The Powerlist: 10 years of Black Power


David Cameron was unequivocal. "The military," he said. "The military is definitely one sector where I don't see black people represented at the top." That was four years ago, and the former prime minister was talking to me about the sectors of society in which he felt people of African or African Caribbean heritage were most conspicuous by their absence.

He had been spot-on in identifying the military; there are very few black faces in the senior ranks. Only 2.4% of officers are from a black or minority ethnic background - and that figure includes recruits from Commonwealth countries. However, he could just as easily have been talking about the civil service, the police or the media and still have been on the money.

Six years before that conversation, I launched the Powerlist, an annual publication that profiles some of Britain's most influential people of African and African Caribbean heritage. Now, 10 years on, as we publish this year's list, we have found that despite some cause for optimism - mostly in the business sector - in many areas the situation is no better than a decade ago, and sometimes worse.

Take, for instance, the government. Incredibly, there has never been an MP of African or African Caribbean heritage in the cabinet. The only black cabinet minister was Baroness Amos (a peer) who served in the decision-making body of the executive as secretary of state for international development and leader of the House of Lords between 2003 and 2007. Baroness Scotland, as attorney general, and before her Lord Boateng, as chief secretary to the Treasury, held positions in which the incumbent minister was regularly invited to attend cabinet meetings, but strictly speaking neither of those roles is regarded as being in the cabinet. Today there are no black people in the cabinet.

A look at the judiciary shows that 10 years ago Dame Linda Dobbs, who currently chairs the Powerlist judging committee, was the only black high court judge. In 2004, when she was first appointed, she said of the fact that she was the first person of African heritage to fill such a role: "I am confident that I am the first of many to come." Sadly, that has not been the case. Not only was she the one black high court judge throughout her tenure, but since Dobbs retired in 2013 there has been a total absence of black judges in the high court.

Intriguingly, however, there has been a significant shift in representation on the list from the public to the private sector. There are no official data to back this up, but a look at corporate Britain reveals that the number of black people in senior positions has increased over the years - almost certainly as a result of aggressive diversity programmes instituted by many companies in this sector. In professional services, while the numbers are still far fewer than they ought to be, there are more black partners than ever before. It's the same in law firms: more black partners have come through over the past decade. And in banking, particularly investment banking, there are more black managing directors than ever.

But when we look at board representation in FTSE 100 companies - the people who make the most important decisions in these firms - the picture once again turns ugly. There are just two UK-based black people - Dambisa Moyo, at Barclays and at SAB Miller, and Jean Tomlin at Sainsbury's - serving on the board of a FTSE 100 firm. Both are non-executives. There are no black c-suite execs (chair, chief executive, chief finance officer etc) - the people who really run the company. In 2007 there were three, two of whom were executive directors.

As our list has clearly shown over the years, this is not due to a paucity of talent. It's more to do with a lack of opportunities for that talent to shine, with some of the headhunters who have traditionally filled board vacancies particularly culpable because they simply don't know any black people.

But it's not all bad news. The one area that seems to have thrived, somewhat ironically given the economic climate of the past decade, is the number of black-owned and run businesses that have come through.

Ten years ago we struggled to find successful entrepreneurs. Now young people such as 24-year-old Steven Bartlett, who set up Social Chain, one of the UK's fastest growing social media firms, and former banker Martin Ijaha, the founder and CEO of Neyber, a company that offers affordable loans to company employees, are becoming serious trailblazers in the business sector. And then we have the more established entrepreneurs such as Ric Lewis, whose property investment firm Tristan Capital Partners has £10bn under management, and Tom Ilube, who has set up and sold a number of tech companies. In the arts, Femi Oguns' Identity Agency Group has been at the forefront of supplying black British acting talent to Hollywood, Star Wars actor John Boyega being one high-profile success.

On Tuesday we celebrate the Powerlist's 10th anniversary at the annual influencers' dinner, a black-tie event in the City which will feature leading figures in the UK's African and African Caribbean population as well as guests from the US, Africa and the Caribbean. London mayor Sadiq Khan, will deliver the keynote speech. It has become the most prestigious event in the black British calendar.

Ten years on, Powerful Media, the company that publishes the list, has added Future Leaders, which profiles 100 of the UK's most talented black students every year and which has become an invaluable resource for our recruitment firm Powerful Personnel. Through it we work with some of the country's leading firms to assist them in their efforts to recruit the brightest and best, at all grades of seniority, regardless of their ethnicity.

I've always said that we will stop publishing the Powerlist when it is no longer necessary. But given the slow rate of change in so many areas of British life, it's arguably needed more now than ever before.

