History of Success for African Entrepreneurs in UK: In Many Western Countries Where Africans and People of African Origin Form a Significant Proportion of Immigrants, There Is a Myth That They Are Fit Only for Lowly Jobs or That They Cannot Succeed in Business. *Kwaku's Research Reveals That There Have Been Successful African Entrepreneurs in Britain Going Back 200 Years. He Provides a Few Examples

Article excerpt

One of the most disturbing comments I heard about the riots in England last August riots, (the aftermath of a peaceful march to police station in north London to demand answers following the gunning to death of a 29-year-old African* man called Mark Duggan) was not from the British mainstream media, but rather from one of our leaders addressing a post-riots community meeting.

This leader told the gathering that in any case the riots did not really affect us Africans, because we do not own our communities or businesses. But I saw on TV an African pharmacist standing in front of his store, appealing to the mob not to trash it. I read in the press about a clothes shop in Birmingham that was attacked on two nights by looters, and a grandmother who confronted the looters outside her London hair salon. These were businesses owned by Africans.

I was driven by a passion underscored by this quote by African-American leader Jesse Jackson: "If my eyes can see it, if my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it." I thought it was important, particularly for our young people, to see and be inspired by the success stories of Africans in Britain who have overcome barriers or navigated the system, and achieved. I organised an event, as part of the Black History Month festival to break the myth that Africans are not business owners or within the higher echelons of the corporate world in the developed world.

Early achievers

The event took the audience back over 200 years, by highlighting Ignatius Sancho, better known as one of the 18th century Africans who fought for the abolition of the enslavement of Africans. His relevance in this history is that he was a free man who owned a grocery store not far from the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, central London, and on account of being a property owner, he voted in the general elections of 1774 and 1780. He is the first African on record to have voted in British parliamentary elections.

Two years after he died in 1780, his writings were published in a book entitled The Letters Of The Late Ignatius Sancho, An African. His widow earned over [pounds sterling] 500 in royalties.

Sancho's contemporary, Olaudah Equiano, a leading member of the Sons Of Africa abolitionist movement, successfully self-published, in 1789, his biography The Interesting Narrative Of the Life Of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written By Himself which he supported with several UK writer tours, and reprinted the book several times, in addition to having it published in foreign languages. His book was published in the US in 1791, at a time when enslavement was rife in the so-called New World.

George Africanus was brought to a businessman in Wolverhampton from Sierra Leone as an enslaved boy aged three. After an apprenticeship as a brass founder, he married and settled in Nottingham. He set up the Africanus Register of Servants employment agency, and was so prosperous he owned his own home as well as the premises of his business. Again, when white English commoners were not permitted to vote, Africanus voted in the 1826 general elections, on account of being a property owner.

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The Norwich-born performer turned businessman Pablo Fanque is celebrated in popular culture but it is not pointed out that he was African. He started what became one of Victorian Britain's leading circuses in 1841. The Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal toured the UK for 30 years. In the 1850s he built an amphitheatre in Cork, Ireland, and there was also one in Edinburgh. Fanque is mentioned in The Beatles' song 'Being For the Benefit Of Mr Kite!' on the Sgt Pepper album.

Bill Richmond was a former enslaved African-American brought to Britain as a servant in 1777. He became famous as the boxer nicknamed 'The Black Terror'. …