Tony O. Elumelu is an investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He grew
up in Jos in a loving family. Today, he is the Founder and Chairman of
family-owned investment company, Heirs Holdings, committed to improving
lives and transforming Africa, and founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation,
which is empowering African entrepreneurs.
Education and the Beginning of Entrepreneurship
Nigerian-born and Nigerian-trained, Tony began his career as a copier salesman. He spent most of his career life in banking, rising from the position of an analyst to become the CEO of pan-African financial services group, United Bank for Africa.
In 2010, Tony left banking to the next chapter of his life as an investor and a philanthropist, channelling his passion, commitment, and dedication to realising the development of the African continent. Tony's investments span a wide range of sectors and are spread across 20 African countries and beyond. Tony is married to Dr Awele Vivien Elumelu. They are blessed with seven lovely children.
The TurnAround Expert
A year after earning his Master's degree in Economics from the
University of Lagos, Tony applied to join Allstates Trust Bank, despite not meeting the qualification criteria. By a stroke of luck, the CEO of the bank came across his application letter, and he was handpicked to
interview. He subsequently got the job.
At 26, Tony was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to become a
branch manager at AllStates Trust Bank, making him the youngest bank branch manager in the country at the time. This opportunity influenced his life, prompting him to give young employees the same opportunity he was given. Tony's success in this role ignited his passion for investing in the lives of young people.
Tony's accomplishments became public when he achieved the
seemingly impossible. He was relatively unknown in the Nigerian
banking industry when he acquired a distressed financial institution,
Crystal Bank and became its CEO; an action that earned him and his
circle of peers, the endearing nickname - "the cowboys of banking".
Audacious at 34 – and the country's youngest banking CEO – he
renamed the struggling bank Standard Trust Bank (STB) and pursued an aggressive strategy that catapulted STB from obscurity into becoming Nigeria's fifth-largest bank within seven years.
The biggest merger in sub-Saharan Africa
In 2005, Tony made history again when he led the biggest merger in sub-Saharan Africa at the time combining Standard Trust Bank Plc with the older, more established United Bank for Africa (UBA), which at the time was Nigeria's 3rd largest financial services institution. In less than ten years, he transformed UBA from a single-country bank to a pan-African institution with over 1million customers, operations in 20 African countries, and offices in Paris, London, and New York. This action sealed his reputation as a business turnaround expert and one of Africa's most influential business leaders.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation
In 2010, Tony left UBA to replicate his turnaround success across various
industries. Armed with the knowledge, expertise, and understanding of
economic opportunities that exist in Africa, he founded Heirs Holdings
(HH) in 2010. Heirs Holdings is a family-owned African proprietary
investment company 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. Today, HH and its investee companies
employ over 30,000 people, while empowering thousands more across
Tony also set up The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) in the same year as
an extension of his unwavering belief in the youth as catalysts for
Africa's transformation. The Tony Elumelu Foundation has become the
hallmark for Africa's sustainable development and a leading champion
of youth entrepreneurship on the continent. It lives its mission,
empowering young African entrepreneurs, through its flagship
Entrepreneurship Programme, a 10-year $100 million commitment to
identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 young African entrepreneurs
across 54 African countries. Since inception, the Foundation has funded
just under 10,000 entrepreneurs and created a digital ecosystem of
over one million Africans.
Tony's businesses and Foundation are inspired by his economic
philosophy of Africapitalism, which positions the private sector, and
most importantly, entrepreneurs, as the catalyst for the social and
economic development of the African continent. He galvanises
support for the Foundation's mandate by addressing world leaders at
public and private convenings, as well as serving on sector and issue-
specific global, regional, and local councils and committees. Some of
the boards include the Global Advisory Council of the Harvard
Kennedy School's Centre for Public Leadership, World Economic Forum
Community of Chairmen and the Global Board of UNICEF's Generation
Unlimited. He was named in the 2020 Time100 Most Influential People in
the World, and honoured with Belgium’s highest national honour recognised for his business leadership and economic
empowerment of young Africans.