Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu (born 22 March 1963) is a Nigerian economist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. Elumelu holds the Nigerian national honours, the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR). He was recognised as one of “Africa’s 20 Most Powerful People in 2012” by Forbes magazine.
Elumelu was born in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, in 1963. He hails from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State. He has two degrees in economics from Nigerian universities, a bachelor’s degree from Ambrose Alli University and a Master of Science degree from the University of Lagos. He is an alumnus of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Programme. Tony Elumelu married Awele Vivien Elumelu, a medical doctor, in 1993, and they have seven children together. He has four siblings, one of whom is Ndudi Elumelu, a former member of the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives.
In his early career, Elumelu acquired and turned Standard Trust Bank into a top-five player in Nigeria. In 2005 he led the acquisition of United Bank for Africa (UBA), later transforming it from a single-country bank to a pan-African institution with more than seven million customers in 19 African countries.
Following his retirement from UBA in 2010, Elumelu founded Heirs Holdings, which invests in the financial services, energy, real estate and hospitality, agribusiness, and healthcare sectors. In the same year, he established the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an Africa-based and African-funded philanthropic organization dedicated to the promotion of excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship and to enhancing the competitiveness of the private sector across Africa.
In 2011, Heirs Holdings acquired a controlling interest in the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp), a publicly quoted conglomerate that has business interests in the agribusiness, energy, and hospitality sectors. Elumelu was subsequently appointed chairman of the corporation.
Elumelu serves as an advisor to the USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa (PCGA) Partners Forum. He sits on the Nigerian President’s Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council (ATIC). He is also vice-chairman of the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN), whose formation he was a key driver in, and serves as Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute Dialogue Series on Global Food Security. He additionally chairs the Ministerial Committee to establish world-class hospitals and diagnostic centers across Nigeria, at the invitation of the Federal Government and the Presidential Jobs Board, engineered to create 3 million jobs in one year. He also serves as a member of the Global Advisory Board of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4ALL) and USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa Partners Forum.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation
Following his retirement from United Bank for Africa in July 2010, Elumelu founded The Tony Elumelu Foundation. His stated objective was to “prove that the African private sector can itself be the primary generator of economic development.” The Foundation is charged with the mission of driving Africa’s economic development by enhancing the competitiveness of the African private sector. As a premier pan-African-focused not-for-profit institution, the Tony Elumelu Foundation is dedicated to the promotion and celebration of entrepreneurship and excellence in business leadership across the continent, with initiatives such as The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP).
The Foundation deploys its resources to generate solutions to challenges that inhibit the growth of the African private sector. Through its commitment to catalytic philanthropy, the Tony Elumelu Foundation seeks to achieve its mission by enhancing the capacity of African businesses, supporting and driving policies that promote competitiveness, deploying financial capital through impact investments, and educating public and private sector actors through rigorous research.
Elumelu is the originator of the term Africapitalism. According to him, Africapitalism is an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through long-term investments that create both economic prosperity and social wealth. Elumelu sees Africans taking charge of the value-adding sectors and ensuring that those value-added processes happen in Africa, not through nationalization or government policies, but because there is a generation of private sector entrepreneurs who have the vision, the tools and the opportunity to shape the destiny of the continent. He insists that Africapitalism is not capitalism with an African twist; it is a rallying cry for empowering the private sector to drive Africa’s economic and social growth.
Elumelu subscribes to Michael Porter’s concept of Creating Shared Value (CSV). He studied under Professor Porter at Harvard Business School and Professor Porter is the Founding Patron of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. CSV refers to the idea that “companies must take the lead in bringing business and society back together.” It asserts that “businesses acting as businesses, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues (society) face(s).”
Tony Elumelu’s Recognision and Awards
In 2003, the Federal Government of Nigeria granted Tony Elumelu the title of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), a national honour. In 2006, Elumelu was voted African Business Leader of The Year by Africa Investor magazine and was recognised African Banker of the Year in 2008 by African Banker magazine. In 2009, the Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’adua asked him to serve on the Presidential Committee on the Global Financial Crisis.
In 2012, he was awarded the prestigious National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) for his service in promoting private enterprise. He was recognised as one of “Africa’s 20 Most Powerful People in 2012” by Forbes magazine. In addition, New African magazine featured him in their list of the “100 Most Influential Africans in Business”. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of science degree from Benue State University and an honorary doctorate of business administration from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
In 2013, Elumelu received the Leadership Award in Business and Philanthropy from the Africa-America Institute (AAI) Awards. He was also named African Business Icon at the 2013 African Business Awards.
ESI-Africa, frequently described as “Africa’s power journal”, named Elumelu in its 2015 “ESI Most Influential Figures in African Power” list, in January 2015.
At the 5th edition of the annual Economic Forum of the Ivorian National Council of Employers, CGECI Academy, (CGECI) in Abidjan in April 2016, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award.