London Bridge: Doing business with Europe

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Lee JasperLee Jasper is the director for equalities and policing at the Greater London Authority. Recognized by the European Union as one of only a handful of experts on race relations and equality issues, Jasper is responsible for overseeing the delivery of the mayor of London’s vision of a prosperous capital city in which all communities can participate. He spoke to TNJ about his own vision of “pan-African” business relationships when he attended The Double Bottom-Line: Leveraging Diversity Practice for Profit Generation conference, presented by VirtCom Enterprises, in June, at The Harvard Club of New York City.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY
CONTACTS IN LONDON
l African Caribbean Business Network  http://acbn.vbnlive.com

l Black Londoners Forum. Eroll  Walters, interim director
www.blacklondon.org.u.k.

l European Federation of Black Women Business Owners 
www.efbwbo.net

l Greater London Authority 
www.london.gov.u.k.

l London Development Authority, “Diversity Works for London”
program. Diana Skeete, head of
program www.lda.gov.u.k. 

l London First www.london-first.co.u.k.

l Olympic Delivery Authority  www.london2012.org/en/ourvision
/ODA

TNJ: What is London’s diversity imperative?
Lee Jasper: Forty percent of London is nonwhite. The current mayor [Ken Livingstone] is very progressive. He has been a vocal antiracist campaigner for the last 25 years. We describe London as a world city. You find every community there, more than 300 languages, 14 faiths. This underpins our conception of London as a city of the future. It is critical for us to maintain our leading edge as one of the world’s largest economies. We see ourselves now as a city pushing the envelope in terms of employment practices.

TNJ:  What are the key concerns of the campaign?
Jasper: Continued market failure. Companies are failing to use the best talents in the inner city. There’s too high a level of racism in the private sector. You don’t see that diversity in boardrooms, neither do we see it in access to contracts. Therefore, the city remains far too white and far too male. 

TNJ:  What is the mayor’s strategy to address this concern?
Jasper: Employ the strongest legislative framework based on directives from the European Union that are applicable to U.K. law. Companies being awarded E.U. contracts must be accountable. The city of London awards £5 billion in contracts per annum. Contracts can be ended by failure to show diversity. We’re not allowed to set targets in British law, but we have aspirational targets. Once a company wins a contract, we will state what rate of continual improvement needs to be made on a year-to-year basis. Our  “Diversity Works” campaign is a £10 million campaign.

TNJ: What have you learned from the U.S.?
Jasper: Everything. The United States has provided us with a comprehensive understanding of what we need to achieve. I’m standing on the shoulders of African-American business leaders who provide the impetus for the current environment. Our ambition is to take it to the next level. We have U.S. consultants. We rely heavily on getting that expertise, in getting that skills transfer from the U.S. to the U.K. Our diversity in a social sense is far more advanced than that in the U.S. What we haven’t got is integration in the economic sphere. That’s the prize.

TNJ: What linkages are you seeking with African-Americans?
Jasper: I’m seeking to get Africans and African-Americans to think of London as a global marketplace, for access to the European market. London is the place to be to establish offices. In 2012 the greatest show, the Olympics, will take place in London, with the city spending £5 billion on rail and tube construction and regeneration plans. There is more activity in London now than there has ever been since the Second World War and we don’t have diverse companies locally to do the work. Africans and African-Americans can establish partnerships with local firms, bringing their expertise and asset base.
If African-Americans solely concentrated on the U.S. markets in the context of the growing influence of China and India, it will be [unfortunate]. The visionary African-American businessperson will have a diasporic perspective in establishing his or her business in London. The African-Caribbean-Anglo-African potential is enormous. We hope they can see that vision. London is a place where you will find Black people with European language skills.

TNJ: Where are you going next?
Jasper: To Abuja, Nigeria, to talk about investment opportunities in the area of finance. I’m trying to facilitate African-American expertise in engineering, along with Northern Nigerian and South African investment, in partnerships with Black businesses of African and Caribbean descent in London in order to position all three to access the global opportunities that London presents. The economic opportunities are vast. Think about London as your destination of choice next year. Next year is the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the U.K. slave trade. The mayor will issue a formal apology on behalf of the city for the slave trade. A week after is the Nottingham carnival.

TNJ: Which industries offer the best partnership opportunities?
Jasper: Construction and engineering services, financial services, hospitality, cleaning, media and entertainment.    

Our Foreign-Born Black Population
With the subject of immigration so much in the political spotlight these days, we thought it important to look at the immigrant component of America’s Black population. Here are the data from the U.S. Census Bureau as of March 2004.

U.S. FOREIGN-    FOREIGN-BORN      TOTAL BLACK     TOTAL U.S.
BORN POPULATION    BLACK POPULATION    POPULATION    POPULATION

Both Sexes    34,237,000    2,930,000    37,645,000    288,281,000

Naturalized     13,125,000    1,285,000          —         —
Citizens

Non-citizens    21,112,000    1,645,000          —         —