Tony Elumelu Foundation signs $20m deal with US African Development Foundation to fund African entrepreneurs

Tony Elumelu Foundation Tony Elumelu Foundation

The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) has signed a $20 million deal with the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) to empower African entrepreneurs. 

The deal was signed at a Breakfast Roundtable hosted by TEF and Google Foundation in New York on Tuesday, as one of the events held on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Immediately after signing the deal, Travis Adkins, president and CEO of USADF, said he was proud of the collaboration between both foundations, referring to Tony Elumelu, chairman of the TEF, as “a genius and a man after my heart”.

Adkins said Elumelu’s deliberate investment in women and African youth is at the core of what USADF seeks to do on the continent.


“We live in a world where majority of the population on the continent — women and youth — are actually spoken of as if they are a small niche constituency, when in fact, they are the marginalised majority.

“To recognise that and make them central to everything we do: there is no mainstream, they are the mainstream. We are very excited to be here and to begin this work together.”

He said the big players in the global events are causing the world depression, while the so-called little people — referring to TEF-funded entrepreneurs — are bringing hope and joy.

Elumelu and Travis signing the deal at the breakfast roundtable at UBA PLC, New York on Tuesday

Elumelu appreciated USADF for the partnership, and restated his commitment to lifting Africans out of poverty, and bringing them to prosperity.

“It is not how much we have in our bank accounts that matter, what matters is the impact we bring, the lives we touch, the ability to help take people out of poverty to prosperity, so that we share. The more the merrier — that is the motivation,” he said.

‘Why we fund female entrepreneurs

Ugochukwu said 60% of the 2021 TEF entrepreneurship programme beneficiaries were female

The breakfast roundtable was to discuss “the catalytic role of investment in female African entrepreneurs for Africa’s transformation”.

Speaking to TheCable at the event, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), said TEF is proud to be funding African women entrepreneurs.


“When you put the money in the hands of a woman, they’d go far, and that is why when we started the foundation, the first two years, we had 29 percent participation from women, and we said ‘no, that’s not enough’ if you were in school that is actually an F.

“So we worked intentionally to increase the number of women participants, and I am so happy to say that in 2021 we had 60 percent participation from women — and that is as a result of our partnerships with the likes of Google, EU, who were empowering more women through our entrepreneurship programme.”

Ugochukwu added that women make up 70 percent of the workforce in Africa, but make only 30 percent of the money and own only 10 percent of property on the continent, hence the need for affirmative support for women.

She added that the foundation get over 380,000 applications and can only fund the very best of those ideas.


Google Foundation: We are always looking for partners like TEF

Jacquelline Fuller speaking at the roundtable

Jacquelline Fuller, president at, said her team are thrilled by the partnership they have with TEF, and are looking for more partners with such experience and local knowledge of the African market.

She said the stories by TEF-funded entrepreneurs are “life-giving,” stating that it is a priority for Google to expand economic opportunities for everyone in Africa.


She said Google is providing not just funds, but also technical skills, and manpower to help drive partnerships and economic growth in Africa.

“That kind of partnership, where we send, our funding and our cash, but also ourselves to show up and work alongside you is the kind of partnership we want to deepen further,” she said.


Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who was also at the roundtable said TEF and ICRC have remained focused on giving African talents a faster route to prosperity.

He said working with TEF “is one of the most interesting aspects of partnering in a completely new way together, bringing a young generation out of dependency and out of conflict”.


Maurer noted that the TEF model of giving grants to women entrepreneurs is a good way to go, adding that “if you want your money to be felt in an impactful way in Africa, give it to women”.

Representatives from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United States government, present at the event, also lauded TEF’s drive across the African continent.

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