Tonye Dele Cole

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Tamunotonye Dele Cole[1] (also known as TDC, born January 15, 1967) is an author, motivational speaker, ordained minister of the gospel, and entrepreneur. He is the son of former managing director of the Daily Times Newspaper and former Ambassador of Nigeria to Brazil, Pa Patrick Dele Cole.

Early Life & Education

Tonye Dele Cole was born in Port Harcourt , Rivers State, Nigeria . He attended Corona School, Victoria Island and later King's College, Lagos before proceeding to King's Ely in Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom.

He is a merit honours graduate of Architecture, an alumnus of the University of Lagos, Harvard Business School's advanced management programme and University of Brasília in Brazil.


TDC is a firm believer in Africa’s inherent greatness.

He has traveled vastly delivering numerous papers to African youths. He is a regular columnist for THISDAY Style and the author of Morning Reflections, an inspirational devotional.

TDC worked as an architect for frontline Brazilian architectural firm GrupoQuartro SA in Goiania Brazil between 1990 and 1992, where he was involved in the design and implementation of the urban planning and city development of Palmas, the capital city of the newly created state of Tocantins. The city of Palmas was designed as a ‘green fields’ project and built up from scratch.
Amongst the projects he worked on in Palmas were the State Ministry of Justice HQ and the City Hall.

Upon his return to Nigeria, TDC was recruited in 1993 as the Director of Operations EMSA S.A., a Brazilian civil engineering company, the 7th largest engineering firm in Brazil that was awarded World Bank-financed water projects for Lagos State Water Corporation. He was responsible for incorporating and setting up the Nigerian office, recruiting the local staff and managing the office. The company, in a joint venture with Sakamori Limited successfully executed three World Bank sponsored contracts valued at $58m and one ADB sponsored contract for Anambra State Water Corporation valued at $15 million.

In 1996, TDC, in partnership with his friends, Tope Shonubi and Ade Odunsi, founded the Sahara Energy Resource Limited and became its Group Executive Director and co-founder.

Sahara Energy started out as an oil and gas company whose core business at the time was the trading of excess fuel from the Port Harcourt and Warri refineries.
This was followed by diversification into storage depot and vessel ownership. He built depots in Lagos, Onne and Abuja with a combined capacity of 55,000 metric tones and a fleet of five vessels moving products across West Africa.

With a combination of hard-work and dogged determination not to be a middleman in the transactions, Sahara Energy established itself as a credible trading house within three years of conception, with a respectable trading line from a first class international bank, BNP Paribas.
Today, Sahara Energy is a major employer of labour with a staff strength of over 400 people, upstream assets comprising of nine blocks, 87 one deep water block in Ghana and deeply in developing the domestic gas infrastructure.

Under Tonye watch as the Co-founder and Group Executive Director of Sahara Group, the company has many landmark achievements. The most recent of Sahara Group’s intervention is the Food Africa project which seeks to pilot an innovative approach aimed at revamping the food sector to create new jobs for young people, increase farmers’ revenues, improve productivity, enhance nutrition and reduce food loss through more sustainable production practices. The project which has Kaduna State as the pilot location is being driven by Sahara Group, the Kaduna State government, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Fund (UNSDG-F) and UN Goodwill Ambassadors, brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca of Restaurant El Celler can Roca, ranked among the best chefs of the world.

Recently, Sahara unveiled its entrepreneurship platform to reach 12 million beneficiaries in the next four years through platforms that find, create and connect young entrepreneurs in emerging markets. Rivers State will no doubt benefit immensely from this platform.

His passion for youth development and giving back to the less-privileged led to the establishment of his foundation, the Nehemiah Youth Empowerment Initiative.

Through the Nehemiah Youth Empowerment Initiative, Cole regularly supports other foundations like the Down Syndrome Society, Slum2School Foundation, and Bethesda School for the Blind . He also serves on the advisory boards of various youth focused charities such as Africa 2.0 Foundation and Sapinda Rainbow Foundation .

Owing to his desire to save life through effective sanitary and health intervention scheme, TDC has led Sahara Foundation in the execution of several projects including the provision of borehole for clean water across Nigeria in conjunction with the Carter Foundation. This specifically was to ensure guinea worm eradication.

These programmes focused on providing clean water, encouraging proper hygiene and sanitation amongst communities and primary school pupils. The Foundation also launched the Inclusive Education Project for Persons living with Disabilities partnering with Cedar Seed Foundation to provide scholarships to one hundred beneficiaries, who also received wheelchairs, elbow crutches, guide canes, hearing aids, walking sticks and sunglasses to drive cross-sectorial collaboration. This is made possible by connecting the right people and organisations towards providing sustainable solutions to global social problems.

TDC is also an active member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Council for Energy, member, World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) amongst others.

Furthermore, in recognition of the role his company has played in shaping indigenous involvement in the African energy sector. He was appointed to the United Nation Sustainable Development Fund’s(SDG-F) private sector advisory group. He serves as a board member for several organisations such as Atlas Mara, Bloomberg TV Africa, Nigeria Shippers Council, Enactus Nigeria and Digital Jewels amongst others.
Cole won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the United Kingdom Oil and Gas Council in 2017.

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