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AFRICA CENTRE - WHERE IS IT SINCE THE CAMPAIGN?
A report from the Save the Africa Centre Campaign March 2014

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CONTENTS

Executive Summary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.. Sale of the Africa Centre!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.. The Africa Centre’s Programme of Events!!!!!!!!!!!! New Building/Location, Governance, Assets and Use of Resources Mourning 38 King Street, Collaboration with other organisations!. End of the Save the Africa Centre Campaign!!!!!!!!!!.. In Conclusion: STAC’s legacy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Appendix: Background to this report & the Save the Africa Centre Campaign!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Contact savetheafricacentre@gmail.com Info: http://savetheafricacentre.wordpress.com Twitter:!@SaveAfricaCtr Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/savetheafricacentre

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THE AFRICA CENTRE - WHERE IS IT SINCE THE CAMPAIGN?
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This is a final report on the state of the Africa Centre, as committed to by the Save the Africa Centre campaign in May 2012, when we concluded the campaign to halt the sale of the Africa Centre’s 38 King Street building. The active campaign ended, once it was clear an option to sell had been signed and there were limited options to halt the action. This report provides a brief background history of the Africa Centre and the Save the Africa Centre Campaign. We conclude that since the sale of the Africa Centre at 38 King Street, whilst the charity has delivered some programming, there is still no evidence that many of the issues raised by the campaign have been addressed, including no announcement of a new physical location for the Africa Centre, or any reform of the charity’s governance structure. We detail the issues that remain unaddressed, in this report. Finally, by selling its building at 38 King Street, which many people identified as synonymous with the charity, the Africa Centre has probably lost a key constituency, though there still remain a large number of people who would like to see a physical space in Central London, called the Africa Centre. These audiences and many of the ‘Africa’ interests in London and the UK, remain stakeholders in the existence of a future, physical Africa Centre location, and a well-governed Africa Centre.

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! Sale of the Africa Centre at 38 King Street The campaign did not succeed in halting the sale of 38 King Street, before a public consultation. 38 King Street, known as the Africa Centre was sold to Capital and Counties. The sum for which it was sold has not been publicly disclosed, however the campaign understands it was in the region of £12 million. We understand that the sale also entitles the Africa Centre, as a charity, to a small percentage of ground rent from the building, as the sale is of the leasehold of the building for 99 years. The Africa Centre as a charity and an organisation is currently housed at Rich Mix, a cultural Centre in Bethnal Green, London. The tenants of the Africa Centre at 38 King Street, notably, two Africa-related charities – Business Council for Africa and British Nigerian Educational Trust have had to find new homes at short notice, but have settled with minimal disruption in Southwark.

The Africa Centre’s Programme of Events Since the sale of the building and the charity’s vacation of the building, the charity has held a small number of events: A reception to announce the re-launch of its programme in July 2013 and a summer festival in Covent Garden, in August 2013. There has been no new programme of events since August 2013. There has been no update to the website since December 2013, when a newsletter was issued to commemorate the passing of Nelson Mandela, and the website was updated to reflect this. We understand the Africa Centre is putting in place plans to hold its summer festival in 2014 and that there is work underway to develop a programme of events. Have the core issues of the Campaign been addressed? The Africa Centre’s Location, Governance, Assets and Resources What's happened to a new building? There has been no public announcement about the possible location of a new building for the Africa Centre.

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! The trustees committed to a location in central London, upon vacating 38 King Street though where has never been publicly specified. The Campaign understands that the Africa Centre and the Royal Commonwealth Society were in dialogue about a merger, with the Africa Centre moving in to the RCS building on the Strand in London. The planned merger and takeover did not occur – the reasons are not known to us. There have been suggestions that the trustees are considering a number of venues, but this is speculation rather than fact. There has been no public statement about a date when the charity will move into a new building, or what their new arrangements will be. What's happening with the governance? One of the key issues of the campaign was that the Charity’s Articles of Association were not fit for purpose, and created confusion of responsibility between the role of trustees and an executive arm of the charity; also that the governing articles had not had any significant amendment since the charity was formed. We have no indication that the governance of the charity is being reformed. There have been some new appointments to the charity’s board, with some proactive new trustees. The longevity of tenure of many members of the board remains a concern. To date there is little evidence or communication that the core issues of concern to the Campaign and community have been addressed by the charity, these include: A clear sense of what the Africa Centre intends to do with its funds; If and where the Africa Centre as a physical Centre, will be re-located; Whether the charity is reforming its governance.

