AdeSawyerr has spent the past 40 years living and working in Britain as a management consultant. He came to study in Manchester but stayed on in Croydon where he has lived for the past 35 years. For over 20 years he worked out of an office in Brixton feeling the heartbeat of Black Britain, though his work as a management consultant specialising in Black and minority ethnic issues has taken him to different parts of the country.
In 1983, with two other colleagues, Maxwell Vardon and Maxine James, Ade set up Equinox Consulting as the first black management consultant firm. They specifically work on enterprise promotion, employment initiatives and community development projects targeted at black and minority ethnic communities. This involves consultancy, training and research services provided to a variety of clients including statutory sector and charitable trusts.
Community engagement and involvement strategies, as well as primary policy research, is at the heart of this work that seeks to find sustainable strategies for integration and communities with less racial inequality.
His work with the Black and other marginalised communities across the country has given him a rare insight into issues of discrimination and disadvantage and how to formulate strategies to engage these communities to become more involved and integrated within the mainstream.
In 1971, straight out of university, Ade was fortunate to have been employed by Ghana Commercial Bank, the state-owned bank where he learnt the rudiments of commercial banking as it was in the early 1970s, managing savings accounts, appraising and approving loans to small businesses and contextualising all the learning he had acquired in university.
In 1972, computers were new to the world and in Ghana had just made a transition from their main uses as scientific machines to general-purpose use. Fascinated by these huge mainframe machines that had to be kept in deep-freezing air-conditioned rooms because of the heat they generated, Ade joined IBM to be trained as a Systems Engineer in this nascent industry that still used cards for storage of data and memory smaller than modern-day watches. His job was mainly business analysis help organisations into the first steps in computers, training programmers and systems analysts and generating operating systems for new computer installations for both the commercial and public sectors. Ade Sawyerr supported the salesmen by designing the operating systems and the commercial applications of sales invoicing and billing, accounting and stock control, payroll and other management information and database software application in addition to providing day to day management support to some of the installations.
An opportunity arose so Ade left to be Managing Director of Afro-Asian Travel Centre, a specialist travel agency and ambitiously expanded operations from charter flights into more regular group travel into Ghana and tours. He ran several charter flights to and from London during Christmas, Easter and summer. He also operated special event flights with the African American Institute to bring young on their way to trace their roots in the Gambia to experience the first independent African country, Ghana. Other aspects of the business involved trips for Muslims Pilgrims going on the Hajj as well as for Christians on Pilgrimage to Lourdes, Rome and Jerusalem.
A side business at the time was managing a popular young musical band Boombaya. When Charter flights were banned, it became difficult to sustain the business and the operations folded.
Ade’s last job in Ghana was with Go Ahead, sweets making factory. – As operations manager, he helped to restructure what was a medium-sized family business and coordinated the finance and marketing role to make the business more sustainable in the face of raw materials shortages and rationing.
In 1980 Ade had entered Manchester Business School for a full-time two-year MBA. The hallmark of the programme was the Manchester Method. It simulated real-life working experience as part of course work on projects commissioned by the public, private and voluntary organisations. During the summer, he undertook original research into enterprise development among black people in the UK. It was also during the summer of 1981 when the race riots spread across Britain. It coincided with an earlier project that the Hackney ethnic minority project had undertaken. Ade’s dissertation on black businesses broke academic grounds and was published as “Particular Problems Facing Black-Controlled Businesses in Britain with Some Proposals for their Solution. This research work provided the basis for the establishment of Equinox Consulting as the first black management constant firm that was set up in 1983.
Ade Sawyerr was born in Ghana. He spent his formative years in Jamestown and then at Accra New Town where he attended the Accra New Town Experimental School. 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. In 1968, Ade 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