Chairman, United Bank for Africa Group, Mr Tony Elumelu has taught students of
Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo what they could do even when they are still
students to become successful entrepreneurs.
He used his personal start-up entrepreneurship experience as an
undergraduate at the then Bendel State (now Ambrose Alli) University, Ekpoma
studying Economics to support his teaching as doable.
Elumelu, who is today one of the African business leaders and philanthropists once
had it rough according to him in life. That was particularly when he was a student and at the start-up of his business.
“How many of you are familiar with the students’ daily eating patterns on Nigerian
campuses: Formula 010 (i.e.,launch only), or 001(dinner only), or at best
101(breakfast and dinner only),” he asked the students. “Good, that many of you
know the formula,” he said when many of them raised up their hands in affirmation.
“I was also once in that situation. So, you can do something regardless of your
financial background so as to have a secured future,” he stressed.
Elumelu, who now has chain of businesses pointed out that what they needed to do
first was to think and develop entrepreneurial spirit based on their talent
towards a particular trade (notwithstanding their courses of study), turn that idea to a
reality and then grow it alongside their studies to become bigger and self- sustainable in future.
He gave this inspiration as a guest speaker at the university’s 1st Distinguished
Lecture Series held at the Ojo main campus of the institution last week. He spoke on “Entrepreneurship: The challenges and opportunities for Nigeria’s future leaders.”
Over 1,500 students from across departments and many members of faculty
of the university as well Lagos State government officials including the
representatives of the governor and his deputy, Ms. Toyin Ademuiya and Mrs
Yetunde Odejayi respectively and the UBA team were at the forum.
Speaking further, Elumelu told the students that the current poor economic condition
coupled with high graduate unemployment rate (i.e. the number of graduates actively
looking for jobs against percentage of labour force) in the country had made it
necessary for them to pursue entrepreneurship career irrespective of their
courses of study to enable them to become not only self-reliant but job
providers now and after graduation.
He said by so doing, they would contribute meaningfully to their personal well-being
and that of their families, communities, the country and the continent of Africa as a
whole rather than roaming the streets in search of non-existing jobs as many usually do.
Though, lamented government’s failure to provide supportive and enabling
environment (infrastructural facilities,loans etc) substantial for business growth,
Elumelu asked the students to inculcate and live with certain traits if they really
wanted to become not only flourishing entrepreneurs but leaders in any of their
legitimate endeavours now and in future. “Apart from giving your studies a deserved
attention,” he said, “You must also learn to be extremely disciplined, focused,
courageous, determined, diligence, hardworking, sacrificing, resilience, honest,
humble and have good foresight and a long term vision as well,” he said.
All these, he emphasised, are leadership traits that will help you in keeping your
business growing to become a market leader.
While advising them not to despise a period of little beginning, he asked them to
exploit the opportunity of his foundation-Tony Elumelu Foundation-which has a
mandate of producing successful 10,000 African young entrepreneurs in 10 years to
secure sponsor for their investments. He said all they would need to do to
become beneficiaries was to package their business ideas and make them convincing
enough to the foundation for development.
Speaking earlier, the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, said
the essence of the lecture was to prepare the students for future economic relevance.
He noted that the era of office jobs waiting for students to graduate had gone in the
country and therefore would be needed to be well-equipped with right knowledge and
skills that would make them economically relevant especially from day one after
graduation. The vice-chancellor, while thanking the guest lecturer who he described as serial
investor for his passion in building not only many young African entrepreneurs but also
the economy of the continent, promised that the university would continue to do its
best to produce graduates for global market.