Heartfelt words to the next generation of African leaders – Tony Elumelu
“Last week in DC, I spoke from the heart to a group of 1000 young Africans at the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows Summit
My message was this: To the young Africans of today, the future belongs to you. You must seize the future to shape the destiny of our continent
You must refuse to be a complaining generation, this must be a DOING generation. We talk and we complain far too much. Your generation should be a different generation, it should not be a talk generation. It should not be a generation that knows only how to complain but unable to change things when opportunity arises.
There is a leadership vacuum in Africa, and that leader can be you. It should, in fact, be you. Our continent is as it is because of a dearth of good leadership in both the private and public sectors. It is because our leaders neither understand nor recognize legacy. When people realize that they cannot be in one place forever, and think of what history will say about them, they will do things differently.
If my generation is wasted and those who came before us, your generation should be different and don’t ever use my generation as a yardstick for not doing what you should be doing.
We must begin to walk the talk in Africa. Africa, at a time like this, needs its young people. We must hold our political leaders accountable, we must ask for good leadership in the public and private sectors.
We must all be concerned about the narrative on Africa. We must actively decide to tell our stories ourselves. We must dictate what is said about our continent and define the things that are important to us as a people.
We must all realize that in the 21st century no one but us will develop our continent. When my family and I decided to launch our Foundation’s $100 million programme, we didn’t do it because we were the richest or because we have so much, we struggled to make it happen. It was all about defining, understanding and reconciling ourselves to how we want to be remembered long after we are gone.
I grew up as a typical African boy – born, bred and schooled in Africa, worked in Africa and attained a level of comfort. When I retired as CEO of UBA and asked myself how I can institutionalize “luck” because we are all a product of many factors – the kind of place you worked, the kind of leaders you encountered, your upbringing, etc. And so, I felt that it would be nice to give support to young Africans who have ideas and not capital.
This shows you that Leadership is not all about being President or any form of political leadership. It occurs at every level. There is so much that every one of us can do and you must play your own part in making this happen.
Your generation does not even know the level of power you have. 60% of Africans are under 30! You have the power to effect positive changes, but you don’t realise this. In time, I can only hope that you all fully understand the power in your hands”