Championing Equality & Youth Empowerment on A Global Scale

At the Abu Dhabi Health Leaders Forum on Monday, I shared in my opening remarks that wealthy countries, large pharmaceutical companies, the social, private, and public sectors must come together to ensure equity and equality in health outcomes.  

Following the forum, I traveled to London to host Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, and other leaders in a private reception, fostering dialogue and partnerships to empower more young African men and women. 

It was a remarkable day; one that signals hope and our unwavering commitment to unlock the full potential of young African entrepreneurs. 

Africa has a population of about 1.3 billion people with 65% under 30 years. They are energetic, intelligent, and hardworking. They all want to succeed. The missing link is the capital to start their entrepreneurial journey. This is why we identify, mentor, and fund young entrepreneurs to create value in their communities. 

I emphasised the following points at the reception: 

1. “The World Food Programme is indeed making the world a better place. A hungry man is an angry man; if a man is angry, you can not have peace. So, what the World Food Programme is doing is fundamental.”  

2. “We want to see a world where everyone believes and sees that they have a future. And that is what brings us, as a foundation, and you and your wonderful organisation together. We want to see a better world. We know that it is through collaboration with institutions and great minds like yourselves that we can make the world a better place.” 

3. “We want to see a better world – the world and especially our young ones are in dire need of hope. Hope helps to make people, even, in difficult circumstances to persevere, to be resilient.” 

4. “Realising that in the 21st century, what counts is not how much we have in our bank accounts. And what counts is the lives we are able to touch, impact, how we are able to impact humanity positively, give hope to people who never had it.”  

5. “My motivation comes from wanting to democratize luck – looking at my background and realizing that it’s by luck I got to where I’m today and asking myself how can I pay it forward, how can I make sure that those who have ideas are able to succeed in spite of their background.”  

6. “My wife and I founded the Tony Elumelu Foundation in 2010 and endowed it with $100m to empower young Africans. Looking back, this is the best investment I have ever made in my life – The joy you get when you see you’re giving hope, inspiration, and motivation to others cannot be quantified, it’s my best ROI.” 

Cindy McCain, Executive Director, World Food Programme emphasised the following points: 

1. “There are not many visionaries or people who can wear the tag of humanitarian, but you can. And why is that so important? Because a true humanitarian understands that it’s not just about the people, although it affects them, but it is about ensuring everyone has equal access to food, clothing, shelter, and education. And that is what you do. Thank you for that.”  

2. “What keeps me up at night is trying to figure out how to take food from the hungry and give it to the starving because we have not had the ability or enough money to do that. That is why I am here, not only because the Tony Elumelu Foundation is an incredible opportunity for young people but also because it is an incredible opportunity to work with the private sector. We can no longer depend on governments to do the job; we simply can’t. We have to include the private sector, and we want the private sector involved because your ideas, your values, and your thinking outside the box are so important. It is too important for the private sector not only to have a say in what is going on or the opportunity to be a part of the solution and to fix what is wrong from a food standpoint.”  

3. “Most small-scale farmers around the world are women. That is why what you do is so important: you support women entrepreneurs who are farmers or do other things. It is all about communities, working with communities, saving communities in some way, making sure they are self-sufficient, and ensuring they don’t have to migrate, leave their homes or communities and can educate their children.” 

4. You have an organisation in front of you that is dedicated to making sure that the world is a better place. I want you to believe in what we believe. I want you to see what we do and understand what we do because it is too important not to.  

5. “Making sure that food and food security is number one. It is a national security issue. This is not a woman’s issue or something that should be on the back burner. It is the issue in the world right now. And we need to keep people’s feet to the fire. And that’s what I do pretty much every day.”  

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