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Tony Elumelu claims over CFA1.6bn support for 689 Cameroonian entrepreneurs in 10 years

Tony Elumelu claims over CFA1.6bn support for 689 Cameroonian entrepreneurs in 10 years
  • Comments   -   Tuesday, 02 April 2024 18:16

(Business in Cameroon) - The Tony Elumelu Foundation, established by Nigerian billionaire and owner of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) group, claimed it has provided financial aid to 689 young entrepreneurs in Cameroon between 2015 and 2024, as a segment of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts within the nation. Rollin Foko, a trainer and mentor at the foundation for the past ten years, compiled these figures, revealing that the total funding provided to these entrepreneurs over a decade amounts to $2.73 million, equivalent to over CFA1.6 billion. This funding represents just 12% of the profits generated in Cameroon by the Nigerian banking group in 2022 alone, where UBA reported a profit of CFA13.7 billion.

The financial support for Cameroonian entrepreneurs was awarded through the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program (TEEP), launched in 2015. It offers recipients a 12-week online training program, advice from high-level mentors, and seed capital of $5,000 (over CFA3 million) to develop their business ideas. However, Rollin Foko notes that not all Cameroonian recipients received the same amount of startup capital.

Yvon Arthur Nana, the owner of a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) specializing in the production and processing of potatoes branded "King Arthur," is one of the TEEF beneficiaries in 2019. He reports receiving the CFA3 million in seed funding, which acted as a catalyst for his project. "These funds allowed me to purchase some machines for agri-food testing. Thanks to this investment, I now have a potato processing tool with a production capacity of 3 tons per day," he said.

Before 2019, says the young entrepreneur with a degree in management and international trade, "I produced annually 60 tons of potatoes that I sold in the market. But buying machines allowed me to create value by processing these potatoes into four main forms (whole potatoes, fries, D-shaped fries, and potato slices)." According to him, 70% of restaurant professionals use natural or frozen potatoes, but they face several issues, including peeling and cutting time. "Our products offer them quick solutions to their needs."

With a production unit based in the Logpom neighborhood in the 5th district of Douala, Yvon Arthur Nana employs 12 registered collaborators and several indirect employees daily, whereas he was alone when he first launched his project five years ago. Facing an "increasingly growing" demand, he says he cultivates his potatoes and turns to producer associations to avoid stock shortages. While he acknowledges the market is doing relatively well, Yvon Arthur Nana highlights financing challenges. He calls for UBA to provide loan facilities to increase his production with a processing unit of 50 tons of potatoes per day by 2026. Although reticent about his company's revenue, Yvon Arthur Nana claims to have increased it sixfold in five years.

Adjustment

However, this growth has not been felt by Jean Marie Ntsama, another TEEF beneficiary in 2019. This 35-year-old high school teacher received $3,000 (over CFA1.5 million) for his snail farming project. "We created a snail marketing establishment in the Mardock woods in Ngaoundéré, in the northern part of Cameroon. The idea was to breed snails in boxes and process them to sell the slime, meat, and shells. But the reality on the ground led us to make adjustments," he explains. He mentions the local climate drying up "about 5,000 snail eggs."

To address this, Jean Marie Ntsama has incorporated fish farming into his project to diversify his offerings and gain more value. As of now, he specifies, four employees are engaged in managing his project, which is not yet profitable. He hopes it will become profitable soon and urges Tony Elumelu to continue funding projects for young Cameroonian entrepreneurs.

During the presentation of the 10th cohort of TEEF on March 22, 2024, in Lagos, Nigeria, Tony Elumelu announced that his foundation has disbursed $100 million, equivalent to over CFA60 billion, to more than 20,000 young entrepreneurs across 54 African countries. These entrepreneurs, as the UBA founder specified, have created over 400,000 direct and indirect jobs, thereby contributing to the economic growth and development of Africa.

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