Michael Eboda


Corporates, financiers and entrepreneurs

Nathaniel Peat
Co-founder/CEO, Gennex, which provides innovative renewable energy products, primarily solar, in Africa and the Caribbean
Social entrepreneur and talented businessman from Tottenham, north London, who has won numerous awards for enterprise.
Gina Miller
Founder,,,, True and Fair Foundation
Formidable investment fund manager with a passion for consumer protection and a legal challenge against Brexit underway.
Najoh Tita-Reid
VP and country division head for the UK, Bayer Consumer Care
Seen as being among the very best strategic players in her business, and tipped to be soon running a major pharmaceutical company.
Daniel Taylor
Founder/MD, Metro Design
He founded his company in 1998 and it remains the largest black-owned firm in its field of commercial design and build.
Freddie Achom
Founder/chair, investment group Rosemont Group Capital Partners
Focused on land and property development with a keen interest in tech investment, Achom is a self-made millionaire.
Alan Smith
Global head of risk strategy and senior executive officer of group risk, global risk, HSBC
An author as well as a senior financier who has risen within the ranks of the bank for which he has worked for more than 22 years.
Netsai Mangwende
Head of finance business partnering, UK and Europe, AIG
An inspiring mentor who plays a pivotal role in her company's senior management.
Wol Kolade
Managing partner, Living Bridge
An engineer now responsible for strategic development of his firm's £1.6bn assets.
Kanya King
Chief Executive/founder, Mobo
An internationally known entrepreneur, public speaker and music industry innovator.
Gary Elden
CEO, SThree Recruitment
Having grown up in a south London council estate, he now runs his own company.
Richard Iferenta
Partner, KPMG
Passionate about fairness at work and a mentor and coach to BME managers.
Pamela Hutchinson
Head of diversity and inclusion EMEA, Bloomberg
A leading talent in inclusion , she has worked for all the biggest names in banking.
Yvonne Ike
Managing director, sub-Saharan Africa (Ex-RSA), Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Financial services guru with a specialism in Africa and deep involvement with several development initiatives.
Kayode Akinola
Director of private equity, KKR
At the heart of the new explosion of interest in Africa's private equity sector.
Bernard Obika
CEO, Roughton Group
An executive in transport and engineering with a key role in advising governments and organisations on infrastructure.
Kola Karim
Group managing director/CEO, Shoreline Energy International
Named by Forbes as one of the most powerful men in Africa, he has been at the helm of his firm for nearly two decades.
Tunji Akintokun
Director, Cisco, Africa
A proud torch bearer at Rio 2016, he founded a social enterprise scheme to help children into careers in science and technology and was promoted this year to lead Cisco Africa.
Arlene Isaacs-Lowe
Managing director - head of relationship management EMEA, Moody's
One of the most senior female corporate executives in the country since she arrived in London for Moody's in 2015.
Ric Lewis
Founder/chief executive/chair, Tristan Capital Partners
London real estate investor who founded his own charity to improve educational prospects for underpriviledged children.

Media, publishing and entertainment

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Sir Lenny Henry. Photograph: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
Sir Lenny Henry
Actor; writer; campaigner
One of the UK's best-known comedy performers and a campaigner for BME diversity in the media.
Dr Shirley J Thompson
Composer; conductor; Reader in Music, University of Westminster
The first European woman to compose a symphony in the past 40 years.
Femi Oguns
Leading agent and founder of the Identity School of Acting and Identity Agency Group
One of Britain's leading talent agents, with Hollywood clients including John Boyega.
David Oyelowo
Star of several high-profile films who helped lead the #oscarssowhite campaign.
Marcus Ryder
Executive producer, current affairs, BBC
TV executive who spearheaded coverage of the Scottish referendum.
Steve McQueen
Film director
Celebrated producer and screenwriter who in 2013 became the first black director to win an Oscar, for 12 Years a Slave.
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Nominated for an Oscar for his role as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave.
John Boyega
Actor and producer
Peckham-born Hollywood star who played the lead in JJ Abrams' Star Wars reboot.
Sharon Dodua Otoo
Winner of the prestigious Ineborg Bachmann prize for German literature.
Zadie Smith
Critically acclaimed novelist who became an overnight success with White Teeth.
Tandy Anderson
Chief executive, Select Model Management
Co-founder of groundbreaking modelling agency whose clients include David Gandy.
Jamal Edwards
Social media and TV entrepreneur
Internet mogul who transformed youth broadcasting with YouTube channel SB.TV.
Vanessa Kingori
Publisher, British GQ
The first and only black publisher at Condé Nast, the glossy publishing house.
Idris Elba
Golden Globe winner known for his roles in Luther and The Wire.
Pat Younge and Kwadjo Dajan
MD and creative director, Sugar Films
Veteran TV producers who between them have delivered Strictly, Luther and Dr Who.
Anne Mensah
Head of Drama, Sky
One of the UK's few black senior TV executives, headhunted from the BBC.
Darcus Beese
President, Island Records
Maverick who signed a teenage Amy Winehouse and manages US superstars.
Wayne Hector
Prolific songwriter who penned smashes for One Direction, Donna Summer and Westlife.

