The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Foundation Programme  (TEFEP) has once again opened up its portal for the 5th consecutive year to receive applications from African entrepreneurs, willing to win $5,000 grant and other related business support services. This will be the 5th cohort.

Launched in 2015, TEF Entrepreneurship Programme has become the largest African philanthropic initiative with the mandate to invest $100 million in 10,000 African entrepreneurs over a period of 10 years, while contributing immensely to the economic growth of the continent.

Suggested Read: TEF 2018 List of 1,000 African Entrepreneurs selected to get $5000 each from TEFEP

Like many other newly born initiatives, the TEFEP didn’t garner so much attention at inception, as it did in consecutive years. Let’s talk a walk down the “TEF lane”.

Keeping Track

  •  January 1, 2015, application opens for innovative businesses till March 1, same year. Only 20,000 entrepreneurs applied, and 1,000 were picked.
  • The following year (2016) had about 40,000 eager businesses join the application train. As usual, only 1,000 were given the entry permit.
  • It’s 2017 and the application volume more than doubled to 90,000. Apparently, this “huge number” isn’t going to convince TEF to shit grounds from selecting only the 1,000.
  • In 2018, a six-figure application number was reached — which stood at a little over 151,000. Although the tradition of selecting only 1,000 was retained, a ‘good twist‘ saw another set of (hundreds of) entrepreneurs make the cut.

Obviously, in the course of 4 years, the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme has not only become globally renowned but grown to over 750% in the number of applicants. Yet, African entrepreneurs aren’t relenting.

With over 300,000 applications and above 4,000 making the cut, it wouldn’t be far-fetch to name any Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur a “Victor”. Especially considering that getting selected isn’t even the ultimate guarantee to obtain the grand prize. There’s definitely so much more that happens behind the curtains.

When selection doesn’t mean ‘selected!’

March 1, every year, signifies the close of TEFEP application. 21 days later, a list of the “lucky 1,000″ is released. Many other things follow; the hurry to lay hands on the list by a hungry crowd, the zeal with which eager minds “carefully” skim through the alphabetically arranged names under each African country, the excitement of media to spread the news, just name it.

TEFEP 2019 - smepeaks

In the end, you either become untamed due to joy or tamed due to sadness depending on any of the two categories you fall: the selected ones or the unlucky ones.

Of course, it feels great to see your name on the list, but some of the selected ones may soon become unlucky, depending on how much hurdles they’re able to surmount in a limited time.

Smepeaks had a one-on-one with some TEFEP Alumni who eagerly shed light on ‘opaque processes’ or should we say, “what goes on behind the stage“?

Here’s what we found.

Few are called, fewer are chosen

Rachel (not real name), couldn’t express her joy enough, the first time she saw her name on the list of the lucky 1,000. This was released about 48 months ago. It’s always been her passion to start up what she claims TEF has honoured her with. Speaking with Smepeaks, she explains what many entrepreneurs may be oblivious to while applying for the programme.

First, not every kind of business makes the cut. It has to be an innovative and revolutionary idea. Also, it shouldn’t just be an idea, there should be some level of underground work or research done before applying.

Rachel’s words clearly prove the truism in the saying “ideas are a dime a dozen; execution is the key”.

Tife, Rachel’s cousin, who also is an alumnus, chips in more:

I think over the years, I’ve come to believe that TEF wants small localised businesses/ideas. They don’t want you to say your customers are the whole of Africa or the world. If all you’re selling to is your immediate neighbourhood for now, that’s fine by them

To understand the extent of the work done needed, Rachel puts a percentage to it. “Sort of 30-40% of the work should be done, already”

Selection is just the start… or maybe not

Happiness dawns on Ekeme (not real name) when he saw he’d been selected. As an average citizen of a growing African country, he believed less in getting a chance at grants. Thank God for his friend who stopped at nothing to make him apply. Unfortunately, his friend wouldn’t be available to see him through the post-selection phase. He calls it, the Battle Phase!

TEF is no joke. More and more Africans from all over the world are beginning to know about TEF. The numbers will most likely more than double for next year, compared to the number that applied this year

According to Ekeme, Accenture reviews the applications and selects the most innovative and promising business ideas/models.

Accenture is very thorough at scrutinising. There are many bridges to cross, so, it is a lot of hard work.

Another TEF Entrepreneur in one of the more recent cohorts corroborates Ekeme’s assertions. According to him, lucky applicants have to go through a 12-week intensive online training programme which often comes with strict (and sometimes, strenuous) processes that mustn’t be missed for any reason. Else, you risk losing what you haven’t even gotten.

If you get selected, you won’t have time for other things once the 12 weeks online and mentoring exercise begins. It is just like a mini MBA where you’re given weekly business tasks and worksheets you must submit at the end of the week. They follow strict deadlines.

But, it doesn’t even end there, you still have to prove your worth at the final phase. Let’s call it, the ultimate project most young entrepreneurs ignore — Business Plan.

Accenture has to approve your business plan after the intensive 12 weeks mentoring and online training before you can receive the seed capital.

Speaking of business plans, its essence has been questioned in recent times. There have been lots of ongoing debates about whether or not having a detailed business plan still counts in the modern business world. Apparently, the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship process places a high value on business plans. In fact, it appears to be the most essential piece of the puzzle.

Suggested Read: Business Plan Writing — All the Key Elements You Need 

Invariably, every piece of experience shared by these TEF entrepreneurs is indicative that the programme holds its processes and the ultimate assignment “Business Plans” to a very high priority. One of the entrepreneurs we engaged hints that TEF goes the extra mile of creating a template for its entrepreneurs to follow.

Despite all these, not everyone makes it through. This brings us to the third category of applicants.

The selected, but unlucky ones

Somto’s application finally clicked, and that would be his second attempt at applying. Since he became a TEF entrepreneur, he’s been pretty much spreading the gospel of the programme, especially back in his community which isn’t as “exposed and business-conscious” as he aspires.

The foundation expects that you prepare a business plan using every knowledge gotten during the 12 weeks training. They even went as far as preparing a template to follow. But then, people still get rejected. Especially during the 12 weeks online training program or if they can’t come up with a business plan at the end of the 12 weeks. In my set, about 52 business plans that I know of were rejected.

According to Somto, the criteria through which Accenture reviews the business plan is based on the 12 weeks mentoring and online training.

While we could neither trace the cause of rejection of some applicants nor engage anyone who has been rejected (after been selected), we believe this goes a long way to prepare you for what’s to come, especially if you end up making the list.

Without doubts, TEFEP 2019 would see many more applications than the programme has in its previous years. The implication of this is, you have to really stand out to gain a slot (the selection phase), to prove your worth (the 12-week training/battle phase) and get the prize.

A way to go is to engage some of the past recipients of this benevolence from the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

In case you’re doubting how impacting the programme has been since inception, these entrepreneurs have stories to tell:

Application Process

As it has always been, 1,000 entrepreneurs will be selected for the TEFEP 2019 cycle based on the viability of their idea, market opportunity, financial understanding, scalability, and leadership and entrepreneurial skills demonstrated in the application.

If you believe you have what it takes to onboard the TEFEP 2019 train, visit the application portal to get started. Deadline is March 1, 2019.

Let’s know your thoughts about what you’ve gained from this piece in the comment section, or any other hacks to help fellow entrepreneurs apply seamlessly.

Storyteller at | + Posts

"When business meets technology..." is a phrase that sums me up. I can build a nation with a pen. Got a story worth telling? Forward it to [email protected]