Nigerian banker, investor and philanthropist, Tony Elumelu, has established a N2.5 billion ($15.6 million) development initiative called The Elumelu Nigeria Empowerment Fund aimed at repositioning and revitalizing disaster communities in Nigeria.

The Fund is financed and managed by The Tony Elumelu Foundation and is expected to create economically sustainable and thriving units out of communities that have been hit by conflicts, hazards and disasters. It seeks to do so by creating opportunities and empowering people in affected communities, helping them rebuild their lives and business endeavours.

Speaking at the launch of the Fund, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan lauded Elumelu for taking the lead in facilitating private sector participation geared towards such communities. “Rehabilitating distressed communities will require interventions not just from the government, but also from the private sector. Therefore, I am pleased to see that Tony Elumelu, one of our private sector leaders, stepped up in a big way – by making a major contribution to the Victim Support Fund and that his effort did not end there as he has now created The Elumelu Nigeria Empowerment Fund,” he said.

Tony Elumelu

Tony Elumelu

The Fund will place a huge emphasis on developing and supporting entrepreneurs in the affected areas by facilitating access to seed funding, capacity building and mentorship. From social welfare projects to initiatives bordering around solving environmental issues, the fund will actively play a central role in stimulating and sustaining an entrepreneurial atmosphere in such regions.

“By making social investments and grants available in select distressed communities across Nigeria, the Elumelu Nigeria Empowerment Fund will economically empower individuals and communities by creating and fostering an enabling environment that will support a new generation of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs create jobs, opportunity, and wealth at the local level and in doing so, they play a vital role in reducing poverty and addressing a range of social issues that cause conflict and instability,” said Mr Tony Elumelu, Founder, The Tony Elumelu Foundation and Chairman, Heirs Holding.

Also speaking at the launch, Bishop Matthew Kukah, a member of the board of directors of The Elumelu Nigeria Empowerment Fund, a board which accomodates prominent and distinguished Nigerians such as former Central Bank Governor, Professor Charles Soludo and Mr Rasheed Olaoluwa, CEO of the Bank of Industry, said; “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. The Tony Elumelu Foundation has ignited what will definitely be a massive flame of hope to dispel the darkness that hovers around us. I am honoured to stand beside men and women with passion for our common humanity.”