In business the role luck plays in success and personal achievement is rarely discussed. If luck is mentioned, it is done with slight condescension, and usually dismissed as a product of hard work, not deserving significant attention. While hard work is paramount – and I have written extensively about the importance of working hard – history and my own experiences show that there is often a large element of success that hard work alone cannot explain. It is simply not true that “you make your own luck.”
I started my career as a salesman, a copier salesman to be specific, young, hungry, and hardworking, but the reality was that I was just one of thousands of young Nigerian graduates, all eager to succeed. How did I get from there to where I am now? Of course, hard work, resilience, a long-term vision – but also luck.
A year later after earning my Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Lagos, I applied to join a new generation bank, Allstates Trust Bank. The bank’s one-page newspaper advertisement demanded a minimum 2:1-degree, but I applied regardless, submitting a cover letter and filled out application with my 2:2-Economics degree.
By a stroke of luck, my application was reviewed by the Chairman/CEO, a painstaking man who carefully read my cover letter and was drawn to the confidence in my words. “I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, ambitious and I will make the bank proud. My 2:2 degree does not demonstrate the full extent of my intelligence and ability, and I know I can do so much more.” He read those words and took a chance on me. Though “unqualified”, he decided to throw me a lifeline, an opportunity.
I was invited to join the shortlist, followed by a long series of interviews and even more tests. At the end of a very rigorous process, I received good news – I had a place as an entry level analyst. Even now, I wonder: What if the Founder had not personally gone through my application? What if my application was rejected at the very beginning? What if I never got the opportunity to work at Allstates Trust Bank?
The story continues: within 12 months at the bank, aged 27, I went from analyst to branch manager – the youngest ever bank branch manager at the time. I was hard working, energetic, creative and prioritised getting things done, but it was also good fortune that my bosses Toyin Akin-Johnson and Ebitimi Banigo took notice, and then, believed in me. They took a chance on me by appointing me as branch manager after an incredibly short time in the bank. They recognised in me the raw materials needed to make a good leader and were prepared to invest in me and my ability. My rise to Branch Manager within a short period is a great story but I know in my heart, I was lucky, as well as deserving.
This position of branch manager was a solid platform which launched me into several top leadership roles. When we, a small group of hungry, determined, young outsiders, took over struggling Crystal Bank, it was as a direct result of the preparedness and exposure that we received early from our superiors and mentors. Without the intervention and goodwill of these people in my career, I would not have been prepared as I was to take on far greater roles. These learning opportunities laid the pathway to future achievements. Put simply, I was lucky enough to be identified and trusted so early on in my career, and this put me on a unique road to success. I keep this in mind – it is humbling and also drives much of what I do today.
When I left UBA as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2010 to pursue other interests, I made a vow that through the Tony Elumelu Foundation, I would “institutionalise” luck and democratise access to opportunities for young Africans. I promised to leverage the success I have enjoyed, to spread luck and hope, provide opportunities and to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs to succeed. Without luck in my early career, I would not be the man that I am today. I am a leader and philanthropist today because I encountered people who gave me a chance early in my career. It has been a lifetime goal to pay this forward in a transformative and impactful way.
Over the past three decades I have spent as a banker, investor, and turnaround expert, I have had the opportunity to meet thousands of entrepreneurs, like me. Many of them young people, with incredible dreams and business ideas but without the experience or the access to mentoring and support required in order to build successful businesses. But most importantly, they have not yet been exposed to the right opportunity.
Our entrepreneurs are hard at work across the continent, identifying gaps in the market for specific products and services, and bridging these gaps with their innovation and ingenuity. Yet, many of these budding entrepreneurs often lack the capital, the networks, the training, the support to take their small business to national or regional scale. All they need is a helping hand, some luck, someone to believe in them and take a chance on them.
This is what the Tony Elumelu Foundation offers: a platform that empowers African entrepreneurs– from business management training, to mentoring, to funding to networking – championing their cause and giving them a global voice to actualise their ambitions. This is precisely why I launched the USD$100 million Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs. Indeed, these may be the next UBAs (United Bank for Africa).
So, when I am asked, “Tony, why are you and your family doing this? What is in it for you?” I smile and recount my own story of luck. Luck is real, it is powerful, and I am committed to spreading it as far as I can. I am a beneficiary of luck, and I am passionate about sharing it across the continent, to all 54 countries.
