Tony Elumelu is one man, but he wears many hats; husband, father, mentor, entrepreneur, investor, chairman, AFRI capitalist, economist, and the king of soft life. Indeed, he is a Colossus.
In the aftermath of his 60th birthday, this article celebrates Tony Elumelu, and the many hats he wears.
In the Beginning: Early life and Education
Anthony Onyemaechi Elumelu, fondly called TOE by his closest friends and associates, was on born 22 March 1963 in Jos, Plateau, Nigeria, to Suzanne and Dominic Elumelu from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State. He is one of the five children his parents are blessed with.
Tony Elumelu attended Ambrose Ali University where he bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and then proceeded to the University of Lagos where he was awarded a Master of Science degree in Economics. Ambitious man that he is, he continued his educational plight to the prestigious Harvard Business School for an advanced management programme.
Elumelu worked in the Nigerian veteran Bank, Union Bank as a Youth Corp member during his National Youth Service Corps in 1985, before starting his career as a salesman.
He came into the limelight in 1997 when he led a small group of investors to take over a small, floundering commercial bank in Lagos. He turned it profitable within a few years and in 2005 he merged it with the United Bank for Africa.
Tony became a bank chief executive at the age of 34, one of the youngest in the industry at that time. Upon retiring in 2010 from the United Bank for Africa after the Central Bank of Nigeria’s directives limiting bank chiefs to 10 years, he founded Heirs Holdings.
In 2010 he set up Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) a nonprofit organization designed to assist entrepreneurs in Africa and groomed them into leaders in the private sector.
The Present: Business Interests and Holdings
As of today, Tony Elumelu is one of Africa’s leading investors, entrepreneurs and philanthropists. He is worth over 1.98 billion USD.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation is the leading champion of entrepreneurship in Africa. Its main objective is to empower women and men across the African continent, catalysing economic growth, driving poverty eradication and ensuring job creation.
Inspired by Tony’s economic philosophy of Africa’s capitalism which positions the private sector as the key enabler of economic and social wealth creation in Africa, the foundation committed $100m in a 10-year programme to fund, mentor and train African entrepreneurs. So far, the Tony Elumelu Foundation has trained, mentored, and funded over 15,847 young African entrepreneurs across all 54 African countries through its Entrepreneurship Programmes, and provides capacity-building support, advisory and market linkages to over 1 million Africans through its digital networking platform, TEF Connect.
As the Founder and Chairman of Heirs Holdings, his family-owned investment company, an upstream oil and gas company, whose assets include Nigerian oil block OML17, with a current production capacity of 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and 2P reserves of 1.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent, with an additional 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent resources of further exploration potential. The Foundation is active in 54 African countries.
Tony is committed to improving lives and transforming Africa, through long-term investments in strategic sectors of the African economy, including financial services, hospitality, power, energy, technology and healthcare.
Tony is also the Chairman of the pan-African financial services group, the United Bank for Africa (UBA), which operates in 20 countries across Africa, the United Kingdom, France, and the UAE, and is the only African bank with a commercial deposit-taking presence in the United States, with $2 billion market capitalization and well over 10,000 workforces across and $12billon in assets.
He also chairs Nigeria’s largest conglomerate, Transcorp, whose subsidiaries include Transcorp Power, one of the leading producers of electricity in Nigeria and Transcorp Hotels Plc, Nigeria’s foremost hospitality brand.
Tony also owns extensive real estate across Nigeria and a minority stake in mobile telecom firm MTN Nigeria, among other assets.
He sits on a number of public and social sector boards including the World Economic Forum Community of Chairmen and the Global Board of UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited.
Awards and Recognition
• He was conferred with the title of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (MFR) in 2003
• He was recognized as banker of the year by African Banker Magazine in 2008
• He was recognized as one of Africa’s 20 Most Powerful People in 2012 by Forbes magazine
• In 2016, he was voted by Investor Magazine as African leader of the year.
• He was named in the 2020 Time 100 Most Influential People in the World, recognised for his business leadership and economic empowerment of young Africans.
• On 11 October 2022, Elumelu received the National honour of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Love of Family
Tony is married to Awele Vivien Elumelu. The couple has seven children. His love for family is obvious in his public display of affection for his family across most social media platforms. Despite his busy life as an entrepreneur, he makes out moments to spend time with his family and they are often photographed vacationing together or simply enjoying quality family time in their home.
Golden Nuggets that Define Tony
‘A true leader is one who remains committed to a higher purpose that most others do not yet see’.
‘Things are only impossible if you believe them to be so. Impossibility must never originate with you, always have an open mind, be relentless and apply energy & tenacity and I can assure you that you are more than likely to succeed’.
‘With great responsibility must also come great humility. Leadership means that you are first among equals so you must not lord it over others’.
‘Good leaders listen and if you want to be an even better leader you must listen even more. As a leader, you must protect the corporate above yourself’.
‘You must be humble to succeed’.
Tony Elumelu’s great success in entrepreneurship and leadership is indeed a legacy and pathway for the next generation.