Time to support the Zambian TEF Winners


FOR the year 2019, Zambia can boast that 77 local entrepreneurs have been selected for the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) programme.
The TEF programme provides business mentorship and seed capital for local entrepreneurs to actualise their businesses.
Given that this is the highest number of selected Zambian entrepreneurs from the inception of the US$100 million entrepreneurship programme launched in 2015, it is time that these entrepreneurs are supported to enable their ideas create employment and help boost the local economy.
The TEF is the leading African philanthropy committed to empowering African entrepreneurs and it is running for its 5th cycle in 2019.
The foundation will sponsor 1,000 entrepreneurs while its partners that include African Development Bank (AfDB) will sponsor 2,050 entrepreneurs bringing the total to 3,050 African entrepreneurs drawn from all 54 African countries.
Of this number, 77 have been drawn from Zambia which represents 2.5 percent and this has tripled from 21 selected in 2017 and the 22 selected in 2018.
The selected Entrepreneurs will each receive non- refundable U$5,000 of seed capital, access to mentors, and a 12-week business training programme, directly focused on the needs of African entrepreneurs and this will help in job creation and economic growth.
Further, on July 26 – 27 2019, they will gather at the TEF Entrepreneurship Forum in Abuja Nigeria, the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurship ecosystem on the continent.
What this means for Zambia is that a total of US$385,000 (K4,735,500 at the current exchange rate) will be injected in the economy to enable 77 entrepreneurs to create different businesses from sectors including agriculture, financial services, information communication technology (ICT) and education.
Each of these entrepreneurs will create a business that will create employment, boast productivity and hence grow our economy. The IMF has predicted that the economic growth of Zambia for 2020 to grow at a rate of less that four percent, but who knows, maybe these entrepreneurs have what it takes to overturn the prediction and instead double the rate. What will be needed from Zambian stakeholder is to ensure that the right support and incubation to enable growth of the business ideas is given to these entrepreneurs and they could do wonders.
It is a known fact that capital, though not the only factor, is an important ingredient for any start-up business and now that TEF will provide the seed capital, it will be wise for other local stakeholders to come on board to ensure that these winners are supported, mentored and helped in all areas that will ensure the potential businesses are actualised.
One thing that is for sure is that entrepreneurs are hungry to effect change and since the TEF programme is only scratching the surface, there is a depth of entrepreneurial talent that the Government, business houses, private sector and indeed all concerned stakeholders must harness to transform the Zambian economy and improve the livelihood of many.
However, the participation rate of the selected Zambian entrepreneurs at the TEF Entrepreneurship Forum in Nigeria, the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurship ecosystem on the continent is really worrying. For the first two years of the forum, the TEF sponsored the flight costs, accommodation and feeding but from 2017 onwards, arising from the increased number of beneficiaries, the foundation has only been able to provide accommodation and feeding hence leading to the Zambian entrepreneurs missing out at this important event due to lack of funds for flight tickets.
The event which is the largest gathering of African entrepreneurs in the world is a unique opportunity for bringing together young business talent, creating dynamic networks and transmitting the message to policymakers that a vibrant and responsible private sector will deliver economic transformation. But then, the failure by Zambian entrepreneurs to attend such a forum due to transport challenges implies that networking opportunities are affected and the impact of the multiplier effect and faster growth prospects of these businesses is already affected because they have been robbed of the chance to network with other nationalities doing similar business. Every successful entrepreneur would attest to the importance of business networking because it is a really valuable way to expand your knowledge, learn from the success of others, get new clients and tell others about your business.
I wish to congratulate the 77 Zambian entrepreneurs for making it to be amongst 2019 TEF winners because it was not easy to be selected against the 216,000 applicants, this indeed is a great achievement and as a country we must be proud of you.
Please ensure that you do your level best to create those job opportunities, boast our productivity and put Zambia on the map as a big business centre.
Lastly, I wish to plead to the airlines, business houses, Government and indeed all concerned stakeholder to come on board to facilitate the transport costs of these entrepreneurs and when they are back with the seed capital, work with them to ensure that all benefits from their ideas are exploited in order to bring about the needed economic growth for mother Zambia.
The author is an economist.

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