Nigerian physician, Tunji Funsho, who led in efforts to eradicate polio from Africa, has been named among TIME’s 100 most influential people globally in 2020.
The polio fighter was recognised on the TIME list announced on Wednesday, September 23, 2020, as doing “more than any other person to drive polio to continent-wide extinction”.
As the chairman of Rotary International’s polio eradication program in Nigeria, Funsho worked with other partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to achieve Nigeria’s certification as polio-free on August 25.
In a statement on Wednesday, Rotary International said the doctor is its first member to receive such an honour from TIME in recognition of the organisation’s work to eradicate polio.
The statement read in part: “I’m honoured to be recognized by TIME for my part in ensuring that no child in Africa will ever again be paralyzed by wild polio, a disease that once disabled 75,000 African children every single year.
“Eradicating the wild poliovirus in Africa was a team effort that required cooperation and dedication of governments, partners, Rotary members, hundreds of thousands of health workers, and countless parents who chose to have their children vaccinated against polio.”
According to TIME, Funsho could have retired as a cardiologist years ago, but, in 2013, “decided to step up” to lead in efforts to eradicate polio from Nigeria and the continent.
Also featured on the list is Tony Elumelu, chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, who was honoured for his years-long investment in African entrepreneurs.
Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu is an African economist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation.
”Not every day do you wake up to this – honoured to be named to the 2020 #Time100 from @TIME. This has been a tumultuous year for all of us – challenging, humbling, and forcing us all to reflect.Why am I there? When in 2010, we launched the @tonyelumelufoundation to champion African entrepreneurship, we had clear goals to catalyse and, yes, showcase the capacity, determination and power of the African entrepreneur. Young women and men shaping economies, creating jobs and singlehandedly confronting the clichés that often surround Africa.Africa is not a “continent of unrealised potential”, but one of innovation, pulsing with productivity, as our entrepreneurs are reimagining and building a new future for the continent. It is also about businesses like Transcorp Power, Nigeria’s largest power producer; @ubagroup, a bank in 20 African countries democratising financial services and breaking down barriers to trade; Avon Healthcare, innovating in delivering healthcare – our Group CEOs like Dr. Awele Elumelu, Owen Omogiafo, Simbo Ukiri, Dupe Olusola, Uzo Oshogwe, and Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu ideally females! We are changing the African narrative – thanks @TIME for recognising this.
Business and philanthropy have taught me that talent is evenly distributed. Yes in California’s “Silicon Valley”, but also Lagos’ “CC-hub”, the young people are just as gifted, but the structures of institutionalised support, the networks committed to and invested in their success could not be more different. Success occurs when preparation meets opportunity – where there is more opportunity, inevitably, there will be more success. It is this imbalance, the uneven access to opportunity for entrepreneurs in Africa that ignited my 2015 US$100 million commitment to empowering African entrepreneurs. Our rejection of the status quo propelled us to fund, mentor and train 10,000 entrepreneurs and counting, creating a digital ecosystem of support for over one million Africans. The results have been phenomenal.
Across tech, agriculture, retail, fashion, education, healthcare and countless others, our beneficiaries are launching and growing businesses that are transforming their cities and countries. Organisations including the UNDP, the ICRC and leading European development agencies are working with us to reach thousands more – because what we do is pretty unique – we give capital, training and mentorship to those who can make a difference – at scale. But the work remains just as urgent, this is no time to rest.
Young Africans should not be disadvantaged by their heritage and place of birth. They should not be forced to leave our continent. It is the responsibility of all of us – private sector peers and colleagues, the global development world, policymakers home and abroad and all stakeholders – to identify and invest in the next generation of Africans as the world has done for their counterparts elsewhere for so many years. African entrepreneurs deserve the global spotlight today and every day after.
This is a great day – I am proud, thankful, touched – thanks @TIME.
#AfricanEntrepreneurs #AfricanBusiness #Time100”