L-R, Segun Osoba, Osinbajo and Tony Elumelu at the Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum in Abuja on Saturday

Text of the full speech by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the 2019 Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum, the Founder’s presidential dialogue at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja on 27 July

No matter how young or old we might be, our lives are essentially stories that are being written and revised every day. And those stories range from what is, to what could be, from the reality we are born into, to the ambitions and dreams that we create, desire and those we strive to achieve.

As I prepared for this event, I encountered a few of the many stories of the businesses and lives transformed by the Tony Elumelu Foundation and its various initiatives.

We have Mavis Nduchwa, who trained for the hospitality industry, and went on to a career as a TV presenter, and is today a successful farmer with the goal of feeding her native country, Botswana.

A decade ago, a Nigerian, Zion Oshiobugie, looked ahead at life as a domestic servant for a family member. Today, he is the proud CEO of a consulting company based in the same city where he started out as a domestic servant.

There is Mohammed Daoufhi of Morocco, founder of a 3-D printing company that produces affordable artificial limbs. Every day, he makes it happen for someone, he gives life to someone who had thought all life was lost when they lost their limb.

Cameroon’s Michel Nkuindija actually tells, and retells stories for a living through his company, Noohkema Game Studios, which develops video games that are based on traditional Africa myths and legends. His goal is to change the way Africa is perceived globally, and to give young Africans a reason to be proud of their cultural identities.

Across the continent in Uganda, Joel Cherop is a farmer, pushing the boundaries of agriculture using irrigation technologies, through the Atari River Integrated Irrigation Initiative Limited (ARII). Every day, he makes a difference in farming in his country.

From the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lino Alain Muniono, used seed capital to start an architectural firm, and Jose Kimoalou founded Wapimed, a health tech company providing quality healthcare across communities in the DRC.

Benin Republic’s Vital Sounouvou is promoting trade across Africa with his fintech start-up, Exportunity, a virtual market that is now directly supported by a leading African banking institution, UBA. In the age of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), there is perhaps no bigger or better opportunity to be exploring right now.

And even all of those thousands of inspirational TEEP stories are themselves, just a representation, a fraction, of what is out there across the continent. A landscape emboldened by multitudes of young people who are refusing to wallow in self-pity or frustration; who have realized that conquering the challenges of their environments are the milestones for outstanding success. Young men and women who have come to fully understand the transformational power of technology in the 21st century.

There are the hundreds who are also here and these stories are just a few of the thousands told and experienced by entrepreneurs, whose lives have been touched and transformed by the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP).

And even all of those thousands of inspirational TEEP stories are themselves, just a representation, a fraction, of what is out there across the continent. A landscape emboldened by multitudes of young people who are refusing to wallow in self-pity or frustration; who have realized that conquering the challenges of their environments are the milestones for outstanding success. Young men and women who have come to fully understand the transformational power of technology in the 21st century.

Here in this room is a great representation of what the private sector can accomplish. It is also hugely inspiring to us, as governments, and I am glad that a number of African governments are represented here, we are challenged to create the enabling environment for all of these young entrepreneurs to thrive.

Our continent continues to be defined by unsavoury and unwholesome stories, which do not often accurately represent the reality of life and opportunity. The people in this room are the perfect and long-awaited counterpoints to those one-dimensional narratives of Africa that have sadly gained ground over the years.

Outside on the streets of every village, town and city in Africa, are many more individual embodiments of the potentials of this great continent. But we can change some of the false and some of the true but unfortunate narratives of Africa. We must find young entrepreneurs and provide opportunities for capacity building. Our school curriculums must emphasize, not just Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics which we are doing now, but Critical Thinking and Entrepreneurship. And the promises that we have made of establishing Entrepreneurship Banks must be kept.

Today is the most advanced moment in human history and your generation is the smartest that has ever lived. We are holding our breaths for the incredible achievements you will make.

By birthing this particular intervention, TEEP, Tony Elumelu has compelled us to focus on what really matters, our youth and their dreams. The message to Africa’s emerging business giants is a clear one, how and what can you contribute, like Tony Elumelu, to empowering the next generation, helping them to realize their own dreams? And you gathered here in this room, helping you write, rewrite and revise the next chapter of your continent-changing stories.

Permit me a word to you, young entrepreneurs, I want to say to you that you live in the best of times. Always be suspicious of those who remind us of the “good old days.” They are probably suffering from a bit of memory loss.

Fareed Zakaria our moderator today, made a fascinating statement to the 2012 graduating Harvard class, where he made the commencement speech. He said that the smart phones that the young men and women in the room had in their hands, had more computing power than all the computing power in the Apollo aircraft that landed the first men on the moon.

Today, as we waited out here, I reminded him of that statement and his reply was, “Yes that was 2012. Today the smart phones these young men and women have, has 100 times more power, than all of the computing power of the Apollo aircraft that landed men on the moon.”

Today is the most advanced moment in human history and your generation is the smartest that has ever lived. We are holding our breaths for the incredible achievements you will make.
God bless Africa.