The success of entrepreneurs in Nigeria is key to the growth of West African economies and the prosperity of the entire continent, United States consul general Claire Pierangelo has said.

Pierangelo told a seminar in Lagos attended by graduates of the U.S-sponsored Tony Elumelu Foundation that population trends in Africa’s largest economy meant Nigeria could become the world’s third most populous country by 2050.

“If Nigeria is successful, it’s extremely young population will represent a tremendous source of productive labor and an extremely attractive market for a variety of products and services,” she said.

“Its success will be Africa’s success and the world will also benefit from the creativity and resourcefulness of its people. That is why the government of the United States cares so deeply about supporting entrepreneurship in Nigeria.”

Pierangelo  pointed to data showing that small to medium sized enterprises run by entrepreneurs created about 85 percent of all jobs in Nigeria.

The U.S. last October announced a partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation to promote entrepreneurship initiatives in Nigeria, through a public diplomacy grant of $105,000.

At this weeks’ seminar, Tony Elumelu Foundation CEO Ifeanyinwa Ugochukwu said partnerships such as that with the U.S. supported the job-creating, solution-driven mentality which Nigeria needed to lift itself up.

“It is clear that development aid does not solve economic problems, handouts never work in the long-term and in no developed country does government shoulder economic burdens alone,” she said.

Founded in 2010 by the businessman, investor and philanthropist whose name it carries, the Tony Elumelu Foundation is an African private-sector-led philanthropy focused on empowering African entrepreneurs.

 – ANA editing by Stella Mapenzauswa