I want our young aspiring entrepreneurs to apply. I want you to be a part of this global movement for good. I encourage you to be bold enough to let luck find you. There will be 1260 places open from January 1, 2019. Will you be among the lucky ones this year? Take a chance on yourself. Your future may begin today. Apply now at TEFCONNECT.COM
Isabel dos Santos and the Economic Empowerment of African Women….By Haley
At a United Nations debate in New York, Isabel dos Santos, who is currently the richest woman in Africa, spoke of the economic empowerment of African women as a key to transforming society. This and many of her other hopeful and encouraging messages have inspired many citizens in African countries, mainly young women, to pursue their ambitions in business.
Dos Santos believes that some of the most promising and successful businesspeople in the world have been African because of the continent’s entrepreneurial spirit. This spirit, however, has been weighed down by the stigmatization of women in the workplace. This has robbed the economy of valuable innovators and has barred women from achieving their ambitions. But by ensuring that young women can access the same education, job opportunities, and potential for growth as men, dos Santos believes that she can change this attitude and instill a national confidence in women.
This type of thinking falls in line with her more general philosophy of reform: “First the seed, then the future.” This dictum seems to urge against immediate change and, instead, encourages slow and steady growth. The seeds that Isabel dos Santos thinks ought to be planted are also tied up in the economic freedom of women – by creating jobs, providing training, and breaking sexist stigmas, she believes that women can experience increased financial stability while giving their home countries more influence in the international economy.
Dos Santos’ Vision of an Entrepreneurial Africa
Isabel Dos Santos has spent a lot of time planting these seeds in Africa, focusing her efforts in her home country of Angola where she meets with young people and speaks with them about the power of entrepreneurship. Sometimes, she visits them in small, personable rooms at universities and other institutions, other times in much larger ones during her speeches and debates. Most tellingly, she refers to famous African entrepreneurs as a “great family” and invites everyone with the motivation to work hard and come join them.
She often encourages young women to leverage the world’s increased reliance on technology and artificial intelligence, which she refers to as “digitalization”. She believes working toward innovations in technology is key to increasing Africa’s presence in the international economy while flooding the continent with unique employment opportunities. With just a computer and internet connection, unemployed or underpaid citizens can find more work, sometimes with the higher wages that are more commonplace in developed countries, to support their families and stimulate their local economies.
During a conversation with students at the University of Warwick interested in developing Africa, dos Santos tells a young woman who is eager to accomplish her ambitions “now” that she has to be patient and have not just a goal but a string of subgoals to reach it. She goes on to encourages the student to involve herself as deeply as she can in the decision processes that influence that goal, and also to understand that sometimes it’s important to just focus on school, other times on a career or starting a business. This type of advice for strategic hesitance can be found in many of her speeches.
Isabel dos Santos is the daughter of Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Angola’s long-time former president. Much of her wealth came from her investments and her previous position as the chairwoman of an oil company owned by the state called Sonangol. Dos Santos considers herself an independent businesswoman and investor and has become Africa’s first females billionaire. Forbes ranks her as the 9thwealthiest billionaire in Africa for 2018.
A Beacon of Hope in a Male-Dominated Market
For young businesswomen in various African countries, her success story has been a beacon of hope. But dos Santos has told various reporters that her rise to riches was marred by the sexism she had to endure in a male-dominated African business world. She has no shortage of stories concerning prejudice and discrimination based on her gender, such as during business meetings where the people she’s negotiating with would look to her male assistant, advisor, or lawyer for validation though she already stated her offer. She is also frequently asked what business her husband is in when her wealth is made clear.
Despite her tribulations in the business world , Isabel dos Santos has maintained a charitable and hopeful perspective on life and takes on many projects geared toward improving small communities and local economies. One of these projects was in Humpata, in the province of Huila, where dos Santos helped establish a strawberry field, “planting the seed” to empower citizens. This project gave 120 women a place to work and a new income. On her website, dos Santos says:
“Creating opportunities and employment for women means betting on the progress of the communities themselves. When they thrive, women invest their income in the family, health, and education. I value this as a sense of duty, commitment, and dedication. The impact that women create around them is powerful and transformative.”
She calls on other African entrepreneurs to give back to their countries by investing in similar projects. Though they seem small-scale, she believes that with enough support, this type of philanthropic work can create a value chain large enough to impact the national economy. As a result, smaller communities will have more prosperous citizens and influence. Should those new entrepreneurs be African women, then dos Santos hopes that their success will help chip away at the stigma that women are less competent than men.
This is all part of one of Isabel dos Santos’ larger goals to increase the prosperity of African countries as a whole. She plans to accomplish this by working from the ground up, focusing on the individual, such as the promising young men and woman of various African countries. By empowering them, she is, in turn, empowering their communities. This creates value within towns that have historically not had the chance to prosper, and by strengthening local economies, the national economy itself is bolstered.
