Tony Elumelu on “Democratizing Luck”
In this podcast episode, the investor explains why he’s dedicating his life to helping others.
“Entrepreneurship is in my DNA. In my own life journey, I’ve come to appreciate the significance of entrepreneurship in transforming communities, countries, societies, and humanity.” Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian businessman, billionaire, philanthropist, and champion of African entrepreneurs, is a steadfast believer that the private sector has a role to play in developing countries across Africa.
Now, after a career running United Bank of Africa, Elumelu says he has decided “to commit the second phase of my life to helping democratize the luck that I had growing up, to help expand access to opportunities.” And he has done just that, funding thousands of early-stage startups and empowering more than 15,000 entrepreneurs across 54 African countries to solve the continent’s biggest problems.
In this View From The Top interview at Stanford GSB, Chisom Obi-Okoye, MBA ’22, interviews Elumelu about his career path, philosophy of African capitalism, and vision for the future of the continent.
Stanford GSB’s View From The Top is the dean’s premier speaker series. It launched in 1978 and is supported in part by the F. Kirk Brennan Speaker Series Fund.
During student-led interviews and before a live audience, leaders from around the world share insights on effective leadership, their personal core values, and lessons learned throughout their career.
Tony Elumelu: Entrepreneurship is in my DNA. In my own life journey, I’ve come to appreciate the significance of entrepreneurship in transforming communities, families, and countries.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: Welcome to View From The Top, the podcast. That was Tony Elumelu, founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. Tony visited Stanford Graduate School of Business as part of View From the Top, a speaker series where students, like me, sit down to interview business leaders from around the world. I’m Chisom Obi-Okoye, an MBA student of the class of 2022. This year I had the pleasure of interviewing Tony on campus. Tony spoke to us about his commitment to building Africa’s future by investing in entrepreneurship and, as he would say, “democratizing luck.” He also discussed his work in financial inclusion and in strengthening Africa’s energy sector. You’re listening to View From The Top, the podcast.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: Hi, Tony, it’s so great to have you here. Thank you for being with us today. You are one of the most celebrated and most decorated business leaders in Africa, and I would posit the world, so it’s truly an honor to be able to host you at Stanford this afternoon.
Tony Elumelu: Thank you very much.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: We watched a video earlier where we learned a little bit about the Foundation, which we’ll speak about towards the later half of the interview. But we saw there that you were such a supporter and such an advocate of entrepreneurship, which isn’t really a surprise because your parents were entrepreneurs. I’m curious to know how seeing them build businesses at a young age influenced you and impacted your journey.
Tony Elumelu: Well, I’m pleased and honored to be with you all today, Stanford, great university. And a team from this university visited the Tony Elumelu Foundation before the pandemic I think, and I was quite impressed. They were on time. It’s hard with the chaotic traffic situation in Lagos. And their research work are so very, very impressive. So for me coming back here is such an honor. I have a great impression of your school.
Entrepreneurship is in my DNA. I preach entrepreneurship. I encourage entrepreneurship. I also try to catalyze more entrepreneurs in Africa because in my own life journey I’ve come to appreciate the significance and importance of entrepreneurship in transforming families, in transforming self, in transforming communities, in transforming countries, societies, and humanity entirely.
And when we founded the Tony Elumelu Foundation it was driven by the need and urgency to help catalyze development in Africa and the skill that’s sustainable, realizing for that entrepreneurship is a way to that. I was privileged, lucky, blessed to have been mentored in this journey of entrepreneurship, first by my parents, especially my mom who was an entrepreneur, small scale.
But the lessons I imbibed watching her, supporting her, continue to help me to date, and it’s also critical in the message and address I give to young entrepreneurs. I learned from her about hard work. She was extremely, extremely hard working at the time, to date, she just turned 94 and she’s still very hard working. She will cook for me, [unintelligible] food, and I’m like, “Mom, I have somebody to cook for me.” But that spirit in her remains ever so strong.
