In the world of business, entrepreneurship, philanthropy and success, there are people who the world recognise because of their positive impacts. Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu stands tall.
Elumelu was born on March 22, 1963, in Jos, Plateau state, a city which is interestingly the birthplace of some of Nigeria’s brightest minds across industries like sports, politics, music, literature, broadcasting and business. He was born to Suzanne and Dominic Elumelu from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta State. He grew up with 4 siblings, one of whom is Ndudi Elumelu, a popular politician.
He studied Economics at the Bendel State University (now Ambrose Alli University) obtaining a BSc and then a Master of Science degree in Economics from the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
Tony Elumelu Biography
Interestingly, He was born with entrepreneurial blood in his veins, and raised in an entrepreneurial household where his mother owned several restaurants. His father instilled in him early in life, the principle of saving which helped shape his success later on in life.
His first entrepreneurial venture started when he served in Sokoto. He sold Babaringa (a three-piece local costume) and local handmade mats to friends in the South. The little profit from the small business was enough to cater for the little expenses at that time.
On his early career, he said: “I started my career as a salesman, a copier salesman to be specific, young, hungry and hardworking, but the reality was that I was just one of the thousands of young Nigerian graduates, all eager to succeed”.
Elumelu’s journey to who he is started when he applied to join Allstates Trust Bank a year after earning his Master’s degree in Economics from UNILAG. He applied with his 2.2 Economics degree (Second class, lower division) in spite of the bank’s requirement: a minimum of 2.1 degree (Second class, upper division). “I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, ambitious and I will make the bank proud.
“My 2.2 degree does not demonstrate that full extent of my intelligence and ability, and I know I can do so much more”, his cover letter read.
These words caught the eye of the CEO/Chairman at that time, who decided to give him a chance despite being ‘unqualified’.
27-year-old Elumelu was hired as an entry-level analyst after passing the due process. With this, Elumelu has proved that it is possible to build a career or a business empire with astounding success even in odd situations. He is a clear example of how the past does not determine the future and that success can be achieved with courage, perseverance, persistence, hard work and discipline.
In 12 months, he became the youngest branch bank manager at the time. He believes that this position laid the foundation for the rest of his career, he’s committed to helping others which is why he started the Tony Elumelu Foundation in 2010: “Without luck in my early career, I would not be the man that I am today.
“I am a leader and philanthropist today because I encountered people who gave me a chance early in my career. It has been a lifetime goal to pay this forward in a transformative and impactful way,” he said.
Interestingly, after serving in Union Bank, just over a decade later, he took a big step of leading a small group of investors into acquiring the failing Standard Trust Bank which he later grew and merged in 2005 to become United Bank for Africa (UBA) with dozens of subsidiaries in Africa, Paris, London and New York. This serves as a limelight in the business industry because he did something close to impossible in a short span of time.
Additionally, entrepreneurship is the most effective way to establish true prosperity. It was the inherent entrepreneurial drive that led him into doing the unthinkable, acquiring a failing bank and turning it around into a massive success story. The same drive led him into establishing Heirs Holdings (HH) in 2010 upon his retirement as Group Managing Director (GMD) from UBA.
Founded in 2010 as part of his commitment to the Africapitalism (an economic philosophy which advocates for the private sector’s commitment to Africa’s development through long-term investment in strategic sectors of the economy that drive social wealth and economic prosperity), Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) is a non-profit organization headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, a subsidiary of HH that aims to create new generations of entrepreneurs in Africa.
Since its inception, the Foundation has been active in all 54 African countries. Annually, it organises a TEF Forum (a large gathering of entrepreneurs in Africa) and TEF Connect (a digital hub for entrepreneurs in Africa).
So far, the Foundation has empowered over 9,000 young African entrepreneurs across 54 African countries.
Tony Elumelu believes in investing in Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Unsurprisingly, Elumelu has received recognition, praise, and several lifetime awards from organizations around the world and appeared on many notable lists in magazines and publications for his contributions to business, philanthropy, and entrepreneurship.
The Federal Government of Nigeria granted Elumelu the title of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic MFR, a national honour. In 2012, he was awarded the National Honor of Commander of the Order of Nigeria, CON for his service in promoting private enterprise. In 2018 and 2019, he was awarded the All-Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA) Philanthropist of the year award. He was recognised by Forbes magazine in 2012 as one of ‘Africa’s 20 most powerful people’. In 2020, Elumelu was named on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
In conclusion, a lot has been said of Elumelu about his kind demeanor towards his peers, non-peers, and young African entrepreneurs alike. For Elumelu, spreading help and opportunities has no geographic boundaries.
Tony Elumelu Net worth
He is among the top 10 richest Nigerian entrepreneurs with a net worth estimated at $1 billion in 2021 according to Forbes.