Ade Sawyerr

Ade Sawyerr was born and bred in Ghana and spent the first 30 years of his life in Ghana before emigrating to the UK, first to study and then to work.  He had lived in Croydon for the past 35 years and worked as a management consultant in Brixton and lately in Croydon though his work has taken him all over the country.

In 1971 Ade started working with the Ghana Commercial Bank his first substantive job straight out of university.  He was fortunate to be one of the few who was employed in the state owned bank, He learnt the rudiments of commercial banking as it was in the early 1970s, managing savings accounts and appraising and approving loans to small businesses.

Computers were new in the world and in Ghana and it held a certain fascination for him considering the fact that in those days there were no hand held calculators and no LCD displays. He left the bank to join the then-nascent computer industry, working as a Systems Engineer for IBM.   This was the time when card systems still operated for feeding information into computers and the huge mainframe machines had to be stored in airconditioned rooms because of the immense heat that they generated and when the random-access memory was limited.  Computers had moved from being scientific to general purpose machines and they were fast been used for commercial purposes.  Ade’s job involved assisting organisations to computerise their operations by conducting analysis of business systems and recommending both computer hardware and software to improve processes and helping the governmental and commercial organisations to train their analysts and programmes.  He supported the work of the salesmen and operated business development services, running payroll, accounting, sales invoicing and billing systems on some of the early mainframe computers.

An opportunity arose for him to be involved in owning a specialist travel agency Afro-Asian Travel Centre and he grabbed that as a young budding entrepreneur with the ambition to expand from charter flights into more regular group travel into Ghana and organise tours..  Several charter flights were run from and to London at Christmas, Easter and summer the main holiday seasons and several during the summer months from America; the African American Institute were involved in bringing young students to the Gambia, Jufure to trace their roots and also to come to Ghana, the first independent African country.  Ade also organised trips for Muslims Pilgrims going on the Hajj as well as for Christians on Pilgrims going to Lourdes, Rome and Jerusalem. When charter flights were eventually banned by the Ghana government as a drain on foreign exchange, it became difficult to sustain the business that eventually closed.

His last job was with a sweets making factory – Go Ahead where he was involved in restructuring what was a medium size family business and as operations manager he helped to coordinate the finance and marketing role to make the business more sustainable in the face of acute shortage and rationing of the main raw materials.

In 1980 Ade entered Manchester Business School for a full time 2 year MBA.  The hallmark of the programme was the Manchester Method that simulated real life working experience as part of course working on project after project for commissioned by public, private and voluntary organisations.  In his summer period he had the opportunity to undertake original research into enterprise development amongst black people in the UK.

It was also the summer of 1981 when the race riots spread across Britain and it all coincided with earlier project work that had been undertaken by the Hackney ethnic minority project.  Ade’s dissertation on black businesses broke academic ground and was published as “particular problems facing black-controlled businesses in the Britain with some proposals for their s solution.

Ade was allowed to work in this country and in 1983, with two other colleagues, Maxwell Vardon and Maxine James he set up Equinox Consulting as the first black management consultancy specifically working on black and ethnic minority business development and support. They offered a mixture of research into ethnic markets and issues, training of business people at the start up and growth levels, consulting and hand holding of these businesses through writing business plans, providing them with robust systems of operations, finding them start up and growth capital and exploring with them new markets.  Increasingly the work also involved the setting up of business associations, some mentoring and matching with bigger mainstream organisations under supplier agreements.

Ade has also worked on various employment initiatives; conducting research into barriers to employment, exploring how contract compliance and voluntary schemes can be applied to increase the recruitment, employment, training, promotion and retention of black workers.  He has designed, developed and delivered training programmes for both hard and softskills and worked direct customised training programmes.

The other aspect of the work at is working with community organisation on bids, proposals so that they are able to run their organisations on a more formal basis.

Ade’s interests are varied; he is a community activist advocating for the members of various ethnic communities to have a voice so that they can participate equally and contribute more fully within the country.

He promotes black culture wherever he can is a cultural enthusiast in the Gadangme people of Ghana helping to form many organisations, researching the culture and tradition to bring them into the millennium

He is a social and political commentator and writes on issues relating to race equality, inclusion and diversity, politics and third world development.

His formative years were spent in Jamestown, where he was born and then at Accra New Town where he attended the Accra New Town Experimental School that cut pre secondary school education to 6 years instead of 8 years.  Having passed the Common Entrance Examination, he ended up at Achimota School in 1960 short of his 10th birthday.  He spent his sixth form days at Ghana Secondary School Koforidua and in 1968 entered the School of Administration, University of Ghana now called the University of Ghana Business School where he graduated with a degree of B. Sc. Administration in the management option.

He is an approved consultant of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, a Certified Management Consultant and a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultancy

There are many parts to Ade.  He is a

  • management consultant
  • community activist
  • cultural enthusiast and
  • a social and political commentator