She was disciplined, and I’ve come to realize that in this journey of entrepreneurship discipline, not only in entrepreneurship, in everything in life discipline is critical for success. She was extremely tenacious, and I’ve come to see, and I preach this too, that the journey of entrepreneurship is not a linear journey, it’s up and down. But if you’re tenacious, if you are resilient, you’ll cross the finishing line. So those are part of the early learnings from my parents.
My mom and my dad long ago told us, and it is in my brain to date, that if you earn a dollar and you’re unable to save, if you earn a billion dollars you will save anything. So that for me, the first lesson in capital formation, capital formation starts from savings. If you do not save you don’t have money to invest. If you don’t invest you remain where you are. So these lessons have helped me in the journey of entrepreneurship.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: So let’s fast forward a few years. You graduate from the University with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in economics. You then proceed to become one of the youngest bank branch managers in Nigeria, typically a job reserved for people who are in their 50s or 60s. You become the managing director of one of the biggest banks in Nigeria. And then 2005 comes around and you are being asked to help lead what becomes like the biggest merger in Nigeria’s corporate history.
What were some of the challenges that you faced during that time, and which leadership principles did you stay rooted in as you were guiding this process?
Tony Elumelu: At the time quite a lot of challenges but just to contextualize to understand it, we took over a distressed bank, called Standard Trust Bank in 1997, and in 2005 we merged Standard Trust Bank and United Bank for Africa. But before the merger there was an acquisition. Standard Trust acquired a significant interest in United Bank for Africa that were made, and I emerged as CEO. So first we saw United Bank for Africa was almost 70 years old as an institution and kept set ways of doing things.
Their need to adoption was not so strong, and so at that time it took people months to read mails in that. And so the server delivery in those days the old generation banks were not so strong on server delivery. We were coming from a bank that was so strong with server delivery and technology, young people, et cetera. So the bank was the size of less than 1,800 people, and the United Bank for Africa had about 12,000 staff.
These 1,800 younger, technologically advanced, and this was an older and very big bank. So it was not easy integrating, because, as you see, corporate mergers, the legal combination is not the issue. The difficult part is the people integration, the culture integration, that is the tough part. And so, and if you can see from history most corporate institutions, it takes so many years to integrate people and culture.
And if you do not integrate people and culture properly, you lose the major value levels. So we were mindful of this. I wanted to make sure we were able to merge, integrate, and this was a financial institution that was like you merge, one, the customers don’t care whether, they want to be set, the same institution, they moved on. So it’s tough integrating our people, merging our people, merging cultures. Old cultures still set in their ways, and it’s bye-bye younger culture.
But therein lies the interesting aspect of the combination of the job. I said to people my elder brother who is seven years older than me, he doesn’t have gray hair. I have gray hair, my gray hair definitely comes from the merger because making it work, serving your customers, making sure that everyone in the universal institution, which was we had 420 branches at the time, that the same level of service across board. Across the board, so Standard Trust vendors were used to a certain level of some delivery.
You don’t want them to come to the new institution and have a drop, so we just had to make sure that service, we put our customers, and that’s why today United Bank for Africa, which interestingly has grown from a one-country bank to a bank operating in 20 African countries, with a presence also in Paris, London, recently Dubai, and the only African bank with a presence in the US as a [unintelligible] institution.
It started small, it has grown that big, and that experience during the merger continued to guide all we do, especially how we prioritize our customers and how we prioritize our people. So obviously the biggest lesson from that combination was making our people, integrating our people and our culture, was realizing that especially in the service sector where you sell intangibles, so to speak, it is very important that your core family, your workforce, that they are fully aligned, totally integrated, and positively mobilized and motivated.
If you lack this, you can’t make progress. And those lessons from the early days, you know resilience, hard work, discipline, staying focused, prioritizing people, have all helped us in creating today’s United Bank for Africa.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: And as you mentioned, you all were able to do that very successfully. You expanded from being a single-country bank to one that operates in more than 20 countries in Africa, and then has an impact and influence and reach in other countries as well. Many of us are interested in working in emerging markets or are building, developing products or services for the emerging markets, or one emerging market to begin with.
