Name: Tony Onyemaechi
▪︎Tony Elumelu Foundation
Former CEO: The United Bank for Africa (UBA)
Net worth: $USD 700 million dollars.
▪︎Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Ambrose Alli University
▪︎Master of Science degree in Economics from
University of Lagos
▪︎ Advanced Management Program from Harvard Business School
He was born in Plateau State, Nigeria on 22 March 1963. He hails from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria.
He started his career as a copier salesman who was young, hungry, and hardworking, but the reality was that he was just one of the thousands of young Nigerian graduates, all eager to succeed.
He credits his success to hard work, resilience, a long-term vision – but also luck.
In 1990 at the age of 27, he applied to join a new generation bank, Allstates Trust Bank.
A year later after earning his Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Lagos,
The bank’s one-page newspaper advertisement demanded a minimum 2:1 degree (Second Class, upper-division), but he applied regardless, submitting a cover letter and filled out an application with his 2:2 Economics degree (Second Class, lower division)
“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,” his cover letter read.
This words caught the eye of the Chairman/CEO at the time, who decided to give him a chance despite being “unqualified”.
He was hired as an entry-level analyst after passing the due process.
Within 12 months at the bank, he went from analyst to branch manager – the youngest ever bank branch manager at the time. This position laid the foundation for the rest of his career
In 1997 at the age of 34, he registered his presence in Nigeria’s financial services industry, when he led a small group of investors to take over a distressed medium-sized commercial bank in Lagos. The acquired bank was subsequently renamed Standard Trust Bank (STB).
The following year, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the bank. He was only 34 at the time and the youngest CEO of a commercial bank in Africa’s most populated country.
Between 1998 and 2005, he restored STB to profitability, expanding its retail network around the country and introducing a diverse range of financial services to the institution.
By 2005, STB had become one of the 5 largest commercial banks in the country. That same year, he orchestrated one of the largest mergers in Nigerian corporate history when he united STB and the United Bank of Africa (UBA), Nigeria’s 3rd-largest bank at the time.
The merged bank adopted the UBA name, and Elumelu was appointed as Chief Executive of the bank.
Within ten years as CEO of the institution, he helped grow the bank from a single-country bank into a diversified Pan-African financial services institution. He set up branches of UBA in over 20 African countries and established operations in the United Kingdom and the U.S.A with a staggering customer base of more than seven million customers from African countries alone.
In 2010, He stepped down as CEO of the bank following a Central Bank directive limiting the tenure of bank chiefs to 10 years. But by the time he had vacated the CEO job, he had built the UBA Group into a $2 billion (market capitalization) financial services behemoth with over $12 billion in assets and over 10,000 employees.
In the same year, he founded a foundation under his name. The Tony Elumelu Foundation is an Africa-based and -funded not-for-profit institution, dedicated to the promotion and celebration of excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa.
It 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. For this reason, he launched the USD$100 million Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs.
In the same year, he also founded Heirs Holdings. Heirs Holdings is an African investment company committed to the economic transformation of Africa through investments that generate both economic prosperity and social wealth. It invests in the financial services, energy, real estate, infrastructure, hospitality, agribusiness, healthcare sectors, oil and gas.
Below listed are a few other of the positions he holds:
▪︎ Advisor to the USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa (PCGA) Partners Forum.
▪︎Membership of the President’s Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council (ATIC).
▪︎Vice-chairman of the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN).
▪︎Co-chair of the Aspen Institute Dialogue Series on Global Food Security.
▪︎He also chairs the Ministerial Committee to build reputable hospitals and diagnostic centers across Nigeria.
▪︎Membership of the Global Advisory Board of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4ALL) and USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa Partners Forum.
▪︎The title of Member of the order of the Federal Republic (MFR), a national honour which was conferred on him in 2003.
▪︎He was voted African Business Leader of the Year by African Investor magazine in 2006 and was also recognized as the African Banker of the Year in 2008 by the same magazine.
▪︎President Umaru Musa Yar’adua asked him to serve on the Presidential Committee on the Global Financial Crisis in 2009.
▪︎He has decorated the highly esteemed National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) for his service in promoting private enterprise in 2012.
▪︎In 2012 New African magazine featured him in their list of the “100 Moat Influential Africans in Business”.
▪︎He received the Leadership Award in Business and Philanthropy from the Africa-America Institute (AAI) Awards in 2013.
▪︎Also in 2013, he was named African Business Icon at the 2013 African Business Awards.
▪︎In April 2016 he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at At the 5th edition of the annual Economic Forum of the Ivorian National Council of Employers, CGECI Academy, (CGECI) in
His net worth is about $USD 700 million dollars. This places him as not only one of the richest in Africa but also in the world. He has properties across Nigeria and a marginal stake in mobile telecom firm MTN Nigeria to mention a few of his assets.
What advice would you give an African trying to pursue their dreams despite the conditions around them?
▪︎Dreams are good, Dreams are great as long as you are ready to put in the work to see them come true.
▪︎”Your aspirations and yearnings are normal… It’s okay to want more. But you must remember that you must deserve more to desire more. You must put in the hours, the long nights, the sacrifice, and the diligence. While it is okay to yearn for more, you must work hard enough to earn the promotion, the pay rise, the title change, the salary increases etc.”
▪︎”Have a clear picture of the destination you desire but instead of letting frustration set in, let those desires become the fuel that drives you to attain your goals.
▪︎ Save Money Religiously- I am a firm believer in saving a portion of your earnings on a monthly basis. My father used to say that if I couldn’t save one naira from the little I earned, then I won’t be able to save anything if I earned one billion. Saving is a vital tool in investing in your future.
▪︎Work Hard- The difference between talent and hard work is that one is innate and the other can be acquired through sheer determination. Those who are relentless in the pursuit of excellence will always yield results. Growing up, my mother was extremely hard working and through running her businesses she taught me the power of resilience.
▪︎Seize Opportunities- Be aware of your risk tolerance and weigh up the value of an opportunity according to the potential losses and gains. After assessment- act! Do not be afraid to take a step because you fear the outcome. As the saying goes, fortune favours the bold.
▪︎Feed Your Mind- In the pursuit of success, arm yourself with people and things that will nourish you mentally. I was always an avid reader and would seek business and self-development books, articles and papers that would challenge my thinking and allow me to gain insight and breed new ideas.
▪︎Think Long Term- In all that you do, consider the bigger picture. How will this impact me, my family and community? Both now and 10 years from now. Be broad in your thinking and whether personally or professionally, aim for longevity. – Source: Mind Your Own Business- MYOB