The annual Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme has announced that applications for its 2020 programme are now open for startups across Africa. Interested startups can apply via the Tony Elumelu Foundation portal to stand a chance to be accepted to the entrepreneurship programme.

In its sixth year, the entrepreneurship programme for African startups offers the successful applicants some funding and mentoring for their business journey.

"The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme is open to startup entrepreneurs, with innovative business ideas or businesses that have been in existence for less than 3 years, in any sector, from across Africa. The Programme is the $100 million commitment by African investor and philanthropist, Tony O. Elumelu to empower 10,000 entrepreneurs in 10 years, with the goal of creating millions of jobs and new revenue on the continent. The programme implements Mr Elumelu's Africapitalism philosophy, which positions the private sector as the catalyst for African economic transformation, and an investment approach that values the creation of both social and economic wealth."

Is it worth it?

When it initially launched 6 years ago, there was some debate as to the potential effectiveness of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme. This is because, as stated, the programme offers qualifying entrepreneurs $10,000 in grant funding. This, in some quarters, has been viewed as somewhat a pittance that is not even considered pre-seed funding.

People who typically pursue this line of argument about the programme state that it would be better and have more impact if the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme funded fewer but post-seed startups to help them grow and scale.

However, a counter argument exists that is also valid.

Considering that the majority of African countries have a relatively young population with high unemployment rates among the youth, it can be argued that the $10,000 funding is something that can kickstart the businesses of thousands of young people who don't even have friends and family to raise a few thousand dollars from to start a business. This, is also a point raised by Kamran Elahian on an episode of The Tefo Mohapi Show in which he discussed building and investing in unicorns, risks to look for in startups, and how Africa's tech hubs can boost innovation. Elahian made a point that Africa needs more Angel investors to boost innovation and entrepreneurship.

Benefits for African startups

In 2019, the programme accepted 3,050 African entrepreneurs who benefited from through funding and mentorship. The organizers have said that they expect the number will "meaningfully increase in 2020."

"The transformation of Africa begins with empowering our young African entrepreneurs. With the recent enhancements made to our Programme and our growing list of partners, the Tony Elumelu Foundation is significantly increasing its impact across the continent. We encourage all startup African entrepreneurs across the 54 African countries to apply for the Programme, as we continue to empower the very best ideas that will create the much needed employment and revenue on the continent," said Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Applications for entrepreneurs based in Africa are open from 1 January to 1 March 2020. The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme is open to startup entrepreneurs, with innovative business ideas or businesses that have been in existence for less than 3 years, in any sector, from across Africa.

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