I’m curious to know how did you evaluate which markets to enter when you were expanding United Bank for Africa, and how do you determine when is the right time to do so?
Tony Elumelu: So first is most times people see the empty part of the glass. At times we see also the full part of the glass. You always have difficulties and challenges in almost every sector, especially countries you want to go into. So when we decided to expand into Africa, the story was first we thought that we had mastered the art of serving customers, because that’s what banking is about. Banking is about serving your customers, all about customers, customers, customers, and realizing that to serve your customers you must have a mobilized workforce, that’s aligned with those mission and a mission that you see for the group.
So we felt looking at the African landscape that we had opportunities. We thought Nigeria was the largest economy in Africa, and we thought that the level of banking, or service support, was very high and that we should leverage this and spread across the continent. And we had to decide which countries should we go to.
How do we decide a country, microeconomy, stability, policies, et cetera, for exchange policies you know is between business and country, taxation policies in countries, and the demography of a country, because we were quite set that we would also like to support small- and medium-scale enterprises, you know that would be better for United Bank for Africa. And so using that we came up with 30 countries that met the internal criteria we set on.
We called it the UBA, we developed a UBA Red Book, how we wanted to expand Africa, issues to consider, et cetera. But in all of those issues the ease of doing business in countries was very critical. The population was also important. The GDP of countries, income per capita was important, ease of finding the right human capital to work with because, again, it’s a people business, so that was very important to us.
And we came up with all of this, we now tiered it. We had what we called, or we developed what we called the three tiers for strategic intent. Tier 1 was we wanted to be strong and endure; tier 2, be a leading pan-African bank; and tier 3, being a global, having presence in global financial centers, which is why we thought of London, Paris, New York, Dubai, it’s all part of our three tiers for strategic intent.
The second one [unintelligible] orchestrated in nice fashion in Africa, and on that was what strategy, do we do a country strategy or not, you know pass through or have presence in countries. And we decided that we needed to have presence in countries. And next was, okay, how do you, the countries, let’s tier the countries. Again, we used GDP as always in tiering the countries, and we said are we going to greenfield, brownfield, acquisition, mergers, how do you want to grow.
We decided that we’d do a combination of both. So in the countries we went to, some countries we acquired banks, some we merged, and some we started greenfield. And the journey so far so good, today the United Bank for Africa serves about 35 million customers in Africa and still growing. We’re helping to simplify payments on the continent. We’re helping to orchestrate trade transactions, intra-Africa trade transactions.
Prior to this time Africa did not trade with and amongst itself. We believed the reason Africa didn’t do this is continent issues, because of infrastructure, [unintelligible] infrastructure, and also making sure we support and capitalize small business [unintelligible] grew. So UBA has done quite a bit in this space, and most importantly financial inclusion, trying to make sure that everyone, a continent with about one billion people the banking population is not so high.
So to us it’s not just about banking or offering banking services, it’s about what we call the democratization of access to financial services. It’s about financial inclusion, so making sure that almost everyone, in my case we work so they have access to a banking facility, and that banking facilities. And that in some countries was spearheaded, I pioneered opening of bank accounts zero balances, because what’s important to us is to attract people.
We believe that in Africa we have [unintelligible] the continent is very large, and all of us should be involved in trying to formalize the formal economy, and this is one of the ways we are doing so through our banking services. In other areas of operation and as a group we’re trying to do the same thing. What we do at the Tony Elumelu Foundation is all again about helping to develop the continent, financial empowerment, taking opportunities to people irrespective of your [unintelligible], your level in society, where you live, whether urban or rural areas.
So those are things we need to keep doing to create a more inclusive society, especially in Africa.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: You alluded to this a little bit earlier, there’s a lot of innovation happening in the financial services industry, a lot of tech disrupters, and many of which are working towards that goal of democratizing access to financial services. What, like from your position as CEO and now Chairman of United Bank for Africa, how do you see the company collaborating or even competing with some of these disrupters, particularly thinking about new technologies like cryptocurrencies, peer-to-peer payment, et cetera?
