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Tony O. Elumelu (born March 22, 1963) is a Nigerian economist, banker, investor and philanthropist. Elumelu is Chairman of Heirs Holdings, an African proprietary investment firm. He is also the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an Africa-based and African-funded not-for-profit organisation (NPO) that is dedicated to the promotion and celebration of excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa. Elumelu holds the Nigerian national honour, the Commander of the Order of Nigeria (CON). New African magazine recently listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in Africa.
Elumelu was born in Jos, Nigeria, in 1963. He has two degrees in Economics from Nigerian schools. His Bachelor degree was from the Bendel State University and he has a Master of Science degree, also in Economics, from the University of Lagos. He is an alumnus of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Programme. Tony Elumelu married Awele V. Elumelu, a medical doctor, in 1993 and has five daughters. He has four siblings including the Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, a member of the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives.
Elumelu began his professional banking career in 1985. He founded BGL Limited, an asset management company and became the pioneer Chief Executive Officer. In 1997, he led a group of investors and turn-around experts to reposition the then distressed Crystal Bank into the Standard Trust Bank.
In 2005, he led the acquisition and subsequent merger of the smaller Standard Trust Bank with the old United Bank for Africa (UBA). This acquisition by a smaller company was a first in the African sub-region. The integration was also done, remarkably, in record time. He conceived of and executed UBA’s 3 tier approach to financial sector dominance in Africa. He was the mastermind behind UBA’s spread to 20 African countries and expansions in the US, the UK and France. With him at the helm, the bank received an "A" rating in the annual rating of banks worldwide, with an estimated brand value of US$322 million and a listing as one of Africa’s 40 fastest growing companies (the African Challengers) in 2010 by the Boston Consulting Group. He retired from UBA in August 2010, following a Central Bank of Nigeria limitation on CEO tenure.
Elumelu founded the African proprietary investment company Heirs Holdings after his retirement from United Bank for Africa. The company states its investment policy as being targeted at opportunities that will create economic prosperity and social wealth in Africa. Heirs Holdings is a long-term investor and is characterised by its deployment of patient capital. The company’s favoured investment sectors are financial services, health care, infrastructure, real estate & hospitality, agriculture, and oil & gas. In 2011, Heirs Holdings gained a controlling interest in the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc, a conglomerate that operates in the Energy, Agribusiness and Hospitality sectors.
Following his retirement from United Bank for Africa in July 2010, Elumelu founded The Tony Elumelu Foundation. His stated objective was to “prove that the African private sector can itself be the primary generator of economic development.” The Foundation sets out to promote and celebrate excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa. Its approach is different from traditional grant-making organisations as it does not focus only on grant-giving but advocates the use of market tools to solve previously intractable social problems.
Elumelu is the originator of the term Africapitalism. According to him, Africapitalism is an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through long-term investments that create both economic prosperity and social wealth. Elumelu sees Africans taking charge of the value-adding sectors and ensuring that those value-added processes happen in Africa, not through nationalisation or government policies, but because there is a generation of private sector entrepreneurs who have the vision, the tools and the opportunity to shape the destiny of the continent. He insists that Africapitalism is not capitalism with an African twist; it is a rallying cry for empowering the private sector to drive Africa’s economic and social growth.
Elumelu subscribes to Michael Porter’s concept of Creating Shared Value (CSV). He studied under Professor Porter at Harvard Business School and Professor Porter is the Founding Patron of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. CSV refers to the idea that “companies must take the lead in bringing business and society back together.” It asserts that “businesses acting as businesses, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues (society) face(s).”
In 2003, the Federal Government of Nigeria granted Tony Elumelu the title of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), a national honour. In 2006, Elumelu was voted African Business Leader of The Year by the Africa Investor magazine and was recognised African Banker of the Year in 2008 by the African Banker magazine. In 2009, the Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar'adua asked him to serve on the Presidential Committee on the Global Financial Crisis.
Elumelu contributed an article to the book How to Excel at Work - Proven strategies for achieving superior work performance by Bili A. Odum. He also contributed to the Nigeria Leadership Initiative White Papers, writing on Leveraging private sector approaches in transforming government delivery.
The Power of Vision: Insights on Tony Elumelu is a testimonial compiled on the occasion of his retirement as Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer at the United Bank for Africa. It contains messages from Aliko Dangote, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Professor Michael Porter, former World Bank Managing Director and Nigeria’s Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, President of Sierra Leone; Ernest Bai Koroma, former United States Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.