I was brutally honest speaking on the “Leadership in an Era of Disruption” panel on Wednesday morning at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017. I spoke in this manner because the future of our continent is at stake. We cannot continue to fail our youth each day yet hope for a transformation of our continent. It is an unfair and unrealistic expectation. The decisions we fail to make today will haunt us for decades, if not centuries, to come. The truth is African leaders know what needs to be done but due to selfish interests they fail to do what is right.
We all know that for entrepreneurs to succeed, governments must improve the business environment, implement business-friendly policies, invest in infrastructure, open up access to finance, markets and capacity building, and most of all tackle power and energy issues once and for all. If we must alleviate poverty on the continent, we must put an end to electricity blackouts caused by insufficient power generation, unreliable transmission and poor distribution. We must sufficiently invest in Power to power Africa out of poverty.
If we get power right in Africa, we will not only deal with poverty, but empower SMEs who create jobs. We must support entrepreneurs across the continent and give them the lifeline they badly deserve. This is what The Tony Elumelu Foundation is doing in our own little way, empowering 1000 entrepreneurs every year, sticking to our commitment of investing $100m in the African entrepreneurial ecosystem despite the protracted currency challenges that African countries have faced in the past two years.
Despite these unforeseen challenges, we will uphold our commitment because we understand that the multiplier effect is enormous when entrepreneurs succeed. Communities and societies are built on entrepreneurship. The U.S.A, the model economy in the world is sustained by entrepreneurship. As I often reiterate, entrepreneurs and those they inspire are the lifeline of Africa’s transformation.
When entrepreneurs succeed, others are encouraged to follow their example and help to create jobs. But these entrepreneurs cannot do it on their own. They need our unflinching commitment and for this reason, I encourage African leaders to embrace legacy in leadership. I urge our leaders to do the right thing: Think about your legacy. If we realise that history will eventually judge us all long after we depart from this earth, and that our legacy is all that will speak for us, we will rethink the way we deal with issues. If legacy guides us, then we will begin to fix Africa.