Get all the stories on the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme. Learn everything you need to know about this programme.
Starting a business is hard, and it’s even harder in Nigeria.
Here, the cost of running a business is not friendly and access to capital is limited. And there’s no guarantee you’ll scale the first five years. Report shows that over 90% of startup fail.
This is scary, but don’t despair.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) is here to help.
TEEP is a $100 million initiative that provides seed funding, training, mentorship, and access to a global community of entrepreneurs to high-potential entrepreneurs across Africa. Since 2015, the programme has supported entrepreneurs from 50+ African countries.
If you’ve got a great business idea and you’re ready to take the plunge, TEEP could be the perfect opportunity for you. And here’s everything you need to know to know about this programme.
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Table of Contents
Key Takeaways (Editor’s Picks)
- TEF provides $5,000 in seed funding, training, and mentoring to young African entrepreneurs.
- To join in, applicants must be 18-35 years old with early-stage startups or business ideas.
- A comprehensive application process assesses business viability and applicant capabilities.
- There’s a 12-week online entrepreneurship curriculum offered once you get selected.
- Upon being selected, you get matched with expert mentors relevant to your sector.
- Participants get access to a global network of over 15,000 alumni and partners.
- Your accountability through progress reporting is required.
- TEF has empowered over 15,000 entrepreneurs since 2015.
- The program aims to catalyse job creation and economic prosperity across Africa.
- Notable alumni like Xente Tech and Hygienic Solutions demonstrate tangible impact.
- Meticulous applications with clear plans and vision are key to stand out.
Want more details? Dive in!
Who is Tony Elumelu?
Tony Elumelu, born in 1963, comes from a humble Nigerian background.
Though his early years lacked privilege, his father instilled the value of ambition in him. After securing an economics degree from Ambrose Alli University and a master’s from Lagos Business School, he dove into banking.
Elumelu acquired Standard Trust Bank in 1997 and demonstrated his innate business prowess by transforming it into one of Nigeria’s top financial institutions.
His eye for opportunity led him to engineer the merger with UBA Bank and launch the pan-African holding company UBA Group, which operates in over 20 African countries. In 2010, Elumelu channeled $100 million of his wealth to launch The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF).
His mission was to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs. Having walked in their shoes, he understood the obstacles innovators face from lack of funding and training to corruption and government policies.
Through the TEF, he’s creating opportunities he wished he had when he was starting, like seed funding, mentors, and global exposure. The program has directly funded 10,000 entrepreneurs with $100 million. He believes that Africa’s private sector should be the driving force behind economic transformation, an idea he calls “Africapitalism.”
His vision extends further to inspire more innovators, policymakers, and partners to join forces in developing entrepreneur-led economies across the continent.
The TEEP Mission and Objective
The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme aims to catalyse economic growth, drive poverty eradication, and ensure job creation across Africa by empowering young African entrepreneurs.
Its objectives are:
- Identify, train, and fund 10,000 young African entrepreneurs over 10 years
- Generate at least 1,000,000 new jobs and add $10 billion in revenues to Africa’s economy
- Promote Africapitalism – the private sector’s role in Africa’s development
- Develop entrepreneurial ecosystems across Africa
- Mentor entrepreneurs to build sustainable and investible businesses
- Increase business opportunities for African entrepreneurs
- Develop policies and programs to support entrepreneurship in Africa
- Share knowledge, experience, and expertise to inspire African entrepreneurs
- Drive Africa’s economic independence and self-reliance through entrepreneur-led growth
The program seeks to identify, train, mentor, and fund young entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses that create both economic and social wealth in their communities.
How the TEF Grant Programme Can Help Your Business
Here are some of the benefits you’ll reap from this programme
$5000 Seed Capital for Each Selected Entrepreneur
First, TEF provides seed capital of $5000 to select entrepreneurs.
This vital funding can kickstart a business, taking it from idea to inception. The no-strings-attached nature of the grant gives entrepreneurs the freedom to experiment, pivot, and refine their business models without pressure.
2. Access to Mentors and a Global Network
Additionally, TEF connects participants to mentors who provide guidance and support.
This mentorship is invaluable, enabling entrepreneurs to avoid common pitfalls and accelerate their growth. Mentors share practical insights on everything from product-market fit to accessing finance.
TEF also offers access to a network of over 15,000 alumni. Collaborating and sharing experiences with like-minded entrepreneurs creates solidarity. Partnership opportunities emerge and participants realise they are not alone on their journey.
3. Tailored Business Training through Online Portal
Furthermore, TEF delivers bespoke skills training tailored to the needs of startups.
