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A plan to create a lasting legacy from Jamaica’s participation in the 2012 Olympic Games has been set in train. Leader of Birmingham City Council, Councillor Mike Whitby has pledged to establish a team to explore opportunities for Jamaica arising out of the city’s staging of the training camp for the 2012 games. Councillor Whitby told Jamaican High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Anthony Johnson that a team of regeneration specialists would be appointed to drive the process of facilitating Jamaican entrepreneurs in the city.
High Commissioner Johnson met with Mr Whitby on Friday during his first official tour of the UK’s second city. He also met with black business leaders in the city and addressed Jamaicans at a community meeting. The High Commissioner also toured the University of Birmingham’s sporting facilities where the Jamaican team will prepare ahead of the 2012 games.
High Commissioner Johnson decried the relatively low level of entrepreneurial activity among the 60,000 strong Jamaican community in Birmingham. He noted with concern that the importation of Jamaican foods was not controlled by the Jamaican community, arguing that it was to the detriment of progress.
Councillor Whitby shared the view and outlined that the city council had been busy promoting Jamaican food. “I drive through Birmingham and see full-fronted Jamaican shops run by people of other backgrounds. I’m promoting Jamaican food so that Jamaicans will import it, sell it and get rich on it. We have to look at inspiring entrepreneurial skill within the Jamaican community. We have to work out how we encourage people to take the risks. The City Council can only do so much but there comes a time when it has to be self supporting. Jamaicans have to start selling their food to white Europeans in order to add value and improve their profit margins.”
High Commissioner Johnson said he would like to see the establishment of up to 10 full service Jamaican restaurants in Birmingham to offer the city’s 1.5 million inhabitants the experience of Jamaican dining and culinary culture. He said there were other areas of business where Jamaicans had interests and would benefit from the support of the council in establishing and growing their businesses.
Councillor Whitby said the success of the sporting relationship between Jamaica and Birmingham thus far had set the stage for a successful cultural and economic legacy. “We are not just looking at 2012. That is a chapter in the book…the full book will be written after that. I hope that we can both prosper economically and in perpetuity. We can see the opportunities and now we have to grasp them.”
The High Commissioner asked the Birmingham City Council to appoint a lead executive on the legacy programme to which Councillor Whitby agreed. Regular meetings will be held between the High Commission and the City Council to ensure targets and timescales are met.
High Commissioner Johnson was joined at the meeting by JAMPRO’s European Regional Manager Mr. Laurence Jones, Minister Counsellor for Diaspora Affairs at the Jamaican High Commission in London Mr. Lincoln Downer, Jamaica Information Service Overseas Services Manager, Mr. Andrew Clunis and Jamaican community leader in Birmingham Mrs. Beverley Lindsay.