Name and where are you based?
Ms Em Ekong founder and director of Urban Inclusion Community, currently based between Accra, Ghana and London.
Tell us a bit about yourself and career leading you to where you are now?
I have spent most of my career working in the field of urban regeneration. I have always had a passion for economic development and trying to understand the route causes of poverty and why some communities and vulnerable groups struggle with access to opportunities.
I worked in the heart of London’s East-End one of London’s most disadvantaged communities for nearly 20 years on some of London most innovative regeneration programmes which saw the development of Spitalfields Market, the creation of a Cultural Industries Development Agency, and the birth of amazing street festivals including the Brick Lane Festival.
In 2006 I set up Urban Inclusion Community with two other women, a social enterprise set up to deliver local economic development solutions. As a social enterprise we commit a percentage of profits generated to support women entrepreneurs through business development and mentoring support.
In 2012 Urban Inclusion was fortunate enough to receive funding from the London Development Agency and European Union to deliver Fair Enterprise and Trade and the Cultural Business Investment Programme providing support to black and minority ethnic businesses access Olympic contracting opportunities.
In 2012 Urban Inclusion along with partners RegenFirst and The African and Caribbean Chamber of Commerce put on the largest B2B event during the London 2012 Olympic Games. The African and Caribbean Business Expo in Park Lane attracted over 3,000 stakeholders coming together from across Africa and the Caribean and converging in London. This marked the beginning of our journey to West Africa.
Tell us a bit about your current job and company?
Urban Inclusion Community set up offices in 2012 in Accra and begun exploring partnership. Now we work with business schools and the private sector offering business development services. For the last 5 years I have been mentoring on the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Leadership for Africa (WELA) in both Ghana and Nigeria. The Urban Inclusion team also create innovative entrepreneurship programmes and in partnership with GFA Consultancy in Accra developed a fundraising tool to assess the capabilities of MSMEs in accessing finance - Preparing for Finance and Investment (PFI). Urban Inclusion Community set up the BDS Network in Accra offering technical support in growth sectors including the creative and cultural sector.
How is your work &/or company contributing to the development of your city as a music city?
We are working closely with Lagos State to develop cultural hubs that support creatives and musicians through the creation of love/work spaces. We are exploring the potential for the creation of a cultural industries development agency made up of multiple stakeholders to drive the cultural and music agenda in Lagos and provide a platform through which artists, producers and other agents working in the music industry can engage and exchange with other stakeholders.
What short &/or long term plans do you have to contribute to your city being a music city?
Urban Inclusion supported Lagos State at the World Urban Forum 10 - promoting Culture as the 4th Pillar of Sustainable Development. The focus being on a multi-level and stakeholders governance structure to drive local economic development. In the last 12 months we have been engaging in conversations around the development of music and cultural spaces that will see the conversion of heritage sites as performance spaces and music centres including studios, venues and hubs for engaging local artists and local communities in joint entrepreneurial activities. We are currently working with Lagos and Accra to identify the needs of the musicians and the music industry to address the challenges posed by the Covid pandemic and the development of rescue packages for the cultural and creative sector.