What's happening with the assets? The charity’s record on the Charity Commission website lists: £9.97 million retained for future use. For a public and detailed breakdown of the charity’s current finances, please see the Charity Commission’s page about The Africa Centre Limited.

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! Use of Resources We note, from the last two years' Annual Reports submitted to the Charity Commission, that more funds continue to be spent on Governance than on Programming. In the year ending March 2012, £294,696 was spent on Governance and £89,506 on Programming. In the year ending March 2013, £267,999 was spent on Governance and £185,722 on Programming. We know that there are many African diaspora cultural organisations that programme regular events for far less than the Africa Centre's £0.5 million annual expenditure, and note that this is without the Africa Centre covering substantial staff costs. Given the Africa Centre's poor record of governance, it is arguable that spend on governance may be a good thing, depending on what that spend is actually on. It would be helpful for stakeholders to know what the charity is doing in both areas – in more detail, and when they expect tangible results. An arts and cultural organisation that appears to produce little arts programming even whilst spending sums that many similar organisations would be delighted to have, remains an issue that needs resolving urgently. Mourning 38 King Street The Save the Africa Centre Campaign evoked one of the greatest responses for a desire for a dedicated physical space for Africans and Africa related programmes and events in London – as well as sparking the memories of many who had used, benefitted from, and found an African home from home in 38 King Street. The loss of 38 King Street has turned many people off the Africa Centre as an organisation; for them 38 King Street was the Africa Centre and the Africa Centre was 38 King Street. It is likely that this particular constituency is permanently lost to the Africa Centre. New Building That said, there are people who want to see the Africa Centre as a physical space in London for Africa related events; a physical space that currently does not exist in London. For them, the Africa Centre has a ‘good faith’ expectation to fulfill or disappoint.

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! Collaboration with other Africa-Focused Charities The increasing interest in Africa, and the wider base of organisations and individuals proactively participating and organising events, programmes and publications on Africa, means that the Africa Centre is working in a rich ecosystem of potential support and collaboration. It would be beneficial for the Africa Centre to be an organisation that works in open and supportive partnership, with many of the Africa/n-led and Africa-focused bodies in London and the UK.

End of the Save the Africa Centre Campaign This report marks the conclusive end of the Save the Africa Centre Campaign: 1. Our mailing list, email and website will become permanently dormant, though we will send a final message to supporters on which organisations they can get involved with to continue the support STAC received. 2. A comprehensive file documenting the campaign that has been maintained throughout the campaign will be logged with: The British Library, The Black Cultural Archives, The Royal African Society and The African Foundation for Research and Development. 3. The STAC bank account will be closed and the £150 balance will be donated to an African and/or arts and culture organisation. In Conclusion: STAC’s legacy STAC’s most important legacy is that is has placed an enduring spotlight on the responsibilities of the Africa Centre’s now enlarged Board to: *Administer the Africa Centre Limited’s charitable objects; *Evolve its organisational structures to foster accountability; *Improve its programming; *Safeguard its assets by managing reputation, property, tenants, suppliers and mitigating risk; *Support its volunteers and paying customers. The Africa Centre's Board may be left to respond as it deems appropriate. However, we hope some individuals within the Board now finally understand the importance of keeping the community informed and that the Board promptly does its duty in this regard.

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! The Board's legacy of non-engagement with the community has been a perennial issue, well documented by STAC. We, and this final STAC summary, persist by urging change on this issue and governance of the charity more generally, and hopefully that change will be the sort of change we can all genuinely support. STAC very much hopes the current group of trustees recognise their individual responsibilities. As Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, the much loved Africa Centre trustee, general secretary of the Pan-African Movement, director of Justice Africa, Deputy Director of the UN Millennium Campaign for Africa, who passed away in 2009 used to urge the charity’s Board: “Don't agonise, Organise!” Finally, we encourage all our supporters and stakeholders in the future of the Africa Centre, to take an active interest in the future of the charity, and indeed, the entire ecosystem of Africa related organisations in London and the UK.