“This is the true transformation of a country,” she says. It starts with a little hope and promise, with planting the “seeds”, and then, through the hard work of a community’s individuals, a brighter future can be earned.”
Abia State: Orji Uzor Kalu should Stop Hallucinating – Group Advises
An Umuahia-based socio-political association, Odinma Abia, has advised former governor of Abia state, Orji Uzor Kalu, to urgently seek medical and psychological attention to treat his worsening case of hallucination that continues to make him see Abia as his private estate that he must conquer once again and determine who governs the state and who does not.
In a statement signed by the group’s coordinator, Jude Ndukwe and the publicity secretary, Uchenna Okezie, respectively, the group said “Abia State has since outgrown the young state that was unfortunate to be governed by an unstable character like Orji Uzor Kalu who ran the state aground and left it for dead but for the urgent interventions of succeeding administrations especially that of the current governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu”.
The group was reacting to statements attributed to Orji Uzor Kalu when he held a zonal ward and state executive meeting of the All Progressive Congress, APC, in his Igbere home, wherein he was credited to have said among other things that the APC would “free Abia people from bondage and lies being fed them” by the PDP administration in the State.
Reacting further, Odinma Abia said “it is quite ironical how a man whose known profligacy as Abia governor threw the state into a near-perpetual financial slavery for which the former governor was only recently told by the courts that he has a case to answer and for allegedly looting the state’s funds through his companies and cronies, a situation that brought Abia to its comatose state before the intervention of Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu”.
Continuing, the group warned Orji Uzor Kalu to desist from seeing Abia State as his personal estate which he can dictate to at his whims and caprices. “Orji Uzor Kalu’s political career has since ended in 2007 after his governorship of Abia State. Abians saw through his deceit and roguish behavior and they have since rejected all his overtures to have them elect him into the senate since then. Even the Peoples Progressive Alliance, PPA, which he founded booted him out eventually for his well documented ignoble behaviours.
“When one thought that Kalu should be getting wiser with age, he seems to be degenerating by the day. How can a man of his status still be talking about fighting as an election strategy? How did such a man ever become our governor in the first place? For Orji Uzor Kalu’s information, Abia has since left him behind. We are a decent and peace loving people and we will never allow renegades like him to return us to his bestial era of violence. Abians will not allow the gangster-like violence which APC members visited upon themselves recently in the State to be taken to the government house.
“Is it not hypocritical that the APC meeting where Kalu poured out his invectives against the PDP and government of Abia State was only a faction of the APC in the State led by Donatus Nwakpa? A party that is divided among itself in the state, a party that can’t hold itself together, is talking about providing leadership in Abia. It is obvious Kalu’s APC wants to infect Abia with their spirit of division and destruction but Abians know better and they will never give Kalu, his party and their empty promises an inch of opportunity.
Continuing, the group said, “Orji Kalu in his usual manner of personalizing parties and ruling like an emperor even took the said meeting to his personal home in Igbere as if the APC has no secretariat where such meetings are supposed to hold. It was the same thing he did while he was governor when his mother reportedly took total control of governance in the state to the extent that “Mother Excellency” and “Mamacracy” became part of the State’s political lexicon. If Orji Uzor Kalu thinks Abians have forgotten, we shall remind him come 2019 when we, Abians, shall let him know that we will never trade the peace and progress we are enjoying under the current governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who has in just three years achieved far more what Orji Uzor Kalu achieved in his entire 8-year two term tenure in Abia State. It is obvious that Kalu has been hallucinating on the possibility of he and his party returning to Abia State, in that case, he surely needs urgent medical and psychological attention to wean him of his vain ego trip”, the statement concluded.
Rivers APC Hails Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi at 53
The Rivers State Chapter of All Progressives Congress, APC, has hailed the former governor of Rivers State and present Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi on the occasion of his 53rd birthday anniversary today.
The party announced this through a press statement signed and released this morning (Sunday) by the newly-elected State Chairman of the APC, Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree.
In the statement, the APC applauded Amaechi for providing focused and unwavering leadership for the party and its members in the State.
“It is a thing of joy that our leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has provided the needed focused and purposeful leadership for our party and members in Rivers State. We couldn’t have gotten it better.”
The party thanked God for the gift of wisdom; good health and staying power which has seen the Minister traverse the delicate political terrain of our state and nation despite several natural and man-made obstacles.
“As you turn 53 today, we can only thank God Almighty for bestowing on you the needed wisdom, good health and resilience to confront the vicissitudes of life especially in the political arena in Rivers State and Nigeria. We have no doubt that the good Lord will continue to remain your bedrock of strength in the years ahead.”
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