The world acclaimed Entrepreneur Of The Year Award, a brainchild of Ernst and Young finally arrived in style in Africa’s most dynamic city, Lagos, last Tuesday, 25 years after the project started on a humble scale in the United States of America. A select group of journalists and captains of industry were on hand to witness the historic launch of the award at the Southern Sun hotel in Ikoyi. IKPO IGBINOBA was there for LEADERSHIP.
In the world of industry and commerce, there are several awards instituted by different organisations to satisfy different objectives. Though, every organisation instituting an award professes doing it to appreciate excellence and reward some other feats as spelt out in the criteria for such awards; experience has revealed that there are also some dubious awards.
If we decide to have a census of awards in the country, they should be in their several hundreds. The truth, however, is that of the multitude, an infinitesimally few are credible with honest and noble intentions.
Thus, it is easy for an organisation propagating an award to get lost in the crowd, dismissed as another dubious award.
However, the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award does not belong to the multitude. It is one award that stands out for very obvious reasons.
Initiated by Ernst and Young, a global firm of consultants and advisors, the Entrepreneur Of the Year Award started on a humble scale in 1986 in the United States of America. Twenty five years on, and powered by a world-class firm, the award itself, is now a leading brand, globally, with a huge presence in 50 countries and 140 cities. In the process, over 8,000 entrepreneurs across the globe had been celebrated and inducted into the prestigious Ernst and Young Hall of Fame.
The award has consistently delivered on the promise of its initiators to honour entrepreneurs whose ingenuity, hard work and perseverance have created and sustained successful businesses. The launch in Lagos, was a statement in style, class and reputation of the Ernst and Young which has as its mantra “Quality in Everything We Do.”
The launch was a colourful ceremony with Mrs. Zanele Xaba, the programme director from South Africa playing the role of a pivot. Though, Zanele has spent just four years with the Ernst and Young family, her delivery was full of so much passion that she could have been mistaken for the founder of the award.
Zanele took the audience through the exciting world of the award, the benefits to the economy, the community and the individual, criteria for eligibility, categories of awards, its history and every other relevant information about the award.
There are four categories of awards and each has its set of criteria for qualification. They are the Master Entrepreneur, Emerging Entrepreneur, Lifetime Achievement and Social Entrepreneur.
To qualify for the master Entrepreneur award, a participant should have been an executive leader of one and more businesses for over 10 years in listed or privately held companies, recognised as leading industry figure, driving market leadership in his sector and must have a turnover threshold of $75 million.
For the emerging entrepreneur award, a participant must be an emerging leader with between two and seven years actively in business with stable finance. The turnover of his outfit should be at least $5million.
The lifetime achievement award is reserved for entrepreneurs who have contributed towards making an environment conducive for people who follow in their footsteps to succeed. The award is to appreciate those entrepreneurs whose contribution is significant even if such individuals have not built a multi billion naira entity.
The social entrepreneur award focuses on social impact, innovation, sustainability and encouragement. Nominations for the award will begin in June and the grand finale would take place sometime in November. However, the winner of the master entrepreneur award would qualify from the region to participate in the global awards which takes place in Monte Carlo next year.
The Lagos launch was an occasion to celebrate Africa and highlight the strides the continent has made in economy and its present status as an investment destination. Ferdinand Gunn, the country managing partner of Ernst and Young, in Ghana, in his pre-launch presentation entitled “Africa the Large Emerging Market”, said the time for the continent to take her rightful place in the global economy was now.
Gunn said with the impressive economic indices, Africa should start benchmarking itself with the very best in the world. He said the growth rate of the economies of countries like Nigeria and Ghana was an indication that the time has come for the African economy.
He declared “Africa is on the verge of economic breakthrough and it is becoming more attractive to investors”. The Ghana country manager also spoke of the major challenge confronting the continent. According to him “One of the major challenges confronting the continent is infrastructure and over $480 billion would be required to fix that problem in the continent”
Gunn said, in spite of the challenge, the future for the continent was rosy. He said Ernst and Young had the beautiful vision for the continent and decided to launch the awards in West Africa “Because we cannot be passive observers in the business community. Through this awards, we help clients, people and community to achieve their dream.”
The Ernst and Young chief executive officer in West Africa, Henry Egbiki, reiterated the position of Gunn. Egbiki, who officially launched the award, said the continent with the human and natural resources at its disposal, should be in the driver’s seat of global economy. “With over one billion people and having about 10 per cent of the world’s oil reserves, Africa should be driving the world’s economy. In fact, Africa is a land of huge resources and great opportunities,” he said.
Egbiki further noted that with the huge natural resources, sustained improvement in infrastructure, it was not surprising that Africa is seen by many overseas investors as the land of opportunity. He said the award was the way Ernst and Young would identify with the progressive strides taken by the continent.
During the question and answer session, some guests came up with different suggestions on how to improve on the awards. The chief executive officer of Bio-Organic Nutrient Systems, Dr. Kenny Acholonu, volunteered what should be food for thought for the organisers.
He canvassed the need for Ernst and Young to expand the scope of the awards to accommodate entrepreneurs whose investments were in science and technology sector with emphasis on research and development.
Acholonu, who praised the initiative, argued that accommodating the new awards would create a new crop of entrepreneurs that would truly revolutionise the African economy.
He posited: “Today, the leading economies in the world are driven by science and technology. And to join the big players in the world economy, Africa must move away from selling primary products to exporting finished products. The awards should be expanded to encourage those organisations that are into science and technology because the sector is very crucial in the struggle to raise the profile of African economy.”
Another contributor frowned at the turnover an entrepreneur should have before he would be listed, but Xaba said Ernst and Young was not ready to tamper with the criteria including the turn over because the award had a standard.
With the arrival of the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the west coast and Nigeria, a new chapter has been opened in its history. And with the well packaged media launch, the organisers have served a tip of the iceberg.
Without a doubt, the awards will provide some magic moments to relish for organisers, participants, sponsors, the media, and the business community from June till November, 2011, when the last part would be staged.