Tony Elumelu: As far as I was CEO of UBA, the Chief Executive Officer of United Bank for Africa, about 12 years ago, so today I don’t see myself as a bank officer. I’m an investor, I invest in banking, in helping to provide access to electricity on the continent, and control resource deficit on the continent is important to preach from us to leapfrog and move the continent to the way it should be. With investors in health care sector we have realized that indeed health is wealth.
If the pandemic taught us one thing it is about prioritizing health and realizing that what the war couldn’t do health, or lack of it, can do it. Who would have thought that the entire world would go into a lockdown mode. I didn’t know that would happen in my lifetime. So investing in that sector. We’re investing in energy, you know the full energy chain, because, again, for a continent like Africa it’s critical for us for growth.
So for us, or for me, at this point I am not so much a banker, however as a group we’re realizing potential technology. You know the [unintelligible] disruption that we’ve seen in the world is real, and in Africa in particular thanks to the population of our continent we know that we have to catch up. If we don’t catch up we’re going to be left behind.
And for businesses, and business we also share with the United Bank for Africa, a lot of businesses, digital adoption is critical for our service delivery, for everything that we do. In the payment space, we lead in the payment space to digitalization through our partnership with Fintech and [unintelligible] just to make sure that we’re able to serve our customers. Today’s customers, they don’t need a bank, they don’t need a facilitator for payments, they need it to feel that it follows their lifestyle.
And banking is changing, it’s changing from the way we used to know banking so many years ago. Today you can sit in your [unintelligible] I tell you at United Bank for Africa to the letter we have [unintelligible] our customers. A few years ago, no, 2005 when we did the merger with Standard Trust and United Bank for Africa, all of 2004 UBA celebrated it was the first bank in Nigeria to have 32 ATMs, 32 ATMs in all of Nigeria. I did a major marketing to there were 32 ATMs.
And then the first bank also to payout one billion naira, our local currency, a billion naira in cash, then let’s just say 100 dollar, 100 naira dollar in cash to date. And then 97 percent of our customer transactions occurred in the banking hall. Today UBA opens about 500,000 accounts every month, and these accounts, 95 percent are opened online, not in the banking hall.
Number two, transaction count, we have over 98 percent of our customer transactions now occurring online, not in a banking hall, okay. In terms of ATMs, UBA alone, just UBA alone, has close to 4,000 ATMs in Nigeria, all from 32 ATMs, and, of course, PoS’s are countable, there were no PoS before. So things have changed, and banking, we’ve changed further. I mean, technology disrupting a lot of things, not just in the US, not only in the West, but everywhere.
Even health care now, in the health care sector today health care can be delivered digitally, online, and everything. So we live in a very, in a new world, and every one of us is adopting and adapting fast to the new world and we live in it.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: You mentioned energy a little earlier which makes me nervous because it seems as though you’re reading my mind because that’s where I want to go next. Last year the Africa Energy Chamber recognized you as one of the 25 most influential individuals in shaping Africa’s energy sector. I’m curious you know especially knowing that at Stanford sustainability and renewable energy and energy more broadly is a really important subject that gets studied here and talked about a lot.
What are the most pressing issues and solutions being discussed right now as relates to energy in Africa? And also I would love to know a little bit more about the work that you’re doing I believe through Transcorp to address this?
Tony Elumelu: So access to electricity is extremely poor in Africa. Less than 35 percent of our people have access to reliable electricity on the continent. This is a continent of young people, over 700 million people are young on the continent, under the age of 30, and yet access to electricity is almost impossible. These young ones are in a very competitive world. They’re going to compete with children who are used to 24/7 of uninterrupted electricity supply.
So the world we see ahead is actually frightening because the divide we want to breach is not the case happening in the digital space. It’s not happening because of lack of access to a reliable source of energy on the continent. And from the work we do at the Tony Elumelu Foundation from our close interaction with young Africans [unintelligible] we know, we can tell, we see, we hear, listen to them that access to electricity is a major hindrance, constraint on their ability to succeed.
