Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nigerian businessman/banker promotes local entrepreneurship

Tony Elumelu, a successful Nigerian businessman, has started a foundation and invested $5 million with colleagues in 1997 to buy a weak Nigerian bank and then merge it with another group to become the most significant bank in West Africa. His approach is to encourage African businesses to promote economic growth and thereby to alleviate poverty. He calls this promoting of entrepreneurship "Africacapitalism". The effort combines supporting entrepreneurship, advocating government policies friendly to new enterprises, and providing capital to business with social purposes. (see "The Giveaway," by Caroline Preston,, May 30, 2012)

This African-led approach is spreading throughout the continent through the Tony Elumelu Foundation, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (originating in the Sudan, but headquartered in London), and other African-led efforts. For more on African self-reliance approaches, see

Empowering local people is central for international aid

American foreign aid under Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and USAID has moved from just feeding the hungry to "providing tools to spur long-term economic growth," according to Dan Glickman (NY Times, letter to the Editor, July 23, 2012). The writer, who was agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration and is now chairman of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, reports that the current emphasis in the Obama administration is agriculture development, just as global health was the priority in the George W. Bush administration.

I have always advocated international aid that empowers local people rather than keeping them dependent on foreign experts or on handouts ever since I spent a year doing research on UNDP assistance to Uganda and Tanzania in the 1960s and published the results in Multilateral Aid for National Development and Self-Reliance.

The results can be significant. Glickman reports many African economies are growing 5 to 7 percent a year, which benefits Africans. It also strengthens potential markets and allies for the US.