“Despite the flawed process of the Africa Centre’s June 20th EGM, we secured the trustees’ commitment to consult widely with the community before they sell the Africa Centre’s building 38 King Street as we have called for throughout our campaign. We are calling for a 12 month pause in the process of the sale to allow the trustees to consult properly on the decision to sell 38 King Street, outline their vision and consider the various alternatives including offers from several high-net worth African individuals to develop 38 King Street for the 21st Century’’
Summary of key messages:
1. The EGM itself was a victory for the campaign – trustees have resisted consultation with the community, even their own members, since the campaign was kick-started on 18 March 2011.
2. Oliver Andrews, Chair of the Africa Centre, acknowledged at the EGM itself the need for consultation – before the sale. Trustees and Members agreed to give due consideration to alternative proposals and to quote Oliver Andrews in yesterday’s meeting “we (i.e. members) recognise that it is incumbent on us with fiduciary duty to consider all alternative offers”. There is at least one serious alternative financing proposal on the table from two high-profile and respected members of the African community in the UK.
3. The Save the Africa Centre campaign believes a consultation period of 12 months before any sale is agreed must be set in order to allow the Africa Centre to harness the groundswell of support from the campaign and its potential to deliver an outstanding arts and cultural programme at the Africa Centre during the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, which takes place on the 50th anniversary of the Africa Centre’s ownership of 38 King Street.
4. The Save the Africa Centre campaign wishes to place on public record theoverwhelming support it received during the EGM from the African Union Group as representatives of several High Commissioners and Ambassadors of African Nations in London – the AU Group stated unequivocally that the Board of Trustees should recognise the importance of listening, taking your constituency with you, and the importance in exercising power, of not simply winning a vote or having the authority to do something but behaving morally.
5. 14 new persons were nominated as Members of the Association just 4 weeks ago, well after the dispute began and were then asked to vote to approve the proposed sale (which they would have little knowledge of, having not been present at previous meetings when all the relevant issues and alternative options were discussed) and to approve the dismissal of Boko Inyundo (whom, of course, they had never worked with). Their votes swung the result in the Council’s favour. At the same time, many senior professionals who have a long history of involvement with the Charity and who had always believed themselves to be Members of Association were informed that the Council did not consider their membership to be current and therefore they would not be invited to attend and to vote. A great many of these individuals were supporters of the Save the Africa Centre campaign and would have voted against the motions.
6. The Save the Africa Centre campaign team remains gravely concerned about the fact that still, as of the EGM yesterday (20 June 2011), the trustees have not yet outlined any sense of the “vision” they have for the future – i.e. how they intend to use the financial capital from the sale. It is 6 months since the trustees made the in principle decision to sell, a decision made at the last AGM held on 14 December 2010. The Save the Africa Centre campaign therefore believes that the Africa Centre should, at the very least, stay at 38 King Street until such time that that vision is articulated and shared with the community through an open and transparent public consultation process.
7. Ultimately the Save the Africa Centre campaign aims to continue building on thesocial capital gathering amongst the African Diaspora community in the UK and supporters on the continent itself. We believe that it is this social capital, the dialogue, the meeting, the debating, the programming that brings us as a community together and this is a key ingredient in charting a truly sustainable path for the Africa Centre.
8. Governance issues within the structure and organisation of the Africa Centre Limited must be addressed urgently. The Save the Africa Centre campaign wants to harness the engagement of the community and widen the ‘Members of the Association’ of the Africa Centre by calling for more young members of the Diaspora to be included in the membership body. The campaign wants the Articles of Association of the charity, which were authored as far back as 1961, to be updated and made relevant to today’s vastly changed African Diaspora community in the UK. We want a Director of the Africa Centre appointed who has the experience and calibre to immediately influence and create a vision for the programming and events at 38 King Street, whether that’s for an interim period when consultation about the sale takes place, or for the long term future in which we investigate the viability of the building and wider financial or other support to preserve it.