Curriculums cover critical areas like business planning, marketing, funding, and product development. Equipping entrepreneurs with capabilities and a strategic mindset expands their vision and capacity.
4. Opportunity to Promote Business to Wider Audience
The program provides a platform to increase the visibility of selected entrepreneurs’ personal brands and business ventures to potential partners, investors, and even customers.
5. Potential for Further Funding and Support after Programme Completion
TEF provides opportunities for high-potential businesses that graduate from the program to access additional financing, technical support, market access, and more.
The TEEP Success Story…
The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme commenced in 2015 to deliver on Tony Elumelu’s $100 million 10-year commitment to empower 10,000 entrepreneurs and catalyse economic transformation across Africa.
In the inaugural year, the pilot program selected just 1,000 entrepreneurs from Nigeria. Based on its success, TEF opened applications to all 54 African countries from 2016 onwards, marking a major expansion.
Following a rigorous multi-stage selection process each year, 1,000 entrepreneurs are currently chosen annually for the highly sought-after program. As of 2020, over 9,300 young innovators from all African nations have received seed funding and support, marking significant progress towards the goal of 10,000.
The trajectory of growth has been impressive.
Applications increased from 20,000 in 2015 to over 400,000 in 2020. Only 0.4% of applicants are selected, making it more competitive than even the top global universities.
The diversity of beneficiaries also expanded over the years. Whereas initially, most entrepreneurs were from Nigeria, all African countries are now represented.
Women made up just 22% of the inaugural cohort but now account for over 50% as TEF actively empowers female entrepreneurs. A wide range of sectors are also represented, from agriculture to ICT to financial services and beyond.
How to Apply for Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme
This blog post covers everything you need to know about applying for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. We even included a TEEP application checklist to help you stay on track.
TEEP Eligibility Criteria for Applicants
TEF Entrepreneurship Programme is open to citizens and legal residents of all African countries who meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Applicants must be early-stage entrepreneurs with businesses under 3 years old. The focus is supporting startups and ideas in the critical formative stage. Applicants should also possess a promising, technology-enabled product or service with the potential for high growth and profitability.
- In terms of individual applicant criteria, entrepreneurs need to be 18-35 years old to apply. Applicants are also required to have completed post-secondary education with at least a diploma or relevant experience in their industry.
- TEF also assesses applicants’ leadership abilities and passion to drive impact. Entrepreneurship requires tenacity and vision, so these qualities are screened during the selection process.
- Successful participation requires availability and commitment. Applicants must be able to fully engage in the 12-week entrepreneurship training, leverage networking opportunities, and consistently access an internet connection.
- Applicants must be ready to implement funding for business growth and follow through on an agreed commitment to sustain and scale their startup.
Required Documents and Information to Apply
Applying for the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Programme is no joke.
You’ll need to submit a ton of paperwork and information to prove you’re eligible and worthy of being selected. The application process is super competitive, so they’re looking for committed entrepreneurs across Africa who are poised for success.
The online application on the TEF Hub platform usually opens annually from January 1st to March 1st. Prospective applicants must create an account and provide the following:
- Completed Application Form: The comprehensive application form collects key personal details, contact information, educational background, work experience, and an overview of the proposed business idea or existing startup venture.
- Government-Issued ID: A clear scanned copy of a valid government ID like a national ID card, driver’s license, or passport is mandatory. This verifies identity and nationality, upholding transparency in selection.
- Passport Photo: A recent high-resolution passport-sized photo is required for records. Professionalism is expected even at the application stage.
- Academic Certificates: Scans of degrees, diplomas, or certificates support the educational qualifications listed on the form. Academic merit and specialised skills build credibility.
- Current Resume/CV: A comprehensive resume summarising academic and professional background, capabilities, accomplishments, and work chronology. This validates experience claims.
- Business Plan: A detailed 3-year business plan is compulsory – covering operations, marketing, organisation, financials, and projected growth. This evaluates business model viability.
- Pitch Video: A 2-minute video pitch explaining the business idea, product/service, mission, and objectives. This video pitch tests presentation ability.
- 50-Word Elevator Pitch: A concise summary squeezing the business concept into 50 words – depicting business acumen.
- References: Contact details for 2 referees to vouch for character and abilities. Recommendations validate applicant credibility.
- Social Media Profiles: Links to existing company social media pages or personal profiles assess digital presence and marketing savvy.
How the Programme Evaluates a Business Idea
TEF evaluates a business idea, its feasibility, profitability potential, job creation capacity, market viability, competitiveness, innovation level, social impact potential, and growth strategy. Applicants must demonstrate their startup addresses pressing needs and can expand across Africa.