This is why most, I’m sure at Stanford you must have seen this in your business research studies, that most small- and medium-scale enterprise on the continent die, they don’t succeed. The single most important factor for this is due to poor access to electricity. So to us as a group we believe in the concept of lots of Africa capitalism, which is a call on the private sector to play some role in the development of our continent. It’s the realization that the private sector has a role to play in developing the continent.
And in practicalizing this, and not just speaking to it, we decided that the power sector was critical for to invest in as we mobilize resources and invest in this space. Today we have capacity to generate about 2,000 megahertz of electricity, but we have some other hindrances like gas supply and grid connectivity. So we are able to generate about seven [unintelligible] hours out of the capacity of 2,000.
But we’re happy that we’re playing a key role in this area, but my message always has been to investors we start being — On this trip we traveled from Washington, we’ve been New York, we talked to a lot of investors in New York. When early we attended the American Institute which had a gathering of global asset managers and [unintelligible] managers, my message has been consistent. We have opportunities in Africa, there are huge opportunities in Africa, we have a huge population.
The income per capita has improved, it’s improving, and we lack access to electricity on the continent. So as the world mobilizes towards a more inclusive society, while the world mobilizes to a more prosperous world, I always like to remind people that we cannot have that prosperity across the world if we do not deal with the issue of access to electricity on the African continent. The reason we have youth unemployment in Africa is attributable to this.
The reason we have youth restlessness in Africa is attributable to this. The reason some embrace extremism is attributable to this. In fact government’s ability to cover, fight extremism is also limited by this. So at times you see communities and like spaces that do not feel any impact of government or society because of no access to electricity. So it’s a major, for me it’s not just an investment, you know a commercial investment, it is what we should be doing in the 21st century, to help improve access to electricity.
And, yeah, I can never shout or say it enough, and I want to have more people in this crusade. That all of us, those who have capital should look at investing in Africa, there are opportunities there. And those who have voices let’s give shout to attract attention. That is our big focus that collective the level can make a difference in Africa.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: I want to stay a little bit, I want to spend some time on what you mentioned earlier, Africapitalism, which you are known across Nigeria, and other countries as well, as being a strong proponent of, and you detailed here. I’m curious to know why you believe that Africa needs to take a unique approach to capitalism.
Tony Elumelu: Well, it’s not a unique approach of capitalism per se, it is for me a realization, okay, so at times there’s this entitlement mentality that people have, okay? We should be helped, we should be supported, we should be developed. Oh, for Christ’s sake, you know, I mean, it can’t be like that forever. We need to help ourselves too. So it’s a realization, okay, the private sector has also grown, is growing. We need government to prioritize, we need government to create the right environment for the private sector to keep doing well.
But the private sector also must be sensible and reasonable and conscientious in how we do things, okay? We should invest in the manner that will help to catalyze prosperity. We should invest in a manner that helps to create social equity, social wealth. We should invest in a manner that helps to create inclusiveness. So this is not just about a new form of capitalism or the other, it’s more about how do you fight that the private sector should play a role in helping to develop the economy, and let’s stop blaming others for our wars, let’s stop blaming all that for everything.
Let’s lead and hopefully they follow, and I’ve seen it happen. And some of the investments we have made, we did not invest all the capital assets. We reached out and we see that the world we live in the economy are interdependent, and people also begin to listen, especially if we show a good example, okay? So it’s a call to all of us, first we in Africa, outside the world, that we’ll have a role to play.
In the Advanced Society again, the meeting I attended earlier, it all had different names today, you know patient capital, in part investing, shared prosperity, mutual destinies. We just need to invest in a manner that’s not just about profits for the investors. We should invest in a manner that creates mutual benefit for everyone, for investors, for communities where you do business in, for society at large.
The fact that we do we do what we do at the Tony Elumelu Foundation, committing 100 million US dollars to support native African entrepreneurs, it’s not because we have so much money, but we also know that some of the basic needs we want to have are provided. So it’s not about having a bank account, it’s about that and then the bank, how can we take a part of it and share. Not for me, not that we share in the money that creates dependence, perpetual dependence, you know, in a manner that makes you stand on your own, makes you self-reliant.
