The room is filled with a gathering of people. The entrepreneurs who are representing their countries, the crowd of journalists from across the continent, the Tony Elumelu Foundation(TEF) alumni and recipients, Business Directors, SWAT teams ensuring the safety of President Macron is in place and the representatives of African media spreading and telling the stories of monumental moments like this.
Between the white china serving hot coffee and the plates of mince pies and salmon sandwiches, it was quite a bustling build-up to the interactive session between Tony Elumelu, Group Chairman, UBA and Founder of TEF, and the president of the French Republic, Mr Emmanuel Macron. This session was being hosted by the Tony Elumelu Foundation for the French President and young African entrepreneurs. Mr. Macron had prior to this moment, enjoyed the rich heritage of our African culture at an evening at the Afrika Shrine, seeing our creativity, savouring our culture and mingling with the people. He was particularly proud of Femi Kuti. This time though, is go-time, now is when we ask the questions:
‘The what if’s for businesses
The How-to’s for Africans …
But most importantly, what his vision and plans are for the millions of African entrepreneurs who want to make a change on this planet, starting right here in this room in the heart of Lagos.
To say, you have met Emmanuel Macron, is not one of those overwhelming shindigs. He is average in stature, fine chin line, distinct sense of humour and an excellent articulation of the message he intends to pass across. When he walked into the room, people weren’t prepared for this journey he was about to lead them on.
As Tony Elumelu introduces the 1st citizen of France, we are eager to hear what his memorandum is.
‘’I am excited to be here, I don’t intend to talk much, but I want to build through entrepreneurship, a new narrative for Africa’
His opening preface, is a compelling truth, because UBA Group Chairman, Tony Elumelu through his foundation has affected over 4,000 lives, trained, mentored and educated them. The video we saw before Macron’s entrance was a preliminary confirmation of Macron’s vision. Highlights of mentees and mentors at the 2017, TEF forum. UBA staff were there reminding them that the bank was one that cared about small stories that carry huge messages. We are interested in their investments and financial choices in changing the face of Africa to the world.
Macron said today, that there is no gap for innovation, it is simply how  to create and destroy past activities that do not make sense. Doing it as it is, is what the young people should effect now in Africa. He was taken by the intelligent and obviously important questions posed to him. Migration, cross globalization and education are on the top of his priority for African narratives as he responded to questions throughout the room. Young enthusiastic entrepreneurs, public sector holders and media personnel asked honestly and Macron a man of flawless eloquence responded, informed and provided rhetoric. He describes the Digital Initiative for Africa as a development project adopted to assist with providing solutions offered by the entrepreneurs of Africa by Africa. The  eco style designed bag representative of the project,  was quite an accessory when the chairman of UBA, Tony Elumelu  carried it on his shoulder, during Macron’s description of what the project is, how it will affect millions and what he hopes will be carried on through it. - Two men with style and a vision can’t go wrong, if you ask me.


His humour still trailing the room, steadily reminding us that ‘There is no advise’’, well technically it’s not advise but it is a directive. Inclusive businesses, businesses that are conscious of the social hemisphere and just as Tony Elumelu believes, the future of Education and the female child development, are all Macron’s priority. Safe to say, those who dream together, see together.
As we wound up on this beautiful Wednesday encounter with a young investment banker who never really wanted to be a President, but who did it because they said –you can’t, President Macron reiterates that 1billion Euros have been proposed to serve the private sector in Africa through the French government and that they would be willing to work with as many that dare to dream, those who have the zeal, the scalability and the solutions to Africa.
Before the 2 visionaries depart the stage, the French President announces that TEF will sign a partnership agreement with the French Development Agency (AFD). This partnership agreement is great for Entrepreneurs across the continent. It involves mentoring and research. UBA will continue to support SMEs on the continent through loans.
We didn’t all get selfies with Macron, but he is revving the status quo of business, he is challenging young people out there to believe in more than just the society that they find themselves but to also remember, no one knows African markets better than us, so dealing with our situation is a responsibility that relies directly on us. Trade wars in Europe, anxiety of middle class and mistakes of the European globalisation tactics were short changed but the voice of Africa through business giants will definitely put Africans where they belong, blazing the trail.
UBA Is excited to be part of the organizations helping young businesses and individuals take on aspirational goals and our presence in our 20 African countries further solidifies the spirit of unity for the voices of Africa. We are united for change and applaud the European community, France but most especially President Macron for taking a step in the direction of Africa.
Thanks to the Chairman of UBA Group who had the vision to engage the French President in this super exciting interactive session, the highlight of the visit of the first French President to come to Nigeria in recent times.

By Ibinabo Otonjo
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