How I Made It: Tony Elumelu


Starting as a youth corp member in Union Bank, Tony Elumelu has grown to become a formidable force in the Nigerian business sphere and beyond. Through his foundation, he has nurtured thousands of businesses across Africa into life.

He serves as a mentor to the upcoming generation sitting at the head of the table of Heirs Holdings a pan-African investment company with interests in energy, agribusiness, finance, hospitality, healthcare, and real estate, Transcorp Plc, and one of Nigeria’s top tier banks, United Bank for Africa.

Tony Elumelu graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, and went on to get a Master’s degree in Economics at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. Later on in life, he furthered his education with a degree in Advanced Management at Harvard Business School, USA.

He came into the limelight in 1997 when he led a small group of investors to take over a small, floundering commercial bank in Lagos. He turned it profitable within a few years and in 2005 he merged it with the United Bank for Africa. That banking group now has subsidiaries in 20 African countries and outside the continent.

Speaking on his drive as an entrepreneur, he said:  “To begin with, the road to success is not linear, it is up and down. You have to be very determined and be prepared to do whatever is required for your success. And you have to know what success looks like in your chosen field.

“For example, you know that if you want to go to university, you must first get the required grades from secondary school and to do that, you have to make sacrifices and work very hard. For that you need ironclad discipline. It is the same if you want to succeed in business. That kind of discipline and training helps a great deal. If you want to become an entrepreneur, you have to acknowledge that it is not a bed of roses.

“Ask yourself what does it take to succeed? And what I tell people is that you must have laser focus, be disciplined, realise that sacrifices need to be made and I repeat, be prepared to work very hard. Of course, you must have ambition. You must seek out opportunities and have a platform on which to start implementing your vision. You should think long term, 10 years ahead, not just for tomorrow.”


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