And so when we say we’ll give a lot of funding, we say capital of $5,000.00, and we will do so, and to date over 16,000 Africans have benefitted from that program. It does not encourage laziness, no. But we know when San Francisco, where in tech environment, we know some certain will lend them $5,000.00, what did they develop from it. So we just want to give young Africans access, opportunity, opportunity to prove their concept, and then let others see them as good as the community does in them.
So we need all, the private sector, we need everyone, we need the private sector looking at critical sectors. Today I just talked about electricity. Instead of people keeping their money in bank accounts abroad, why don’t you bring your money to invest in electricity on the continent. You make more money, but you also impact society in a more positive way. That is the entire essence of it, so we need more private sector leaders showing the way.
But we need also our public sector leaders creating the right environment that will enable the private sector to do it. And we needs Friends of Africa development partners also begin to look at how they dive in, how they engage, how they give in the 21st century with the aim to create self-reliance and independence rather than perpetuating the syndrome of dependence.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: Now, Tony, typically when people retire from very high stress jobs such as being the CEO of one of the largest banks in Africa I think take a vacation. You instead decided to found a company, Heirs Holding, and also the foundation that you’ve alluded to. I’m curious, this was back, this was a few years ago, I’m curious about what you saw happening like in Nigeria, or beyond that at that time, that drove both impetus for you to develop this foundation.
Tony Elumelu: Oh, we did two things. When I retired in 2010, 12 years ago, we decided to create a family office, which was to some extent novel in our part of the world. And we said the family office will be quite catalytic in the kind of investment that we make, hence this philosophy of Africapitalism. So and so it is the epitome and this home of our emerging philosophy of Africapitalism, and decided the sectors that we considered very important like we have to move to [unintelligible] power.
When Nigeria and Africa is endowed with a lot of resources yet we do not have the ability to process a lot of these and convert them to the state that they can become valuable to our people. So we said energy from an integrated point of view and [unintelligible] the value chains. We looked at the health care sector and we said health is important, that we need to invest in the health care sector. So these were the key, of course, we listed as important in Africa, and hospitality, okay.
Hospitality, if we want to grow a country and economy, transportation and hospitality are critical for these. So those are the things we decided to do. At the time the motivation was to help draft a philosophy of capitalism for that, but equally important to help manage the investments and wanted to push [unintelligible] as they go to investment partners in the continent, wanted to help to attract investment to the continent, and so far, so good on that.
And the other thing we did, the second thing was the Foundation. I thought that that my story has been one of, there’s an element of luck in my story. There’s an element of being at the right place at the right time. And I wasn’t the most intelligent in my class, and also I wasn’t the most hard working you know of my set and people I knew. And therefore there was luck in it that that I had for what I became.
And I thought you know I’d risen very rapidly, done quite a lot, and I thought so it’s time to commit this second phase of my life to helping to impact humanity, to helping to democratize the luck that I had going on, to help expand access to opportunities, to help people. I mean, I, let’s talk about parents, I said a small-scale entrepreneur, but not the kind you’re going to really see.
And so I was not like a son of any known families, so to speak, just a regular family person. And so, you know, and I’ve been inspired by what I see around the world. You know you look at Steve Job for instance, and his [unintelligible], and I ask myself if Steve Job were in Africa, if he was an African in Nigeria would he have been able to succeed to the scale and magnitude that he succeeded.
I mean, long after he’s dead the company is founded first to cross one trillion in market cap, [unintelligible]. So it was all of this that drove me to say, no, and to be, I’m fortunate, I don’t know what I would say to God if I did not create, or help to create modern [unintelligible] on the continent of our African ancestors. And that is what drove my wife and I at the time to decide that we should commit $100 million US dollars to helping to identify, support, and empower the next generation of African leaders and to do it at a scale and magnitude that had never been done before.
