Bristol’s full economic revival will only be fully realised if it is inclusive for all, says the boss of a leading social enterprise.
CEO of ACH Fuad Mahamed has set out the vital importance of valuing black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and businesses in the road to recovery in a new document, pointing out the key role they have taken in keeping the country running during the coronavirus outbreak.
Mahamed says if there is one thing we have learnt from the pandemic; it is that the chain of resilience is only as strong as its weakest link.
“Bristol’s economic recovery is a must if we are to remain a vibrant world-leading city which we can all be proud of,” he says, in the report titled How to restart an inclusive economy recovery in Bristol post Covid-19.
“Indeed, Bristol is a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship as well as an academic powerhouse. Bristol is also a city with great diversity and untapped potential. Yet, the city’s full economic revival will not be fully realised if all Bristolians are not able and supported to participate in the economic activities of their city.
“The BAME health workers contribution is the tip of the iceberg in what energy and commitment there is in this community in Bristol to drive forward the city’s economic recovery. This is no longer just about rhetorical inclusivity but about inclusivity which drives growth, creates jobs and integrates our city, communities and society better.”
The coronavirus pandemic has had a disproportionate impact across the UK, highlighting and exacerbating deep-rooted inequalities along the lines of race, gender and class.
Mahamed points out that immigrant workers are not only over-represented in the NHS – accounting for one in six hospital workers in Bristol, according to a recent Bristol Cable report. They are also playing a vital role in keeping the country running as other key staff.
The pandemic has highlighted the vital importance of people who carry out essential low-paid roles, yet it is these workers who would not be permitted under the Government’s proposed Australian-style points-based immigration system.
The CEO of ACH, a St Paul’s-based social enterprise and leading provider in refugee resettlement and training services, says immigrant entrepreneurs can equally play vital role in the economic recovery as key workers have done in the emergency stage of the pandemic.
But tailored, targeted support is necessary, as is access to mainstream finance.
A recent project, led by ACH, Engine Shed, the University of Bristol and West of England Growth Hub, revealed the barriers preventing many BAME and immigrant entrepreneurs from accessing the current business support ecosystem. These findings are backed up by a study conducted by Black South West Network.
Yet immigrant entrepreneurs — whose rate of entrepreneurship is nearly double that of a UK-born individual — are responsible for 14 per cent of jobs created in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, according to ACH.
Mahamed believes SMEs are vital to reignite the city’s economy.
He concludes: “The national collective spirit of Covid-19 has been nobody should be left behind and this needs to inform our sustainable recovery.
“As regards the wider Bristol economy, there needs to be an even greater commitment to inclusive growth through targeted training, skills and better long-term meaningful employment for all Bristolians, especially, for those more likely to be left behind in the past from the BAME communities. This is how Bristol and many other diverse UK cities can fully recover and remain resilient and prosperous against any future shocks.”
Main photo of Fuad Mahamed – courtesy of ACH