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Appendix: Background to this report & the Save the Africa Centre Campaign The Africa Centre The Africa Centre is an Africa-focused charity in London – founded in 1962, and officially opened in 1964 by Kenneth Kaunda, President of Zambia. For fifty years, it was based at 38 King Street, and was at the heart of African Diasporan cultural and social life in London, with one of the first African restaurants in its basement, as well as playing host to pioneering music and club nights which were instrumental in popularising African music in the UK. The Centre and its building was also a hub for anti-apartheid and liberation activists from all across Africa, as well as providing a first exhibition space for many up and coming African artists. The centre had always struggled financially – however, in the 1990s and 2000s it appeared to encounter a particularly difficult financial crisis, as well as deep governance issues. The Africa Centre existed on two levels: - The Africa Centre as a charity and organisation - The Africa Centre as the physical building – 38 King Street, Covent Garden. In both terms, it was a crucial hub for African Diasporans and friends of Africa to connect with the continent. Timeline to Sale of the Africa Centre & the Save the Africa Centre Campaign 2006 – Proposed Sale In 2006 a proposal was put forward to sell the Africa Centre’s building at 38 King Street. The sale was resisted by a community campaign, and the Africa Centre was not sold but closed for refurbishment. 2006 – 2009 The events programming remit of the Africa Centre was outsourced to an arts consultancy, Business of Culture who managed the physical centre and programming. 2010 – 2011 Whilst still being run by Business of Culture, a Programming Consultant, Sheila Ruiz managed the Africa Centre events programme and supported by a team of volunteers, began to re-invigorate the use of the Centre as a space, and attract new audiences to the Centre.

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! 2011 – 2012 A decision to sell the building of the charity without public knowledge or consultation sparks the Save the Africa Centre Campaign. About the Save the Africa Centre Campaign From March 2011 to May 2012 the “Save the Africa Centre” campaign, or “STAC” (http://savetheafricacentre.wordpress.com) represented the African diaspora community and friends, in a public campaign to restrain the sale of the historic and much loved home of the Africa Centre, a Grade II-listed building in Covent Garden and for a long time the pre-eminent arts and cultural destination for the UK’s African Diaspora and people interested in the continent. A core group within the charity’s Board of trustees promoted this sale, but it was a decision disputed, as the charity’s Board had not consulted with the wider community yet were scheduled to sign legally binding terms of sale, without any such community consultation. The Save the Africa Centre Campaign galvanized over 4,000 supporters. These included several eminent persons such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as the African Union Group, international academic bodies and key figures including members of the House of Lords and members of the Eminent Africans Group. They believed that the building at 38 King Street played a critical role in Africa’s recent history – particularly in the development of independence movements and democratisation and development of the nation states, after independence as well as the arts, culture and education among the African Diaspora; therefore that the sale of the building as its only asset, required community consultation. In order to restrain the sale of the building, STAC secured the pro-bono support of a leading global law firm and worked with alternative investors (Hadeel Ibrahim and Adjaye Associates), who submitted a proposal worth millions of pounds to rehabilitate the charity’s headquarters. To ensure open, transparent and ‘real-time’ communications with both the charity’s dispersed Board of trustees and the community which it represented, STAC maintained a blog (see www.savetheafricacentre.com) and generated significant media exposure for the Africa Centre and the community’s concerns in: the Times, Guardian, Financial Times as well as TV appearances on the BBC and Vox Africa. STAC also coordinated applications to UNESCO and to English Heritage for conservation of the Africa Centre. In November 2011 a leading member of the STAC team was nominated, on behalf of STAC, for London’s South African Business Club’s “Charity of the Year” Award in recognition for the “phenomenal online marketing campaign to canvass support for this landmark venue in London”. STAC also coordinated the delivery of a published paper calling for reform of the charity's governance and set out a vision to sustain the charity. This was presented to the Chair of

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! Arts Council England, Dame Liz Forgan who responded offering the Chairman and trustees of the Africa Centre the opportunity to dialogue constructively. Although the campaign did not succeed in restraining the sale of the building, it did succeed in: - Raising public awareness of the Africa Centre amongst a new generation of African Diasporans - Galvanising public opinion against the sale of 38 King Street without consultation or published plans for the future - Publicising the proposed and eventual sale of 38 King Street, without a detailed plan for use of the monies, or location of a future building - Highlighting the issues of governance that urgently needed addressing, for instance, the neglect of the charity’s membership subscriptions and AGMs.

Contact savetheafricacentre@gmail.com Info: http://savetheafricacentre.wordpress.com Twitter:!@SaveAfricaCtr Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/savetheafricacentre

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