Given that we do business in many African countries, we decided it should not be about Nigeria, it should be about Africa. Given that we know that poverty in always affects all of us everywhere we decided to make sure that it’s broader. And so that is why we started the Tony Elumelu Foundation, so the motivation for starting the Tony Elumelu Foundation is to help democratize luck, create access for people.
Whether or not you are a big man’s child or a poor man’s child, you have ideas, you’re going to classes, you’re committed, you’re ambitious apply, and the set diagnostic I will give you an opportunity. So when I look back today I say that, I say a major achievement, what we have done, the happiness I see on the faces of the young Africans keeps me going.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: So my final question for you, you seem to be a nation in and of yourself. Through the Foundation you’ve worked with local governments, international governing bodies, to help move capital where it’s most needed. And so I’m sure you’ve heard it asked many times before, Nigeria is now in its election season, I’ll join the chorus, why aren’t you running for president?
Tony Elumelu: Oh, wow, I didn’t see that coming. I think first it’s when I look around I know the potential that we have as a continent and as a people. I see opportunities. I know that life can be a lot better for people. And oftentimes you feel the urge to show interest in how we are governed and how things happen.
But I soon also realized that because I’ve never been selfish, because I’ve never been self-centered, because I’ve never been to me that it must be turning, I say to myself if there are other good people, capable people who can do this, who are showing interest, why don’t you support them and share with them what you think should be the right thing in terms of leadership, in terms of governance in 21st-century Africa where our people have suffered and continue to suffer so much.
I realized also that all of us cannot be in the political space. But I know that evil succeeds or triumphs in the world when good people keep quiet. So I say to myself just the way I’m committed to entrepreneurship, we are committed to helping to empower young Africans, we should support the emergence and orchestration of good governance across the continent because I think that is what has held us down as Africans.
So for me it is not just about Nigeria, it’s about many countries, many countries on the continent. So I am interested in good governance, and I know that what we preach and advocacy and everything we do, try to encourage young people, if we do not succeed in the political space our leadership is not good.
So my aim is for to continue to encourage the evolution of the political process that we won through our good leadership and to ensure that our leaders stay accountable. That process is not there yet, but we are working to get there. And I, again, it’s one area when I was in Washington I said to political leadership here too that it should be a concerted effort to encourage people on the continent to do what is right, even as we also from the continent continue to speak out on good governance and accountability.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: Thank you so much, Tony, that was amazing. And typically we like to close with a lightning round of questions, so I have four for you. And I’m going to say them and you have to answer as quickly as possible, hence the lightning part. So outside of, aside from Palo Alto, California, what’s your favorite place to visit?
Tony Elumelu: I didn’t hear that, sorry.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: What’s your favorite place to travel to?
Tony Elumelu: Oh, outside. I just came from LA, Los Angeles, I love Los Angeles.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: More than San Francisco?
Tony Elumelu: No, no, you didn’t say more than, you said outside from.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: Now with Nigeria out of the World Cup who are you rooting for?
Tony Elumelu: Wow, even my boys they were crying when they dropped. I think after Nigeria, Senegal.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: What is your favorite Wizkid song?
Tony Elumelu: Hit song?
Chisom Obi-Okoye: What’s your favorite Wizkid?
Tony Elumelu: Wizkid song, “Ojuelegba,” you don’t know that.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: I don’t know it. Can you tell us how it goes?
Tony Elumelu: Who has an iPhone here? You have “Ojuelegba” on iPhone.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: And last question, what are you most grateful for?
Tony Elumelu: Oh, I’m grateful to God for my wife and family, and children. I think you know you can’t do well in life if you don’t have a home that’s at peace. I do have a very peaceful home, and my children are reinforcing too, so I’m grateful to God for that.
Chisom Obi-Okoye: Thank you so much. You’ve been listening to View From The Top, the podcast, a production of Stanford Graduate School of Business. This interview was conducted by me, Chisom Obi-Okoye of the MBA Class of 2022. Lily Sloane composed our theme music. Michael Reilly and Jenny Luna produced this episode. You can find more episodes of this podcast at our website gsb.stanford.edu. Follow us on social media @stanfordgsb.
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