Nigerian billionaire and philanthropist, Tony Elumelu has advised young aspiring entrepreneurs in Uganda to focus on financial discipline as well as developing viable ideas if they are to be successful in business.
The business mogul and Chairman of United Bank of Africa (UBA) was Wednesday delivering a public lecture on Africapitalism and Entrepreneurship at Makerere University in Kampala.
Contrary to the cliché that capital is the primary aspect of any successful business venture, Elumelu said that what matters is sound ideas, a frugal culture of spending as well as setting long term goals.
“You can have all the money but still fail. The discipline of saving and spending is what is critical. You must also be hardworking, good at keeping your records and think long term,” Elumelu who was named among Africa’s top 20 powerful people by Forbes in 2012 told a hall full of students at Makerere.
He revealed that the trick is in proving that a certain concept is outstanding, which then makes the idea attractive to capital. Capital is constraining but businesses must start little and build gradually, he said.
“Entrepreneurship is a long term journey, therefore saving will be critical especially in the initial stages. You don’t make money today and spend everything today and think you’ll get to yo ultimate destination. If you earn a dollar and can’t save, even if you earn a billion, you won’t save it,” he added.
He further spoke to the need of forming partnerships that are aligned to one’s business interests.
Prior to the talk at Makerere, Elumelu had visited State House Entebbe where he held a discussion with President Museveni on among other things how to support SMEs in Uganda.
Dwelling on his personal story in building his business portfolio, Elumelu said that failure is a component of every successful entrepreneur since it is from these setbacks that one draws resilience.
He highlighted some of the losses he has had to incur as a result of ‘wrong businesses’ including a USD 200 million joint venture in aviation.
While government in Uganda has often emphasized the need for the youth to be job creators, it still remains a challenge for many of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to make it to their third anniversary.
The UBA Chairman who was valued at USD 700 million in 2015 says that governments must play a central role in creating an enabling environment for the private sector as well as SMEs to thrive, which is why Nigeria has had a successful story in enterprise development.
Elumelu, 55 is the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation an initiative that equips people across Africa with entrepreneurial skills in addition to funding their business ideas. With an annual enrolment of 1,000 young people, he is confident that this is a sure way to create enduring prosperity on the African continent.
He said that the Foundation is partnering with other development partners expand its slots to 100,000 annual beneficiaries in the coming years.
This year, a total of 129 Ugandans will be part of the 4th cohort of the program and will receive startup capital.