How TEF Assesses Entrepreneurial Competencies
TEF also evaluates each applicant’s competencies. Assessment criteria include:
- Business knowledge and acumen
- Industry experience
- Marketing, operations, and finance skills
- Leadership abilities
- Strategic thinking and planning
- Teachability and coachability
- Tenacity, motivation, and vision
This reveals an applicant’s readiness and ability to succeed in the intensive 12-week training program and transform their enterprise into a high-growth business.
Applications undergo multiple review stages.
TEF screens for completeness, eligibility, and qualifications first. An independent consultant then evaluates applications against selection criteria. Shortlisted candidates are announced online and contacted directly.
Those selected must sign a participation agreement within 5 working days to secure their spot. If they decline, waitlisted candidates receive offers based on points scored. TEF directly emails chosen entrepreneurs and maintains contact throughout the process.
With 10,000 applicants vying for just 1,000 spots annually, competition is incredibly fierce. Submitting a meticulous, high-quality application is crucial to stand out and prove you are an ideal candidate poised for entrepreneurial greatness across Africa.
Requirements and Expectations for Selected Entrepreneurs
Upon receiving the acceptance email, the hard work begins for the 1,000 entrepreneurs chosen annually.
TEF provides seed funding, training, and mentoring to catalyse success – but participants must reciprocate with commitment. Here are the key requirements expected from selected entrepreneurs:
Complete the 12-Week Online Entrepreneurship Training
The comprehensive TEFConnect digital platform offers a structured 12-week entrepreneurship curriculum. Delivered through online self-paced learning modules, live seminars, and downloadable resources, the training equips entrepreneurs with crucial skills.
Have a Clear Plan to Use the Seed Capital Grant
The non-refundable $5,000 seed capital comes with high expectations. TEF requires entrepreneurs to have a detailed, accountable plan for maximising the funds for business-building activities. Whether launching a pilot, acquiring equipment, developing products, recruiting talent, or marketing – entrepreneurs must allocate funds strategically.
Stay Engaged with Assigned Mentors
Tony Elumelu understands that access to an experienced mentor who guides the startup journey is priceless, so TEF matches entrepreneurs with industry advisors relevant to their sector and needs. Mentors devote time, share expertise, and provide objective feedback.
Entrepreneurs must prioritise scheduled mentor sessions and come prepared to each one with progress updates, questions, and action items for advice.
Beyond one-on-one meetings, entrepreneurs will gain insights from special mentor-led webinars. Leveraging this advisory relationship ensures entrepreneurs avoid pitfalls on the path to success.
Attend and Participate in TEF Network Events
In-person and virtual events facilitate valuable networking with the broader TEF community. From the annual Forum to fireside chats to masterclasses, these activities provide inspiration, learning, partnerships, and solidarity.
Selected entrepreneurs must attend events relevant to their needs, introducing their venture and exchanging ideas. The relationships built become invaluable professional assets, forging bonds that support entrepreneurs beyond the program.
Submit Progress Reports and Updates
With TEF seed funding comes accountability. To remain in good standing, you must submit regular progress reports on milestones achieved, funds utilised, lessons learned, and goals for the next phase. The reports verify commitment levels and ensure support is producing the intended return on investment.
Constructive feedback from TEF on reports helps entrepreneurs adjust strategies and spending to optimise impact. Accountability guarantees entrepreneurs deliver on expectations to continue accessing ongoing funding opportunities.
Uphold TEF’s Vision and Values
As TEF ambassadors, selected entrepreneurs must uphold the Foundation’s core values of entrepreneurship, integrity, leadership, and dedication to Africa’s sustainable development. These values now represent their brands.
Entrepreneurs are expected to demonstrate tenacity, ethical practices, and concern for impacting lives. How they represent themselves and their ventures matters. TEF looks for alignment and responsible conduct worthy of affiliation.
About the 12-Week Entrepreneurship Training Programme
The programme offers an online 12-week training curriculum.
It equips entrepreneurs with crucial skills including business management, financial planning, using technology, marketing, leadership, and developing an entrepreneurial mindset.
Notable guest lecturers, case studies, and downloadable resources enrich the learning experience for selected participants.
The Far-Reaching Impact of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme
Since its launch in 2015, the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Programme has empowered over 10,000 promising African entrepreneurs through training, mentorship, and funding. The programme’s pan-African reach, diversity, and transformative impact have fueled sustainable economic growth across the continent.
