The African Capitalist

The entrepreneurial kind for country, continent and the world.

When the term capitalist is used, it conjures the image of a wealthy individual or as the definition goes: ‘a person who uses their wealth to invest in trade and industry for profit in accordance with the principles of capitalism.’ Often, it is paired with other words like democracy, countries, economies, etc.

Modern capitalist theory is traditionally traced to the 18th-century treatise, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Scottish political economist Adam Smith, and the origins of capitalism as an economic system can be placed in the 16th century.

Africapitalism, however, was coined by Tony O. Elumelu, a Nigerian economist, entrepreneur, investor, champion of African entrepreneurs, and philanthropist. He is known for his illustrious career running Africa’s largest bank, United Bank of Africa, and currently serving as its chairman. The second phase of his life is focused on his foundation, The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), a non-profit organization, empowering a new generation of African entrepreneurs. The foundation’s mission is rooted in Africapitalism, which positions the private sector, and most importantly entrepreneurs, as the catalyst for the social and economic development of the African continent.

Africapitalism is about the intersection of economic prosperity and social wealth, the intersection of making profit and doing good, and not waiting to finish one before you do the other.” – Tony O. Elumelu

Who is an African Capitalist?

From the previous paragraphs, it is safe to mention Tony O. Elumelu right off the bat as fitting the description of an African capitalist; a wealthy individual investing in African ventures. But there are other lesser-known people who fit this mould as well because they possess the qualities of an African capitalist:

Believes in the potential of Africa. Only those who believe in the capability of Africa can truly encourage it through their funds, resources, and time. The African capitalist believes in what Africa can become, judging by the progress it has made in the past and, of course, in recent years.

Prioritizes the continent’s progress over individual personal gain. When an individual places Africa’s growth first before their personal benefit, that individual displays Africapitalism. It indicates his/her willingness to see and contribute to the advancement of the continent before focusing on theirs. S/he focuses on creating a better Africa and world for the next generation, and believes that their actions today can pave the way for a brighter future for all Africans.

Invests in Africa’s infrastructure, technology, and talent. In other words, the African capitalist puts their money where their mouth is. First, they believe, and then they walk that belief. S/he prioritizes investments that have a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy because they realise that a sustainable future is key to long-term growth and prosperity.

Creates jobs and economic growth. By virtue of the foregoing, the African capitalist makes it possible for job creation and development as well as economic growth. S/he understands that by creating opportunities for others, s/he can succeed as well; the success of their community is intricately tied to the African capitalist’s success too.

Understands that the traditional process of business and profits are changing. A dynamic individual, the African capitalist recognises the traditional ways of doing business in Africa but also acknowledges the changing times and tides where profits are involved. S/he represents a shift in the way of thinking about business, economics, and society, and represents a new path for Africa; one that is built on collaboration, sustainability, and progress for all.

So, who is an African capitalist?

This individual is not necessarily the richest or the most powerful but rather one who uses personal resources to elevate the community. The African capitalist is not just a concept but a movement that is gaining momentum across the continent. And s/he can be found among the key stakeholders of the African start-up ecosystem as founders, investors, advisors, and policymakers who are all embracing this philosophy and working to create a better future for Africa.

The African capitalist, like the continent, has the potential to transform Africa and shape the world eventually. By investing in its talent, infrastructure, and technology, Africa can become a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable continent for all.

Thanks to Eunice Ajim for spotlighting this topic.

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