The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program hit 151,692 applications last Friday. This was a 75% jump in applications from last year's 93,000+ applicants. The number of applicants to the program has been growing since the start of the program in 2015.
In 2016, the number jumped to over 45,000 applicants. These applied from 54 African countries. More than doubling the number of applications received in 2015.
Nigeria alone had over 69,000 entrepreneurs apply. Which one, of course, the highest on the list. In East Africa, Kenya led the way with over 2,800. Cameroon, South Africa and Egypt led in Central, Southern and North Africa. The figures are 1,121, 1358 and 62.
Looking at the figures, you can see that there's still little interest from North Africa. This could be because ventures from the North prefer the Middle East.
The other assumption could be that there is little emphasis on Arabic applicants. Because 95.86% of the applications submitted were in English. And, guess what, none in Arabic!
The growing numbers signal the difficulty in accessing startup capital across the continent. Seeing that the program gives $5,000 seed capital. Credit could also go to the now burgeoning club of TEEP alumni. The program now boasts around 3000 alumni since its start.
The number of women applicants has also grown. Of the selected entrepreneurs for the program, the number of women increased from 24% in 2015 to 39% in 2017. This year, women are 41.2% of the total number of applications.
At 31.39%, agriculture is still the dominating industry followed by Fashion at 12.77%. ICT contributed 7.31% and came in fifth after commercial/retails and manufacturing.
Despite the 75% jump in the number of applicants, only 1000 entrepreneurs will be selected. As it has been the case with the previous years.
This will increase competition and thus the quality of entrepreneurs selected and awarded. But it is also unfair and detrimental to the growing interest.
In April last year, Parminder Vir, the CEO of Tony Elumelu Foundation published a post on her LinkedIn. She requested sponsors to come on for an "Opportunity to Sponsor Additional Entrepreneurs".
Perhaps they didn't see the huge jump in the number of applicants coming seeing this soon.
“Since the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme was launched, we have received over 150,000 applications, but every year we are constrained to support only 1,000. We are constantly seeking means to bring help to this much broader universe of deserving entrepreneurs. We want to give this group, that we have been unable to select, a chance too and this partnership with UNDP will help us begin to scale our impact”.
This year has attracted more applicants than all the past three years combined. A sign that the efforts channelled to seeking alternative means and partners to help the program take in more applicants should be fast-tracked.