Nigeria: Season of Honours for Tony Elumelu

Charles Ajunwa writes that the entrepreneurial and managerial acumen of the Chairman of United Bank for Africa and Heirs Holdings, Mr. Tony Elumelu, attract recognitions from across the globe

The Chairman of the United Bank for Africa UBA, Heirs Holdings and Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr. Tony Elumelu, is one of the most sought-after bankers and entrepreneurs, who through tenacity, resilience and philanthropy has continued to thrive where others fear to tread. Elumelu’s business model is winning him respect and recognitions from notable organisations and leaders across the globe.

Army’s Recognition Award

Charity, they say, begins at home. At the just concluded 2022 Chief of Army Staff Conference in Sokoto, Elumelu received a Recognition Award from President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Award from the Army was in recognition of The Tony Elumelu Foundation’s economic empowerment for wives of soldiers who lost their lives fighting to keep Nigeria safe and secure.

Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Economic Empowerment for widows of the Armed Forces of Nigeria gives widows of slain soldiers business training and seed capital of $2,000 each to begin their entrepreneurial journey and cater for their families.

Commenting on the award, Elumelu who is known to be always passionately disposed to helping the less-privileged, expressed profound gratitude to men and women of the Army who continually risk their lives daily to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria. Also, he thanked President Buhari, Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Defence Staff for considering him worthy of the award.

Elumelu was recognised alongside Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman of BUA Group, Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu, Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia, Col. Hameed Ali, Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, and Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, a former Chief of Army Staff. All these people had made a sterling impact on the Nigerian Army in different ways.

Excellence Award from ECOWAS

Elumelu was honoured recently with the 2022 ECOWAS Prize of Excellence Award for Deserving Citizens of the Community by the President of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), Dr. Omar Alieu Touray. According to Touray, the award was in recognition of Elumelu’s contribution to promoting regional integration, peace and socio-economic development across Africa through his work at Heirs Holding Group and the impact of his philanthropy through the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

An elated Elumelu, described the honour done him thus: “This award is a recognition of our contribution to promoting regional integration, peace and socio-economic development across Africa, through our work at Heirs Holdings Group and the impact of our philanthropy, the Tony Elumelu Foundation.”

CFR National Honour

On October 11, 2022, Elumelu received the National honour of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic.

Elumelu, who is known for short but concise speeches reacted this way: “I am humbled and honoured to have received Nigeria’s second highest national honour – Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) – conferred by H.E. President @MBuhari, today at the International Conference Centre Abuja.”

TIME 100 Impact Award

Africa’s leading investor and philanthropist, Elumelu, in March was honoured with the TIME 100 Impact Award, a recognition for his track record of business turnaround and value creation, and economic empowerment of young Africans.

Elumelu was one of the four Africans named by TIME magazine in the 2020 TIME 100, the annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

At the well-attended ceremony which took place at the Museum of the Future in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Elumelu when he mounted the podium to accept the coveted award spoke with a sense of urgency.

The trained economist thrilled his audience made up of celebrities, politicians and prominent business leaders. He announced that “The world is in need of people like us- more than ever before,” adding, “In the 21st Century, there’s so much poverty, sickness, and bitterness in the world. Our calling should be one that has to prioritise humanity.”

Apart from stressing that Africa, and the world, needed investment and opportunities more than ever, Elumelu called for pulling together resources to tackle the hydra-headed problems of poverty and unemployment.

Past Awards and Honours

Elumelu has garnered many national and international awards.

In 2003, the Federal Government of Nigeria granted Elumelu the title of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), a national honour. Also in 2006, he won the African Business Leader of The Year Award conferred by the United Kingdom-based magazine, Africa Investor. In 2009, the Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua asked him to serve on the Presidential Committee on the Global Financial Crisis.

Elumelu in 2012, received Nigeria’s prestigious award of Commander of the Order of the Niger, (CON) for his service in promoting private enterprise.

At the 5th edition of the annual Economic Forum of the Ivorian National Council of Employers, CGECI Academy, (CGECI) in Abidjan in April 2016, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Also, in 2016, he was awarded the Daily Times, Nigerian Man of the Year. The same year, Elumelu received the Daily Times Man of the Year award, he received the Inaugural Dwight D. Eisenhower Global Entrepreneurship Award in 2017, Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) and the French President Macron ‘Tech for Good’ global coalition award in 2018.

Also in 2018, Elumelu received the Person of the Year Award from the Vanguard Newspapers, Nigeria. In 2019, he received the National Productivity Order of Merit, the Jeune Afrique ‘100 Most Influential Africans, and Honorary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration (Honoris Causa),


Elumelu is the Chairman of leading African financial services group, the United Bank for Africa (UBA), with presence in 20 African countries, and offices in Paris, London, and New York. He is the Founder and Chairman of Heirs Holdings Ltd, an African propriety investment company, with interests in power, oil and gas, financial services, hospitality, real estate and healthcare

The Delta State-born internationally-acclaimed businessman sits on numerous public and social sector boards, including the global advisory board of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4ALL), USAID’s Private Capital Group Partners Forum (PCG), and is Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute’s Global Food Security Working Group.

He serves on the international boards of the Washington DC-based think tank the Wilson Centre and a member of the Global Advisory Council, Harvard Kennedy School’s Centre for Public Leadership, Harvard University, Global Advisory Council, UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited (GenU), an initiative of the United Nations refocused youth agenda, Member, Global Shapers Foundation, World Economic Forum and Member, World Economic Forum Community of Chairmen.

Elumelu is known for his significant contribution to entrepreneurship in Africa. In 2010, he created The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), the philanthropy empowering a new generation of African entrepreneurs, catalysing economic growth, driving poverty eradication and ensuring job creation across all 54 African countries.

The foundation has given $5,000 each to 15,000 young entrepreneurs from 54 African countries as part of its effort to grow the entrepreneurial spirit in Africa and encourage economic development. Bretton Woods Committee, which brings together senior leaders in the global banking industry, a recognition of his work on African development.

Elumelu who is a Fellow of the Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI), is involved, through his Foundation, with the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) in a partnership to strengthen the private sector’s role in the economic transformation of select African countries. This partnership is called the Blair-Elumelu Fellowship Programme. He is co-chair of the Africa Energy Leaders’ Group (AELG).

Secret of Success

Recently, Elumelu revealed that luck brought him where he is today, but was quick to add, “luck is important but that doesn’t make it a substitute for hard work or labour. Hard work and passion are the two most important ingredients for luck.

“I am where I am today because of luck. Let me be clear, luck is important, but it is not a substitute for hard work or labour. Luck is part of the cocktail that you need for success.

“There are two ingredients for luck – hard work and passion. The more work you put into something and the more passion you apply, the ‘luckier’ you find yourself.

“You have to work hard and be more passionate and committed about what you do, to be successful and make your own luck.

“Hard work and passion are within your power and control, and you should apply them to earn your own luck and to help us foster a better and more prosperous world.”


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