Politics, law and religion

Sandie Okoro
General counsel, HSBC Asset Management
Barrister, governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company and on the equality standards panel of the Premier League.
Dr John Sentamu
Archbishop of York
Second most senior cleric in the Church of England. Cambridge-educated and anti-violence campaigner.
Colin Cook
Senior clerk to chambers, Garden Court
Overseeing the practices of 200 barristers, he cares passionately about social justice, and works with young people in his spare time.
Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin
Chaplain to the speaker of the Commons
The first black person to hold the role and conducts parliament's daily services.
Sam Gyimah
Parliamentary under secretary of state, Ministry of Justice
Recently promoted in Theresa May's reshuffle, the Surrey Conservative MP began his working life as an investment banker.
Walter H White
Partner, McGuire Woods
Key figure in efforts to enhance contacts between black Britons and African Americans.
Tom Shropshire
Partner, Linklaters
One of the UK's leading black business professionals, on government panel looking at the need for diversity in FTSE companies.
Grace Ononiwu OBE
Chief crown prosecutor, West Midlands
First woman and black person to hold the CPS post and was awarded an OBE in 2008.
Funke Abimbola
General counsel and company secretary, Roche UK
An award-winning lawyer with an industry-leading team in science and healthcare.
Joshua Siaw
Partner, White & Case
British-Ghanaian who advises governments, corporates and banks on transactions and crossborder project development in Africa.
Sandra Wallace
Country managing partner, DLA Piper
Lawyer who has built up a fine reputation acting on high-level discrimination cases.
Chuka Umunna
Labour MP for Streatham, chair of Vote Leave Watch
The former shadow business secretary is tipped as a future Labour leader.

Public and third sector

Sharon White
Chief executive, Ofcom
Former Treasury official who is first black woman to hold a senior role in UK media .
Alexander McLean
Founder and director-general, African Prisons Project
Grew his charity to a major initiative that changes lives in Kenya and Uganda.
Simon Woolley
Co-founder/director, Operation Black Vote
A long-time campaigner for racial justice.
Lord Adebowale
Chief executive, Turning Point
Social enterprise chief, a champion for those affected by poverty, drugs and mental illness.
Rio Ferdinand
Philanthropist, football pundit
Retired Manchester United player who runs a housing charity in east London.
Beverley De-Gale and Orin Lewis
Founders of the ACLT, one of Britain's leading blood cancer charities
Keep their son's memory alive by raising awareness of stem cell and organ donation.
Fiona Bartels-Ellis
Global head of equality, diversity and inclusion, British Council
Trustee, supporter and mentor across several diversity and gender enterprises.
Dr Tony Sewell
Author, teacher, lecturer and founder and CEO of Generating Genius. Member, Youth Justice board
Academic, social commentator and writer who works with several youth groups.
Patricia Gallan
Assistant commissioner, specialist crime and operations for the Metropolitan police
Scots-born and the most senior ethnic minority female police officer. Widely seen as a future commissioner.
Seyi Obakin
CEO, Centrepoint
Head of the major homelessness charity, he began his working life as an accountant.


Mariéme Jamme
CEO, Spotone Global Solutions; advisory board member, Data-Pop Alliance
Senegal-born businesswoman who helps startups in emerging markets.
Tom Ilube
Founder of Crossword Cybersecurity; African Gifted Foundation
Cybersecurity expert and educational philanthropist whose schools transform lives in the UK and Africa.
Ismail Ahmed
Founder/CEO, WorldRemit
Entrepreneur whose firm allows users to send money across the world in seconds.
Piers Linney
Technology adviser, Insight Global Technology Fund
Former star of BBC 2's Dragons' Den, technology mogul and philanthropist.
Martin Ijaha
Founder/CEO, Neyber
Ex-Goldman Sachs banker whose firm offers an alternative to high borrowing rates.
Baroness Oona King
Global head of diversity, YouTube
Labour peer, broadcaster and writer who recently swapped the Lords for Silicon Valley.
Ian Greenstreet
Entrepreneur; founder and chair, Infinity Capital Partners
Respected financier whose foreign exchange firm is making waves in the City.
Janet Thomas
Investment banker; founder and CEO, Touch FX
MD of Infinity Capital Partners and one of the most respected women in the City.
Jacky Wright
Vice-president, Microsoft IT Enterprise SES
IT executive of over 20 years' business experience who campaigns for diversity.
Adrian Joseph
Non-executive director, the Home Office
Senior Google executive who leads a taskforce to accelerate racial diversity.
Paulette Rowe
Managing director, global payments acceptance, Barclaycard
Chair of the Mayor's Fund for London and oversees a third of card payments in the UK.
Dupsy Abiola
Entrepreneur, lawyer and founder/CEO of Intern Avenue
Lawyer whose data-driven enterprise Intern Avenue is opening doors for BME students.
Steven Bartlett
Co-founder, Social Chain
Manages social media accounts for brands including the BBC and 20th Century Fox.