of Lagos State, and Executive Vice Chairman of Famfa Oil Limited was talking about her then newly released autobiography, titled ‘Growing With The Hand That Gives the Rose’ – in which she shares the secrets to her success through her life experiences and challenges.
Being a woman herself, her philanthropic gestures are naturally targeted primarily at women and young people, in that order. Her vehicle of charity is the Rose of Sharon Foundation (ROSF), which main objective includes easing the burdens of existence for widows and orphans, through community network.
Alakija, who is also the CEO of the Rose of Sharon Group, has through her Foundation helped to fend for 2,751 widows and 963 widows’ children, 66 orphans and 11 widows at university through the foundation.
The former banking executive-turned-fashion designer-turned oil magnate says her organisation’s next goal is to help set up schools across Nigeria, in areas where the women would be able to work the land while their children would attend classes within walking distance.
Of entrepreneurial and professional opportunities in Nigeria, Alakija says the “it’s a land flowing with opportunities, land flowing with milk and honey. It has its challenges, its faults, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and we all have to come together those who live in it and those living abroad and come together to build our nation.”