In the early years, most participants hailed from Nigeria, where TEF is headquartered. But guided by the goal of decentralisation, all African nations are now represented proportionally.
TEF also holds its annual Forum in a different country each year to spotlight entrepreneurial potential throughout Africa. The breadth of reach extends the programme’s benefits to even underserved markets.
A Catalyst for Transformation
To date, TEF alumni have created over 1.5 million direct and indirect jobs spanning multiple sectors as of 2022. With finance, training, and guidance, these entrepreneurs launch new companies, products, and services that address local needs and build sustainable economies.
Ripple effects from their businesses support families and communities. As entrepreneurs reinvest revenue into growth, they create local employment, upgrade infrastructure, boost production and productivity, and enable access to goods, amenities, and technologies that uplift lives.
Beyond the economic impact, TEF entrepreneurs inspire others to realise Africa’s potential and pursue entrepreneurship. They pass on knowledge, mentor emerging entrepreneurs, and sponsor future programmes.
TEF estimates that for each person empowered at least 7 more indirectly benefit, which is a remarkable multiplier effect.
Spotlight on Transformational Entrepreneurs
Mavis Nduchwa from Botswana is the founder of Chabana Farms, an agribusiness that produces organic animal feed and fertilizers from waste.
After receiving the TEF grant in 2016, she pumped the capital into scaling up production and distribution. The mentorship and training from TEF also equipped Mavis with crucial skills to accelerate growth. Today, her thriving enterprise boasts over 500 customers and employs 10 people.
She also runs a social enterprise empowering rural women and youth in farming.
Similarly, Nigerian founder Abdulazeez Ogunjobi leveraged the TEF opportunity to bring quality education to African youth.
His edtech platform Afrilearn provides affordable learning resources to students across the continent. Since receiving the TEF grant in 2019, Abdulazeez developed his platform extensively and acquired over 100,000 users.
Partnerships with schools and universities also expanded access. Beyond funding, the TEF network and exposure helped raise his profile. Abdulazeez pays it forward by offering scholarships and free courses to underprivileged learners.
Want to Apply for a TEF Grant? Here Are the Keys to Developing a Strong Application
Given the high competition, you need to showcase your potential and align with the Foundation’s vision. Which are:
- Emphasize your motivation, entrepreneurial capabilities, and commitment to lifelong learning
- Articulate an innovative, technology-leveraged business idea and executable plan for the seed funding
- Demonstrate necessary skills, experience, and networks to drive business success
- Convey how you will further Africa’s economic development and create value for your community
- Secure all required supporting documents and confirm eligibility criteria are met
- Follow instructions and guidelines closely, providing thoughtful responses and details
- Submit a well-polished, complete application by the deadline
You can check out our guide on how to write a winning grant proposal.
What Makes the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Unique?
Several factors make the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme unique compared to other entrepreneurship initiatives in Africa. Firstly, its scale and ambition of empowering 10,000 entrepreneurs from across Africa is unprecedented and demonstrates long-term commitment.
What Businesses or Sectors Qualify?
The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme embraces diversity and is sector-agnostic, welcoming innovative startups and ideas from all industries to apply.
Agricultural entrepreneurs, educators, manufacturers, retailers, tech disruptors, creative artists, and beyond are all encouraged to apply if they meet the eligibility criteria. TEF believes entrepreneurial thinking can catalyse progress in any industry, so no vertical is excluded from consideration.
Can I Edit My Application After Submission?
Unfortunately, applications cannot be edited or amended after the final deadline each cycle, so it is crucial to carefully review all details before submitting to ensure accuracy.
You will not have any opportunity to make changes to your applications once the window closes, as TEF has a rigorous evaluation process beginning immediately.
If I’m Not Selected One Year, Can I Reapply?
If you’re not accepted for one year, you’re welcome and encouraged to refine your application and reapply in future cycles as long as you still meet the eligibility criteria.
Many applicants eventually get accepted after applying two or even three times and incorporating feedback. Gaining more work experience and developing your business model further between applications also helps strengthen your candidacy.
Is the Training Curriculum Available Before I Apply?
The curriculum is only accessible after selection but focuses on entrepreneurial skills, business strategy, marketing, leadership, and more.
Now That You Know All About TEF, What’s Next?
The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme could provide that launching pad if you have the drive, innovative business ideas, and commitment to Africa’s development.
Prepare a solid application highlighting your potential and aligning with your vision.
If accepted, fully embrace the training, funding, and opportunities provided to achieve your entrepreneurial dreams. But our guide on how to apply for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program can help you put your best foot forward.