The Minister for Business, Mr Nadhim Zahawi, said that businesses from BAME communities would play an ‘absolutely critical’ role in the economic recovery of UK, post lock down. The minister was speaking at a virtual conference for business leaders and entrepreneurs from African and Caribbean communities on June 11th 2020. It was organised by Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE, founder of the African Caribbean Business Network and Win Trade Global Talks, together with the Voice Newspaper and the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy.
Mr Nadhim Zahawi, the Minister for Business was responding to questions from over 550 attendees who wanted information on funding opportunities to help their business survive after the lock down period. Many of the participants felt that they had missed out on schemes to support their businesses or had failed to receive funding months after submitting applications for government loans.
A poll was taken before the event in which participants were asked ‘how much they knew about government support’. Only 37% felt they were fully aware of all the information they needed.
The Minster acknowledged that it had been a difficult time for BAME communities. He appreciated that the Black community had “paid a disproportionate price in the fight against Coronavirus”. He was keen to engage directly with leaders to share information and ensure that the support is widely circulated.
Participants wanted answers on the government Furlough Scheme, Bounce Back schemes and support for micro businesses. Others wanted clarification on specific long-term targeted support for BAME business communities, given the structural barriers already in place.
Elsie Owusu, a business leader representing the construction sector, challenged the government on its public procurement policy which excluded small businesses, many of which are made up of Black businesses. She called on the Minister to open discussions and work creatively to encourage businesses in the small and medium sector.
The Business Minister vowed to work closely with the BAME communities to make sure ‘they weather the storm’. He said that his office at the Department of Trade and Industry was looking at the full impact from the COVID 19 Report on African and Caribbean communities before reviewing the policy on economic revival in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions.
‘Diversity makes us all stronger,” he commented and said he wanted to see more businesses from both women and men from Black communities. He added that the new policy to stimulate the economy will include measures on retraining, reskilling, upskilling and education.
At the end of the conference , the same poll was taken again by participants. The results showed that over 60% had increased their knowledge and information on how to access government funding.
The hosts, Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE from Wintrade Global Talks and Miss Pauline Simpson from the Voice Newspaper hailed the pilot event a success. Participants tuned in from cities across the UK, from Ghana, Egypt , Dubai, Belgium and New York in the US. They promised to bring more events to ensure black businesses support each other.
For more information on government support, please view the links below: