Tony Elumelu: The Business Guru

Tony Elumelu is a renowned Nigerian and African businessman, economist, trader, and investor. He is popularly regarded as the (retired) president of the United Bank of Africa, UBA; the new president of Heirs Holdings; and Transcorp, the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and a genuine philanthropist.

Born Tony Onyeamaechi Elumelu, he was responsible for the development of businesses across the continent.

Tony began his career as a salesman, a copy salesman to be exact. A young, hungry, hard-working Nigerian graduate who knew he was just one of thousands of young Nigerian graduates eager to succeed. His life was formed by hard work, determination, a long-term vision-but also by chance.

Tony Elumelu was born on 22 March 1963 in Jos, Plateau State, and raised by his parents as an entrepreneur. His mother, Suzanne Elumelu, owned restaurants and was a big customer chain distributor, while his father’s name was Dominic Elumelu.

While Tony was born in Jos, he was raised in Onicha-Ukwu, Aniocha, North of the Delta State Local Government Area. He was born with four of his siblings, one of them is into politics.

Hon Ndudi Elumelu was formerly a member of the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives.

Tony Elumelu earned an honors degree from Ambrose Alli University – originally known as Bendel State University – and Lagos State University at both the bachelor and master’s degrees in economics.

He continued to gain additional academic exposure from business schools in Harvard, USA; the International Institute for Management Development IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland; and the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM).

Elumelu’s career started when he applied to join Allstates Trust Bank a year after gaining his Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Lagos (UNILAG).

He applied with a degree of 2:2 Economics (Second Class, lower division) given the Bank’s requirement-at least 2:1 degree (Second Class, upper-division).

“I know I might not have met the qualification standards for the positions advertised, but I’m smart, motivated, ambitious, and I’m going to make the bank proud. My 2:2 degree may not reflect the full extent of my intellect and ability, and I know I can do so much more,” read his cover letter.

At the time, the word caught the attention of the Chairman / CEO, who agreed to give him a chance despite not being qualified.
He was the youngest bank branch manager at the time in 12 months. It is attributed to his bosses Toyin Akin-Johnson and Ebitimi Banigo. “They took a gamble on me by naming me as branch manager for an incredibly short period in the bank. My rise to Branch Manager in a short time is a fantastic story, but I know in my heart I was fortunate, as well as deserving,” he writes.

He adds that this job laid the groundwork for the rest of his career, including when he led a small group of investors to take over Crystal Bank in 1997.

Today, Elumelu says he’s committed to supporting others, which is why he launched his foundation in 2010.
He says, “I vowed to harness the success I achieved, spread luck and hope, provide opportunities and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs to succeed.” Without luck in my early career, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. I am a mentor and a philanthropist today since I met people who gave me a chance at the beginning of my career.”

Tony Elumelu is married to Awele Vivien Elumelu, a medical doctor. He married in 1993 and has seven children; five girls and two boys (twins).

Then he made a big breakthrough as an African entrepreneur when he led the biggest merger in the banking sector in Sub-Saharan Africa to acquire the United Bank for Africa (UBA) – a bank that was later turned into a Pan-African institution by attracting more than seven million customers in 19 African countries.

After retiring from UBA in 2010, Elumelu founded the Heir Holdings – a company that invests in financial services, energy, real estate and hospitality, healthcare, and agribusiness.

In 2011, Heir Holdings gained a majority stake in the Transnational Company of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp).
As a prolific investor, Mr. Elumelu was named one of the business leaders as the first African member of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Private Capital Group for Africa (PCGA) Partners Forum on 24 September 2012.

This was shortly after he was promoted to the rank of Senior Investor Advisor in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

He is Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian National Competitiveness Council (NCCN) and Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute Dialog Series on Global Food Safety.

At the invitation of the Federal Government and the Presidential Jobs Board, Mr. Elumelu chaired the Ministerial Committee to develop world-class hospitals and diagnostic centers across Nigeria.

Elumelu was a co-chairman between 11 to 13 May 2016 for the 26th World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali, Rwanda.
He founded the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an African-based and African-funded philanthropy organization.

The goal of the foundation is to prove that the private sector in Africa can be the primary source of economic growth.
Mr. Elumelu has received several distinctions, including the National Honor of Commander of the Order of Niger (CON); Africa’s 20 Most Powerful Persons by Forbes Magazine; the Africa-American Institute (AAI) Leadership Award for Business and Philanthropy; African Business Icon at the 2013 African Business Distinctions; ESI Most Influential Individuals in African Power’s List, 2015;
A Lifetime Achievement Award on 21 April 2016 at the 5th Annual Forum Academy 2016 of the National Council of Employers, General Confederation of Enterprises of Côte d’Ivoire (CGECI) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

It is also considered to be the first African to receive the Dwight D. Eisenhower Global Entrepreneurship Award.

The Jos-born multibillionaire is reported to have a net worth of $1.98 billion that he is expected to build on his various business platforms.

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