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Businesses led by ethnic minorities contribute £74bn annually to UK economy

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Saleha Riaz
·3 min read
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Smiling female and male entrepreneurs sitting in conference room during business meeting at workplace
The report by think tank OPEN, sponsored by EY, said that eight of the UK’s 23 tech unicorns – private start-ups valued at $1bn or more – were co-founded by minority entrepreneurs. Photo: Getty

Businesses led by ethnic-minority entrepreneurs contribute at least £74bn ($101bn) a year to the UK, making up a sixth of the six million businesses registered in the country and employed nearly three million people in 2019–20, a new report revealed. However, it said their contribution is often overlooked.

The report by think tank OPEN, sponsored by EY, said that eight of the UK’s 23 tech unicorns – private start-ups valued at $1bn or more – were co-founded by minority entrepreneurs.

In addition, 23 of the UK’s top 100 fastest-growing companies in 2019 were co-founded by minority entrepreneurs.

However, the report points out that despite this, “the contribution and unique challenges encountered by minority entrepreneurs are often overlooked by policymakers, the wider business community and the public.”

The report said minority entrepreneurs succeed against the odds. Challenges they face include discrimination; disconnection from key financial, business and political networks; and disproportionate levels of doubt.

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Minority entrepreneurs also have particular strengths, though, such as their drive to succeed, determination to overcome challenges and diversity of skills, perspectives, experiences and contacts.

The report, titled “Minority Businesses Matter,” provides recommendations “to help realise the untapped potential of the UK’s minority businesses.”

These include asking large businesses to make public their annual spending on procurement from minority businesses and commit to establishing or enhancing their supplier-diversity programmes.

In addition to providing anti-racism training to change perceptions of people from minorities, government and businesses also need to put in place “rigorous processes to systematically address discrimination in their recruitment, promotion, procurement, investment and other business decisions,” the report said.

It also said government decision-makers need to take more account of the interests of minority businesses in framing policy, regulations, funding and support programmes.

The report said it “comes at a time of growing global support for the Black Lives Matter movement and its efforts to highlight structural racism and the unique challenges minority communities have faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Thousands of people around the world took to the streets last year to protest against racism and to show unprecedented support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In response, companies received fierce public backlash for saying that “Black lives matter,” having seemingly not shown true commitment to fighting racial injustice.

Following that, companies across the world pledged money, launched programmes, and assessed what they need to do to bring about change. For instance, Citi pledged $1bn (£790m) to battle racial inequality.

The report also stated that stronger support for minority entrepreneurs would provide a significant boost to the UK’s economic output.

It pointed out that among their many contributions, minority businesses have developed rapid, accurate, low-cost COVID-19 tests, sourced personal protective equipment, kept elderly people safe in care homes, enabled the NHS to provide online GP consultations and delivered meals to families during lockdown.

It also said they can play a crucial role in boosting exports in a post-Brexit environment.

Meanwhile, a report from last week showed that the number of black individuals at the top of Britain’s biggest companies has fallen to zero.

Research compiled by recruitment agency Green Park shows that for the first time since the firm started its analysis back in 2014, there are no black chairs, CEOs or CFOs in the FTSE 100 (^FTSE).

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