In an interview on CNN’s One World with Zain Asher, Nigerian businessman and philanthropist Tony Elumelu discussed the road to economic prosperity for Africa and how climate change is at the forefront of the conversation on energy in Africa.
Elumelu urged the US to invest in African entrepreneurs and said that the private sector is key to the continent’s success. He told Asher, “We have to catalyse and encourage young African, young Nigerians to go into entrepreneurship, to embrace entrepreneurship as a way of helping them serve their communities and the country.”
With the upcoming elections in Nigeria, Asher asked Elumelu what the country needs from political leadership to unleash the country’s potential. Elumelu replied that the main issue is dealing with insecurity, “We need to deal with insecurity in the country. There’s so much private capital looking for right investment destination in the world, that capital will not come to Nigeria if we do not fix insecurity in the country. We need to make sure that we have improved on infrastructure.”
Elumelu also said that Nigeria must address crude oil theft, calling it “a major issue”.
The investor went on to discuss the impact of the climate crisis and the disadvantage that African countries face, “We think that there should be a different kind of conversation, that you allow developing countries, especially Nigeria, or the African countries to come up a bit. So there should be a deal to encourage, support, control costs.”
ZAIN ASHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Earlier I spoke with Tony Elumelu, one of the country’s most famous businessmen and philanthropist, I asked him what it will take to help the continent prosper, Africa as a whole and the international community’s role in that.
So, the US Secretary of State and Antony Blinken did a virtual visit of Nigeria just last year where he talked about the importance of trade, you know, good governance, economic development, does the US have a role in creating a much more economically empowered Africa? And if so, what do you think that role should be?
TONY ELUMELU: Good to meet you, Zain. Yes, I think that United States has a key role to play in helping to catalyse economic development and prosperity in Nigeria and in Africa. The tie between Nigeria, Africa and US is very strong. Every kid grows up in Nigeria and Africa, wanting, aspiring to be to be like an American, a strong cultural legacy. And I believe that our political leadership defer a lot to also America. I need to be nice for America to realise its role in in his role and influence in Africa, and that can be governed as more positively in helping to catalyse development.
ASHER: Yeah, so the government has a key role, as you point out in creating an enabling environment. But when you think about right now, the ease of doing business in Nigeria, I mean, it’s still quite problematic from inflation to the energy crisis, to unemployment. I mean, there are all sorts of headwinds for young entrepreneurs. What do you think the role of the private sector is in creating a much more business friendly environment for dynamic and creative young entrepreneurs to thrive?
ELUMELU: I speak from experience at the Tony Elumelu Foundation, which my family founded in 2010. We have to catalyse and encourage young African, young Nigerians to go into entrepreneurship, to embrace entrepreneurship as a way of helping them serve their communities and the country. And one of the areas I believe the private sector may also play a role and government impact also will be to help to catalyse luck, to help to monetise luck, to help share part of their prosperity with this young, upcoming Africa, Nigeria so that all of us collectively can do more in helping to eradicate poverty helping to drive youth employment, in helping to catalyse employment, the minor scale that one single corporate cannot do.
ASHER: Nigeria has a general election about nine or so months from now. What do you think the country needs from new leadership in order to unleash the country’s full economic potential?
ELUMELU: We need to deal with insecurity in the country. There’s so much private capital looking for right investment destination in the world, that capital will not come to Nigeria if we do not fix insecurity in the country. We need to make sure that we have improved on infrastructure, crude oil production has gone down because of tariffs in the Niger Delta area. We need to fix that. There’s so much happening in the world in terms of oil prices gone up, and my country is not benefiting from this. Because…
ASHER: When you when you say, Tony, that we need to fix the issue when it comes to crude oil theft. I mean, you’ve spoken about this a lot. You’ve been very, very adamant about that. What specifically should the government be doing now?
ELUMELU: So it’s a major issue. And I believe that the government should continue to emphasise this so that we can, the oil is our common wealth in the country. And if you will stealing this common wealth of the country, problem, it is not good. And I believe this will be keeping government up at night. So, we need to engage a security agency to do what they should do to help protect the integrity of the country by making sure that is likely to happen. Broad daylight, is totally unacceptable.
ASHER: As you know, climate change is a huge problem for Africa, because Africa contributed the least to climate change, but it’s set to bear the brunt of it. You’ve invested heavily in Nigeria’s energy sector, how long before renewable sources of energy become a major player in Nigeria’s power sector.
ELUMELU: You know, Zain, the truth is we should do. We are suffering so much access to electricity, as I said in Nigeria is extremely poor carbon emission in this part of the world, totaling less than 2%. So we’re not even at the point where we should be talking about this. However, it’s important as members of the global community that the climate change effect is real. But we think that there should be a different kind of conversation, that you allow developing countries, especially Nigeria, or the African countries to come up a bit. So there should be a deal to encourage, support control costs, if we don’t renewable, to a large extent, is limited in terms of capability or capacity to support the energy consumption that we need, and in this part of the world to even come to the basic level that others have experienced in other parts of the world…
ASHER: Tony, I think the issue is, is that because the climate crisis is an emergency right now, a lot of the coastal communities across Africa are going to suffer, they’re already suffering, actually, but they’re going to suffer even more, they’re going to pay a very, very high price because of climate change. We’re talking about villages being destroyed, livelihoods and lives being lost at an ever increasing rapid rate. So given what you’re saying, what sort of assistance can the international community provide to Africa to Nigeria, especially since you’re obviously from Nigeria, to make sure that you can meet the climate crisis as fully equipped and as prepared as you can possibly be?
ELUMELU: You know, Zain, we soften the impact of this climate crisis, by receiving much more than we’re contributing or have contributed to it. And that, to me, is a major conversation that should be held in the area of energy financing. We need a deal that supports African institutions and African economies to live, to come, to address this issue. We need to see support in the area of, again, as I said, access to electricity is so critical to Africa, and funding, content funding energy to Africa is stifling the entire continent to Nigeria. So we need to see in Nigeria a deal that prioritises and encourage and support energy funding.
ASHER: Tony Elumelu, thank you so much. Thank you, sir.